Madison College expands Ft. Atkinson campus

September 28, 2012

From “Madison College dedicates wings” — New opportunities for training in manufacturing and other areas of study now are available at the Madison Area Technical College campus in Fort Atkinson.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday to recognize completion of a campus renovation and expansion that was part of the a larger $134 million vision of growth within the college’s 12-county district.

Madison College’s $134 million Smart Community Plan for new facilities, renovations and upgrades at the affiliated campuses was approved by voters in the November 2010 election. The referendum received nearly 60 percent of the ballots from electors in the 12-county vocational-technical college system.

The plan called for meeting the increasing demand of local residents who need affordable education and job training during a time of struggle in the economy while Madison College’s student enrollment and waiting lists are at all-time highs, and interest rates and construction costs are low.

The Fort Atkinson project consisted of remodeling 3,000 square feet of existing space and adding 6,000 square feet of new space to the current facility. The addition, a house nearly 3,000-square-foot metal fabrication/manufacturing lab.

Meanwhile, the addition on the east end of the building is for student support, and will include a new library and a Student Achievement Center.

Ribbons were cut on each end of the building, one traditional ribbon representing the library, achievement center and student support expansion and the other, a stainless steel ribbon with the Madison College logo designed by Brian Boden of Boden Machining Services in Cambridge for the new manufacturing lab.

Mark Dziewior, who is enrolled in welding classes this semester, had the honor of “cutting” the ribbon with a torch.

“It seems like we’ve been doing this a lot in Fort Atkinson,” Madison College President Bettsey Barhorst said of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, referring to past renovations and projects at the Fort Atkinson campus.

In 2008, the campus underwent an extensive renovation and expansion of nursing skills labs, science labs and community rooms. Two years ago, Madison College constructed the vocational district’s first small wind energy system in Fort Atkinson.

Barhorst recalled the groundbreaking for the latest project last fall.

“It was an exciting day, but it was a bit daunting,” the college president said. “We had embarked on a significant project that we knew would have a substantial impact on the community and we knew we had to get it right.”

With a smile, Barhost said it appears they got it right.

“I think the new facilities here are just wonderful for what they will give to our students,” she said, thanking taxpayers for supporting the building referendum.

Also, Barhorst recognized the faculty and staff at the Fort Atkinson campus for providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to be work-ready and “real-world” smart.

“We celebrate today the opening of a wonderful facility that will enhance Madison College’s ability to collaborate with business and industry partners in the Fort Atkinson area, as well as build tomorrow’s workforce,” she said.

Barhorst stressed how every square inch of the expansion was carefully designed to maximize the learning experience for students and the rate of return for area taxpayers.

“Now we’ve been referring to this project as a ‘renovation,’ but we’re not just talking about the renovation of physical space,” she said. “This project is really about expanding educational opportunity for every learner who steps through these doors.”

Meanwhile, the college president pointed out that 2012 marks Madison College’s 100th anniversary.

“While that alone is reason to be proud, it is a new century of promise that excites us most,” she said. “I’m proud of this campus, of what we hope to do for the future and I hope that you are because it’s your campus.”

Lynn Forseth, executive director for economic and workforce development in Madison College’s Eastern Region, served as the master of ceremonies for the ribbon-cutting event.

“This is a very exciting event this afternoon as it celebrates the culmination of several years of hard work on behalf of numerous college staff and external community partners,” she said. “The college is eternally grateful to the Fort Atkinson community and our contributing partners for your ongoing generosity and support of the Fort Atkinson campus.”

She said the additions were designed to address two critical needs: the shortage of skilled workers needed to fill jobs in advanced manufacturing and renewable energy.

“Specifically, this flexible lab space will be used to train individuals in welding, metal fabricating, machining, CNC operations, industrial maintenance and automation using a combination of fixed and mobile equipment,” Forseth said.

Secondly, the space provides access to facilities and support services that help student succeed academically, socially and emotionally at Madison College. Forseth said the center is intended to support students so they can get extra help on campus with their coursework, meet with faculty or work in groups with each other.

“I hope you agree that the college’s recent investments in Fort Atkinson were well spent,” she said.

Representatives of the Madison College Board of Trustees also offered praise for the project.

Board President Frances Huntley-Cooper, who usually would share her perspective on the importance of the campus expansion and how it enhances the learning experience of the students, instead yielded the microphone to board Treasurer Joel Winn of Fort Atkinson.

“The renovations of the Fort Atkinson campus affirm the commitment of Madison College’s Board of Trusteess to respond to the unique needs of the communities that are served by each of our regional campuses,” he said. “Foremost among those needs is providing our students with the digital-age tools technology and facilities that create an environment that builds knowledge and promotes hand-on learning.”


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