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Gateway Community And Technical College

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'Smart' classrooms, ritzy dorms lure 'Millennials'

Local colleges are rushing to build high-tech classrooms and plush dormitories for a new breed of students who grew up with the Internet and were pampered by parents.

Xavier University is planning a new campus quadrangle with high-tech classrooms and a ritzy residence hall to oblige what school officials call the "Baby on Board" generation or the "Millennials" coming of age at the turn of the millennium.

"Their parents posted 'Baby on Board' signs in their cars. They have been protected as children. Their free time was replaced by organized activities and structured programs. They have a high need for achievement and attention," said Xavier spokeswoman Kelly Leon.

She said this generation prefers learning from hands-on experience, craves technology-generated education, and feels comfortable working in teams.

"Millennial students do not learn in the traditional ways of 50, 30 or even 10 years ago," said Xavier President Michael Graham. "We need to adapt our campus to their needs and changing times."

Northern Kentucky University boasts a $38 million state-of-the-art science building and a $14 million suite-style dormitory and is planning a swanky $34 million student union building.

"These new developments for higher education are not at all new for students coming out of high school," said NKU President James Votruba.

"Today's youngsters have lived with high-technology from video arcades to cell phones, and many have their own computers.

"At home, most have not shared a bedroom and many have not shared a bathroom. When they come to college, they expect the same creature comforts. That puts pressure on all colleges because there is competition for these students."

This pressure on area colleges mirrors a national trend by educators to accommodate changes in society.

Gateway Community and Technical College is building a new main campus in Boone County and launching a $15 million expansion of its nursing program on the Edgewood campus.

"Community and technical colleges especially have to be on the leading edge of technology," said Gateway President Edward Hughes. "If we're not utilizing leading-edge equipment, then we're not preparing students for what they're going to find in the real world.

"For example, hospitals are becoming paperless. Charts aren't written,

they're electronically produced. Prescriptions are becoming more electronic. If you're not providing nursing or pharmacy students with knowledge of how that technology works, they will find themselves alone on an island at work."

The University of Cincinnati is renovating buildings to turn them into so- called "smart classrooms" with Internet connections, computers that play DVDs and projectors that display documents.

"I teach a class in public relations, and in a standard classroom that's like teaching blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back," said UC spokesman Greg Hand.

"In a smart classroom, for instance, if I'm talking about how to conduct an interview, I can call up an interview off the National Public Radio Web site to use as an example. I can call up a transcript of that interview from LexisNexis.

"I can walk students through something I heard on the way to work that day - something that is alive and relevant to today's students."

UC is even catering to the changing eating habits of students by providing new types of food service.

"Students don't want to eat at set hours or set meals," said Hand. "We have a place called Market Point with several food stations like deli, stir-fry, pasta and salads. It's more like a buffet than a cafeteria.

"When students say they're vegetarian, that doesn't mean they just skip meat, they want a full range of vegetarian selections."

Thomas More College is raising $2.5 million to renovate its science facilities, which were built in 1971.

President Sister Margaret Stallmeyer said the upgrade is essential to compete with other area colleges that have made similar improvements.

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College recently opened a glitzy $55 million building that provides high-tech classrooms, student lounges, racquetball courts, a fitness center and a bakery.

The College of Mount St. Joseph is in the midst of a $21.5 million construction project that includes new facilities for athletics and student activities and renovation of a residence hall to add suites for more student privacy.

Miami University last weekend announced a $350 million fund-raising drive for a myriad of projects, including classroom renovations, a new fine arts facility, a new student center at the Middletown campus and a conservatory on the Hamilton campus.

The building boom is expensive, but there's no choice if colleges are to keep up with technology and provide what students need to succeed in a

rapidly evolving world, said Hughes, the Gateway president.

"If a college stood pat, it would lose ground rapidly," he said. "Much

technology is outdated within a year. The life expectancy of some technology is three to six months.

"One of the most challenging issues faced by colleges is how to stay up with the changes of technology. We have a technology team that looks at new technology and decides what we can afford."

Votruba, the NKU president, said despite the high cost, "it's incumbent on all colleges to stay up with the times and invest in the things that enhance student experience."

Once high-tech equipment is purchased, it sometimes can be a challenge to keep it.

"We've had to ratchet up security across campus because we've been losing $40,000 of equipment a year," noted Votruba. "Stealing chalk is one thing, but stealing an overhead projector is something else."

Kind of confirms that we're jsut raising a huge nation of wusses who'll be unable to deal with adversity, the elements and the usual things that come with life.

It used to be that we learned by experience. If we did something that hurt, we wouldn't do it again. If we did something that was smart and worked, we'd do it again. The whole concept of learning from experience seems pointless now.

We've spent so much time "protecting our children" that we've forgotten that life itself is not protected.

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