|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003|
We Mean Business. Illinois Business.
Lindenwood University opens first Illinois campus
BELLEVILLE - The city of Belleville, Belleville Community School District 201 and Lindenwood University are in agreement: with growth comes tremendous opportunity.
Tangible evidence of this is the university's move across the river to establish its first-ever Illinois campus.
Lindenwood University President Dennis Spellmann says partnering with Southwestern Illinois has long been a key priority. And with the opening of brand-new Belleville West High School this year, the opportunity became reality.
"It's a gem," Spellman said of the former Belleville High School facility. "Somebody had a lot of foresight to build this beautiful 360,000-square-foot campus. Thanks to the leadership of Belleville Mayor Mark Kern and the school district, we're able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. We're uniquely situated with 36 locations across the region, but this is the first one in Illinois. It's exciting that we've all worked together to make this happen, and that it's being done debt-free."
Spellmann had made a number of earnest efforts to acquire Parks College in Cahokia from St. Louis University when SLU vacated the premises a couple of years ago. But despite Lindenwood's efforts, the price tag on the facility posed a major barrier.
"In my consulting years, I worked with Paul Whalen at Parks College," Spellmann said. "I was well familiar with the Parks campus and we'd hoped to stablish an Illinois presence there two years ago when SLU vacated it. But I just wasn't able to come to terms with (Father Lawrence) Biondi. They've done study after study to determine the highest and best usage for the former Parks College, and the answer remains the same - the highest and best usage for the facility is to keep it as a higher education campus."
The fact that more than 100,000 people attend community colleges within a 50-mile radius of Belleville, Spellmann said, points to the snug niche Lindenwood University has in the Metro East.
"We're uniquely situated to meet the degree completion need in and around Belleville," he said. "And I think we bring a healthy degree of competition to the area, too. It's all about regionalism. This new campus is just a natural progression of our university."
Lindenwood's first Illinois campus consists of four classrooms for starters this fall, offering undergraduate completion in business administration, human resource management and communication.
Also offered at the Belleville campus are graduate degrees in business administration, human resource management, communication and a master of arts in education. The courses are being taught during the evening, Spellmann said, to meet the needs of the university's Metro East target market - working professionals.
"The majority of our (Belleville) target market is comprised of students who are employed full time, have at least three to five years of full-time employment experience and are seeking degrees to continue their professional advancement or to make career changes through the acquisition of new skills," he said.
Belleville campus operations manager Bob Kelsheimer said the former Belleville High School's physical layout makes it ideal for university use. The campus is located at 2600 W. Main Street.
"The separate buildings give it the look of a college campus," he said.
Lindenwood classes in Belleville actually began in January with the Master of Arts in education curriculum. On Aug. 28, the Belleville school district and the city officially turned over usage of the campus to Lindenwood.
Spellmann and Kelsheimer agree that the 900-seat auditorium - designed in 1924 by renowned architect William B. Ittner - is the "jewel" of the Belleville campus. Efforts are already under way to bring Lindenwood University theater productions over and launch fund-raising campaigns to restore and maintain the classic structure.
The college is in discussions with several nonprofit organizations such as the Masterworks Chorale, hoping fine arts entities will be able to share the auditorium.
The city of Belleville and Belleville Community School District 201 are also using the campus' existing sports field and tennis courts. Althoff High School is now able to have its own stadium, courtesy of the Belleville campus.
"The reception we've received from the city and the school district has been great," Spellmann said. "We're actively working together to share this campus and we're enthusiastic about the chance to preserve a significant piece of Belleville history. The whole auditorium renovation idea will take time, but what a major economic impact it will have on Belleville. We're committed to a reasonable strategy and time period to grow enrollment and make restoration happen."
Kelsheimer said Lindenwood has guaranteed a three-year freeze on tuition to spur enrollment in Belleville. Revenues generated from Belleville-area students attending Lindenwood's home campus in St. Charles, Mo. will be channeled back to the new Illinois campus. So far, more than half of the Belleville campus' enrollees live in Belleville.
"Some of our (Belleville campus) instructors come from Lindenwood's main campus," Kelsheimer said, "and a significant number of our adjunct instructors have PhDs and are from Belleville, O'Fallon, Freeburg and Cahokia."
A degree in professional counseling is a future curriculum Lindenwood plans to initiate at the Belleville campus.
"It's conceivable in the future that we could offer some daytime programs," he said.