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An educational beacon

An educational beacon

Sep 20, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

After nearly a decade of persistence, CWC Health and Science Center is open

Speakers at Friday's dedication of the Health and Science Center at Central Wyoming College thanked the local public for investing in higher education and job preparation for students.

The 52,342-square-foot building was paid for through an $11.5 million bond proposal passed by Fremont County voters in November 2010.

That funding was combined with $6.55 million in matching funds from the Wyoming Legislature.

'We celebrate'

"We're all one big community, (and) this day belongs to all of us," CWC president Joanne McFarland said during Friday's ceremony.

"This day we celebrate the power of believing in our students, who are our future."

Health and sciences dean Kathy Wells called the building a "vessel" that will launch a revolution focused on the advancement of learning. She invited the crowd of students, community members and state and local representatives to tour the facility in order to experience that education revolution.

"The classrooms and labs (are) designed around the most important component of higher education - the students," Wells said.

"This building is specifically designed to place the student at the heart of learning, where they can take the content they learned in the classroom setting to a lab specifically designed for that discipline."

Hard at work

Students were busy Friday in the Health and Science Center, testing levels of carbon dioxide in minerals, dissecting animal organs and simulating emergency situations in a nursing lab designed to operate like a working hospital.

In the physics lab, professor Bill Finney hung on a rope suspended from the ceiling in order to demonstrate conservation of angular momentum.

Jim Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, said CWC students who attend courses in the Health and Science Center will have the opportunity to physically experience the concepts they are learning, and be guided through the process by dedicated instructors.

"There's no substitute (for) the one-on-one contact with impassioned and highly educated professionals students will encounter," he said. "There's no facility in the country you could compare it to in terms of it being state-of-the-art for instruction at any level. ... I think all of us in Wyoming can be proud."

Long effort

He complemented legislators who backed CWC's funding request, many of whom spoke during the dedication event. Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, called Friday "a great day" for CWC, Fremont County and the entire state.

"But most importantly it's a great day for the students," Bebout said. "We have wonderful young students in this state, community and college, and we need to provide them with the tools to go out and effectively compete. ... When we're long gone this building will be here putting out great nurses to serve the citizens of Wyoming."

He thanked administrators for their persistence in pursuing funding for the center despite roadblocks along the way. The CWC Board of Trustees identified the need for a facility dedicated to health and science in 2005. The project was approved by the WCCC in 2006 and by the legislature in 2007. But in 2008, voters failed to approve a sales tax initiative to pay for the project.

"That ended up as a humiliating defeat," McFarland said.

"(But) in November 2010 we did finally achieve victory, and it was handed to us by the Fremont County voters, who, despite being in the midst of an economic recession, voted for jobs and voted for improved health care."

'The building of light'

CWC Board member Roger Gose was involved in the second effort to pass the 2010 bond measure, and he thanked everyone who worked to convince voters that the facility was worth the expense.

Gose said the new center has been called the "building of light," and not only because it was built with plenty of large windows spanning almost every wall.

"In a larger sense, this building will serve as an educational beacon of light and enlightenment," Gose said.

"Indeed, the nursing program is no longer a hidden jewel but it is front and center where it belongs, so when you drive down Main Street you can't miss this building.

"And we want you to see your tax dollars at work."

The dedication ceremony culminated with a ribbon-cutting followed by lunch outside on the CWC campus, with music provided by The Teka Brock Band and The Libby Creek Originals.

Tours were available through 6 p.m.

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