T.J. Hancock, a 9-year-old student at Granite Falls’ Monte Cristo Elementary School, patiently followed his grandmother as they toured Washington State University’s new home in Everett on Tuesday morning.
The tour, one of several offered during the building’s day-long grand opening celebration, led a small group through mechanical engineering labs on the first floor, up to the classrooms and the Math and Writing Center on the second floor, then to more classrooms and faculty offices on the third and finally, the fourth floor, where his patience was rewarded.
“I love the engineering labs,” T.J. said, with its rows of wide-screen computer monitors and overhead screens filled with computer code. T.J., who wants to be a software engineer and video game developer, hopes to attend classes here in nine or 10 years and is working to get good grades in math and Spanish to make it happen.
That computer software and hardware engineering lab and much more will be waiting for him and others, following the opening of the new home of WSU’s North Puget Sound program and the Everett University Center. The $65 million North Broadway building provides an impressive physical presence for the programs previously hosted by Everett Community College on its campus across Broadway.
Following a ground-breaking ceremony two years ago in a parking lot, many of the same community leaders, higher education officials, state legislators and local officials returned to mark the opening, including Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson who began a conversation with the late WSU president Elson S. Floyd eight years ago about bringing WSU to Everett.
Hosting a university in Everett has been a dream of many over decades. Stephanson took up that dream, seeing it as necessary to the city’s growth and the need to encourage more family-wage jobs throughout the city and county.
“This is what it’s all about,” Stephanson said during the ceremony at the building’s plaza Tuesday afternoon. “This is what drove me.”
With both WSU’s North Puget Sound program and the Everett University Center well-established, the new building represents the next step in the recent growth of what EvCC President David Beyer called north Everett’s Higher Education District, a shared campus that will be a driver for the city’s and region’s educational, economic and cultural vitality.
This is what the building will foster:
The Everett University Center offers EvCC students and others, following completion of a two-year associate’s degree, the ability to continue in bachelor’s and master’s programs offered by the state’s regional universities.
Likewise, WSU has offered a growing list of degree programs in Everett since 2012 that now include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, communications through WSU’s Edward R. Murrow School of Communications, hospitality and business management, software engineering and data analytics and soon, organic agriculture.
Another program will follow from the launch of WSU’s Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine in Spokane this fall. In two years, medical students will begin studies at the university’s branch campuses, including Everett, to continue their training at local hospitals and clinics.
Among the engineering labs in the building is the Boeing Innovation Studio, outfitted with fabrication equipment funded by Boeing that students will use later in their careers. Craig Bomben, vice president of Flight Operations for Boeing, joked Tuesday the donation was “selfish” as it will help prepare future Boeing employees, but the $250,000 gift is a very real investment that recognizes the importance of local higher education to the aerospace giant and the company’s place in Everett and the state.
The building, itself, is a tribute to engineering, using about half of the electricity that a conventional building of similar size would use, much of that provided by solar panels. Heat from the building’s data server center is recirculated through the building to supplement radiant heating in the floors. And windows automatically open and close depending on the temperature. Rainwater, collected in a cistern, provides water for flushing toilets, watering outdoor plants and lab needs, meeting about 95 percent of the building’s water needs beyond drinking water.
But it’s more than a building, remarked state Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, who with former Rep. Hans Dunshee and other area lawmakers, worked for state funding for the programs and the building.
Now that it’s built, Sells said, “how we nurture that is important. What comes after is important. We have to continue to fund higher education.”
Students like T.J. are counting on it.