EVERETT — Like many students at Washington State University’s newest campus, Nashika Stanbro has followed a less-than-traditional path to higher education.
Stanbro has more than a decade of experience working in health care and a son in middle school. The Everett woman decided to return to school a few years ago to change careers. Now, at 37, she’s crossing Broadway after taking WSU classes on the community college campus. On Monday, she’ll embark on her senior year at the university’s new home, working toward a communications degree.
“I’ve had a very good experience here,” she said. “It’s showing a new side of Everett.”
WSU Everett celebrated Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting for its new building. Hundreds of incoming students, prospective students, alumni and others toured the grounds.
The four-story structure stands at 915 N. Broadway, on property owned by Everett Community College. The first classes are set to start Monday.
Construction of the roughly $65 million edifice took shape over two years. Eventually, the building should be able accommodate at least 1,000 students — more than double what WSU and partner institutions taught last year in Everett Community College classrooms across the street.
A sun-drenched afternoon ceremony just outside an engineering lab was a time for thank yous and tributes.
There were tales of the many years it took to bring greater access to higher education to Snohomish County and reminders of work ahead to expand opportunities that are now so close to home.
Many who supported the project were not around to be there. Several speakers acknowledged the work of former WSU President Elson Floyd, who worked tirelessly with Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson to make what was being celebrated Tuesday possible. Floyd, WSU’s 10th president, died of cancer in 2015.
The grand opening brought his successor, WSU President Kirk Schulz, to Everett on Tuesday. He pointed to another former WSU president, Sam Smith, in the crowd. It was Smith, he said, who began the university’s expansion through branch campuses. Everett is WSU’s fifth campus.
“Faculty in Pullman might be envious of the technology in Everett,” Schulz said.
The new building, said Western Washington University President Sabah Randhawa, acknowledges that moving to a four-year university campus isn’t possible for many students and that “we can meet them where they are.” Western has had a presence in Everett since 1986 during which time it has worked closely with EvCC.
State Rep. Mike Sells, of Everett, recalled the challenges in Olympia over the years and urged others to keep the momentum going.
“I would love to come back 25, 50, 75 years from now to see what is built up,” he said.
Stephanson said it took him 20 years to earn his degree and he understands access can be a significant challenge for many people. Fourteen years ago, he wondered if Tuesday’s grand opening would ever come.
Now, he said wryly, “I hope I live long enough to see this college larger than Pullman.”
Paul Pitre, chancellor of WSU Everett and Everett University Center, called Tuesday an important milestone in the 127-year history of the university.
“The success of our students will become the success of the community,” he said.
Students typically come to WSU Everett with two years of schooling, often at community college. The school calls it a “two plus two” model.
Hayley Statema, a 2013 graduate from Cascade High School, attended Everett Community College before enrolling at WSU Everett where she graduated last year. For Statema, it was a better fit than a four-year school. She thinks others will reap the same benefits.
“It was really transformative for me, being a first-generation student,” she said.
Statema helped form the school’s student body from scratch and served as its president. She was among the 54 students who participated last year in the school’s first official commencement ceremony.
The school offers six degrees: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, data analytics, hospitality business management and integrated strategic communication. A program called organic agriculture systems is in the works.
Jacob Greene, of Marysville, transferred to WSU from Everett Community College to study mechanical engineering. Heading into his senior year, Greene is looking forward to putting the building’s technology to use.
“It looks pretty cool so far,” the 22-year-old said, while touring the first-floor fabrication lab. “All of the equipment looks really nice.”
Like the students, Everett Community College instructor Akram Ali is eager for WSU classes to begin.
An engineer by training, he will get to have some of his students work on the WSU campus in what is known as “the breaking lab,” where they will stress-test objects to determine maximum loads. He sees the relationship between EvCC and WSU as one of rich potential, not just as neighbors across Broadway, but as partners.
“This is the creme of the creme,” Ali said. “I am so excited just to be here.”