Building a home for student success

Two events spoke to the future of Everett and the region on Tuesday.

One was about strengthening trade ties with the state’s largest international trading partner. The other was about developing a workforce that will supply the goods and services for that trade and help the state and nation compete in a global market.

The same day that China’s president arrived at Paine Field to begin a three-day visit of the Puget Sound region, including a tour of Boeing’s Everett plant, a gathering across town in north Everett marked the start of construction for the new home of the Everett University Center and a focus for Washington State University’s North Puget Sound at Everett on the campus of Everett Community College.

Officials gripping shovels and grinning for photos turned dirt recently freed from beneath a parking lot east of the community college’s campus at 911 North Broadway.

The four-story, 95,000-square foot building, funded through $54.6 million from the state’s recently adopted capital budget, will house classrooms, laboratories, offices and a cafe, a home for the university center’s and WSU’s degree programs, including those in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, hospitality business management and integrated communication, with software engineering and data analytics to follow before the building opens in fall 2017. The building will be steps away from EvCC’s Advanced Manufacturing and Training Center.

As outlined in Herald Writer Jerry Cornfield’s story Wednesday, it’s been a long path to develop a university presence in Snohomish County, but one that found its shepherd in 2009 in WSU President Elson Floyd. Floyd, working with state and local officials, brought WSU in to lead the University Center first run by EvCC, which brings together degree programs from the state’s regional universities, establish WSU North Puget Sound and lobby for the building and its programs.

Floyd, who died in June, was frequently mentioned by officials at Tuesday’s ground-breaking, in particular by Bob Drewel, interim chancellor for the university center.

“We are here today because Elson shared our vision for higher ed in this community,” Drewel said.

Floyd’s interim successor, Dan Bernardo, explained Floyd felt a commitment to fulfill WSU’s responsibility as a land grant university to provide access to higher education in communities where that access didn’t exist.

Access, said Paul Pitre, dean for WSU North Puget Sound, that is now offering opportunities to a range of students living here and in Island and Skagit counties, including an electrical engineering student from Arlington, a hospitality management student who hopes to open a coffee shop in Marysville, and students in engineering and other fields who can provide skills for the region’s aerospace and other manufacturers.

“The success of our students will become the success of our community,” Pitre said, repeating the sentence to emphasize the point.

And the next time a Chinese president visits Everett, along with the Boeing tour, we recommend a walking tour of the shared campus of Everett Community College, the Everett University Center and WSU North Puget Sound where that success is being fostered.

Correction: An earlier version of this editorial misidentified WSU Interim President Dan Bernardo.

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