EVERETT — The first year in a new home often brings its share of surprises.
Washington State University Everett’s new home, a $64.6 million campus that opened its doors a year ago, is no exception.
Light bathes the four-story, 95,000 square-foot building that houses 14 classrooms, 10 labs and nine seminar rooms.
The ground floor has a tiered lecture hall that can seat 100, as well the capstone laboratory for the mechanical engineering program.
The structure’s 6-ton hardwood staircase and a massive 30-foot tall sculpture by Paul Vexler, of Machias, elicit oohs from visitors.
But beyond the wood, bricks and glass, the new building has brought a sense of place and identity to WSU Everett’s students, faculty and staff.
Before WSU Everett moved into its new digs, the university was Balkanized; its classrooms and offices were scattered across campus at Everett Community College, WSU Everett Chancellor Paul Pitre said.
With enrollment on the rise, space was tight. “We worried we’d run out of classrooms,” Pitre said.
“In 2016-2017, we had to take up additional office space in the city of Everett,” Pitre said. “We had to split academics and student services from administration.”
Pitre expected the new building would ease the crunch — it can accommodate about 1,000 students — but was surprised “by the number of spaces it offered for students to congregate,” he said. Last year, about 550 students attended classes in the new building.
A single campus across Broadway has “allowed us to come back together and at the right time,” Pitre said.
WSU’s Snohomish County presence dates from 2012, when WSU began offering classes for a mechanical engineering degree through the University Center. The center, which has an office in the new building, brings together several universities and colleges, including WSU. Together they offer about 20 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, Pitre said.
By 2014, WSU Everett had launched three more programs: electrical engineering, hospitality business management and strategic communication. Two years ago, it began offering degrees in software engineering and data analytics. This fall it adds a degree program in organic and sustainable Agriculture. The university offers junior- and senior-level courses for completion of its seven degrees. Since 2014, WSU Everett has graduated 256 students, including 96 last year.
Nashika Stanbro, 38, graduated from WSU Everett with a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Strategic Communications in May, after completing an associate degree in communications at EvCC in 2016.
She spent her junior year taking WSU classes on the EvCC campus.
There, she regularly saw students in her own area of study. But it was rare to mingle with WSU students in other disciplines. “Sometimes it would be like ships passing,” Stanbro said. “All the majors were kind of disconnected.”
Last fall, she began taking classes in the new building.
What surprised her was how the new facility made her feel better connected to her fellow students. That connection, in turn, prompted her to become more involved on campus. She gave student tours and helped with orientation as part WSU Everett’s Student Ambassador program.
“I didn’t expect that,” Stanbro said. “I didn’t necessarily see that I would get so involved, but I did.”
A brick-and-mortar location she could point to helped her to answer questions posed by other students, Stanbro said. “They’d ask: ‘Is that a real WSU degree or a WSU Everett degree or an Everett Community College degree?’ ” she recalled. “Our coming here and having our own space helped clear that up.”
Stanbro found herself spending more time on campus. For one, faculty were more accessible. It was easier to schedule office visits, Stanbro said.
“Before I would often go home and do homework, but you’ve got your distractions at home. It’s so comfortable studying and working here,” she said.
Much like a brand new home on the block, the new building has drawn a fair amount of attention, WSU Everett spokesman Randy Bolerjack said.
He expected visitors. What he didn’t expect were the number of educational institutions that have, or want, to tour the new building, “because they want one just like it,” he said.
“UW Tacoma came through the other day and told me they wanted to copy and paste it.”