WSU has big plans for University Center

  • By Quinn Russell Brown <i>For The Herald Business Journal</i>
  • Tuesday, December 24, 2013 2:21pm

EVERETT — If all goes as planned, Washington State University will get the keys to the University Center by this summer.

And that’s an exciting thing for people in both Everett and Pullman.

“It’s just a really good partnership,” said Paul Pitre, special assistant to the WSU president. “We’re a land-grant institution, so we have a history of providing education to underserved areas. At the same time, I know in the Everett area they’ve been pushing for a strong four-year university presence for almost three decades.”

The University Center of North Puget Sound is a consortium of eight universities that has been run by Everett Community College at its campus since 1995. The center hosts 29 degree-granting programs.

In July, WSU is scheduled to take over administration of the center. It’s not the branch campus that civic leaders in Everett have been seeking for years, but it signals exciting changes for the community.

“We’re going to be able to expand educational offerings, which is always a beautiful thing,” Pitre said.

WSU is already planning to use $10 million in state funds to design a new 95,000-square-foot home for the center, which is now located in Gray Wolf Hall on the EvCC campus. The facility, which will have offices and classrooms, would rise near the corner of North Broadway and Tower Street and could be ready by 2017.

The total cost for the new building won’t be known until the design work is finished.

WSU also plans to host more and more programs at the University Center. This fall, the university is expected to add three new degrees — electrical engineering, hospitality management and communications. A nursing program through St. Martin’s University of Lacey is planned to begin this month.

With more offerings, the University Center will be a more attractive option for students in the future.

“Students who are already in place at a community college might normally look to move elsewhere, but we think this is now a local option on the west side that they might not have considered,” said Brett Atwood, an associate professor at Pullman who is relocating to Everett this fall.

Atwood will be the director for the integrated communication program that will have classes for students looking to work in public relations, advertising, social media or corporate communication.

The electrical engineering program will require the purchase of portable labs, while the hospitality management program requires students to log 1,000 hours of industry experience, be it at a hotel, restaurant or some other hospitality gig.

“Part of their training is getting that practical experience,” said Pitre, one of five WSU employees currently working at the center. “That’s going to be a key aspect of what we want our students to have — not only the theory in the classroom experience, but also the practical side.”

The programs to be added this year are signature programs for WSU, Pitre said.

“That means they’re programs that WSU is known for, top programs offered on our main campus,” he said. “So we’re very excited about opening them here in Everett.”

The University Center is expected to add thirteen degrees between 2014 and 2017, the majority of which will be from WSU. Additional faculty and staff will be either hired or transferred over from Pullman as the new degrees blossom.

“One that we know for sure is sustainable agriculture,” Pitre said. “Another that’s been talked about is another engineering program, possibly software engineering. In the future we’d like to be able to offer some graduate degrees.”

WSU programs in Everett

Washington State University programs offered at the University Center. Other schools also offer courses and programs.Administration and Accounting

  • Management and Operations
  • Management and Information Systems (in conjunction with two other colleges)
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Social Science
  • Humanities
  • Human Development
  • Criminal Justice
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering (2014)
  • Hospitality (2014)
  • Integrated Communication (2014)