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Rio announces $2.6M transformation

March 11, 2015

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Over the next two years the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College will undergo $2.6 million of facility and grounds improvements.

The 10-project Capital Priorities Plan, approved by the University Board of Trustees and Community College Board of Trustees, utilizes funds allocated by the State of Ohio for the sole purpose of improving the physical campus.

“These capital improvements are very exciting, and mark the beginning of an unprecedented transformation at Rio Grande,” said President Michelle R. Johnston, Ph.D. “Something from this capital plan will impact every student.”

The 10 capital projects fit into three classifications – academic-focused, student experience, and structural and aesthetic. Some projects will begin this spring with all scheduled for completion by the end of 2016.

The academic-focused portion includes three projects: Nursing and Allied Health lab enhancements, Welding program expansion and instructional technology improvements.

The student experience portion also includes three projects: refurbishment of public spaces in all residence halls, renovation of public locker rooms/restroom facilities in Lyne Center, and upgrades to the track and field facility.

The structural and aesthetic portion includes four projects: campus grounds beautification, repairs to the Kidd Math & Science Center bridge, Rhodes Hall improvements, replacement of the Berry Fine & Performing Arts Center atrium.

Rio students, faculty and staff were informed of the Capital Priorities Plan through an email directly from President Johnston. For many, the advance notification and overall transparency served as a call to action.

“Its not just the projects, it’s the whole campus in general; she really cares about this place,” said fourth-year Nursing and Communications double major Catherine Derr. “She’s only been here for what seems like 5 minutes, but she’s already doing more in her first year than what previous presidents did in years. I think that’s getting people excited about what she wants to do for the campus.

“Hopefully once she gets the ball rolling, it’ll really go.”

The Nursing and Allied Health lab enhancements are the “crown jewel” of the Capital Priorities Proposal. The upgrade to simulation labs will cover general medical, intensive care unit, emergency room, community nursing and obstetrics to give students hands on experience above and beyond those available through traditional clinicals alone. The experience gained will make Rio graduates more sought after by employers.

The Welding program expansion will improve equipment and educational opportunities at the main campus, as well as expand the program to the Meigs and McArthur Centers to give more students training toward high wage employment.

The instructional technology improvements will insure Rio students continue to benefit from an optimal educational environment throughout main campus, Meigs and McArthur.

Social Work freshman Olivia Jenkins said the student experience projects will help with recruitment and retention efforts.

“I like the fact they’re updating things,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully that will attract more students and keep more here. I just like having more students here on campus.”

The residence hall refurbishments highlight the student experience projects. The updates will focus on high-traffic common spaces like lobbies, restrooms, study spaces and stairwells to create a more inviting, family atmosphere.

The Lyne Center renovations will make the facility more accommodating for current students, alumni and community members. The project will not only make the locker rooms more aesthetically pleasing, but also allow for access to the pool during basketball games.

The track and field facility will get a new running surface, netting and padding.

Campus grounds beautification includes landscaping improvements at entrances, near academic buildings, around residence halls and replacement of directional signage throughout campus. The project will improve the overall campus experience for students, faculty and staff, as well as visitors.

Rhodes Hall will get a new roof and upgrades to the restroom facilities. The Fine & Performing Arts Center will get the atrium glass replaced to restore its status as a visual focal point on campus. And the bridge outside of the Kidd Math & Science will be replaced.

“I think this is the most significant thing that’s happened here in my 32 years,” said Donna Mitchell, Dean of the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. “When I first heard it, I cried.”

Each project was extracted from campus planning documents that reflect deep and thoughtful input from all of Rio Grande stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, alumni, governing boards, community leaders and friends. Documents utilized to develop the Capital Priorities Plan included the Decade of Dreams strategic plan, Campus Master Plan, Campus Technology Plan and Rio Grande Community College 6-Year Capital Plan.

“The driving force behind all of these enhancements is our commitment to impacting student learning and development, improving student success, enhancing recruitment and retention tools, advancing program quality and campus aesthetics, and delivering the best education in this region and beyond,” Johnston said. “This is exciting news, and something all of our stakeholders can celebrate.”

Founded in 1876 and nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of southeastern Ohio, the University of Rio Grande serves as an oasis of learning, innovation and technology. The 190-acre residential campus strikes a balance of liberal arts and experiential learning to prepare students for successful lives as responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, global community. An epicenter of cultural enrichment, Rio offers students a nurturing environment focused on the needs of the individual with a student-faculty ratio of 16:1 and a plethora of extracurricular activities ranging from Student Senate to Greek life, and intercollegiate athletics.