Day for Houston County
Georgia Lawmakers Grant $5 Million
for MSC's Expanded Warner Robins Center
By Sheron Smith
The stage is set for Macon State College to dramatically improve
degree opportunities for the Houston County area and expand educational
services for Robins Air Force Base.
This is an artist's drawing of what
the Warner Robins Center addition, to be built adjacent to
the modernized Thomas School, might look like. Design plans
for the new WRC are still being finalized.
Thanks to state Rep. Larry Walker of Perry and other members of
the Central Georgia legislative delegation, a $5 million appropriation
will be used in conjunction with property purchased by the city
of Warner Robins to establish a permanent MSC campus on Watson Boulevard.
Included in the state's fiscal 2003 supplemental budget, the funding
will be used to modernize the historic Thomas School and build an
additional facility of some 25,000-square-feet to house a full-service,
high-tech Macon State campus just a half-mile from the main gate
of Robins AFB. This action by the Georgia General Assembly followed
an earlier decision by Mayor Donald Walker and the Warner Robins
City Council to invest $762,000 in the site and donate it to University
System of Georgia's Board of Regents for the project. The Robins
Federal Credit Union, adjacent to the Thomas School, donated additional
property for WRC parking.
Rep. Walker said during the legislative session that funding for
the WRC was "a top priority." He noted that Warner Robins
is the largest city in Georgia without a permanent college campus.
Rehabilitation of Thomas School and construction of a 24,250-square-foot
addition are tentatively set to begin later this year. The 22,400-square-foot
original school building will house classrooms, science and technology
labs and some faculty offices. The new addition, to be located adjacent
to the original building, will contain classrooms, administrative
and faculty offices, a 100-seat multimedia auditorium, a conference
room and a student lounge/study area. Both the original building
and the addition will be fully wired for technology.
The new Warner Robins Center will have a much greater capacity
than the current WRC, located in leased space in the Advanced Technology
Park off Houston Lake Road. Almost 1,200 students are attending
classes there now using just eight classrooms. Macon State President
David A. Bell envisions the new WRC as a full-service facility where
students can work on their bachelor's degrees and receive all the
usual support services, including advising, career counseling and
extra-curricular enrichment, without ever setting a foot on the
"This is an enormous opportunity and responsibility for Macon
State to expand access to higher education for a community that
has long supported us and eagerly embraces higher education opportunities,"
Bell said. "There are thousands of people whose jobs depend
on the Base, directly or indirectly, and they need to be able to
constantly upgrade their professional skills and advance their knowledge
in areas that are critical to the Air Force mission. We've had a
long association with the Base, and this expansion will allow us
to take that relationship to a new level."
Macon State's presence in Houston County dates back more than three
decades, beginning with the Robins Resident Center, a program of
the University System of Georgia that was established at the Base
at the request of Maj.Gen. A.J. Beck, ALC commander. The current
Warner Robins Center opened in 1991.
Today, Houston County residents make up more than 26 percent of
Macon State's current enrollment, while military personnel and out-of-state
students, virtually all of whom are connected to Robins Air Force
Base, make up another 14 percent.
Expanding the WRC has been one of Bell's top priorities since he
became Macon State's president in 1997. Houston is one of Georgia's
fastest growing counties and has the most technologically sophisticated
workforce outside of Atlanta, thanks to the presence of the Base
and associated defense contractors.
Bell said Macon State will provide degree programs and other services
at the new WRC that best support the Base, the single most important
element of Central Georgia's economy. The college is already offering
a bachelor of science in information technology at the current location;
the new facility will allow Macon State to boost the number and
variety of academic programs in Houston County.
Macon State has also partnered with the Nola Brantley Library -
next door to the Thomas School - to expand services to WRC students.
The general plan is for Macon State to provide books, periodicals
and computers that support the college's programs for WRC students
to use at the public library. Through the partnership, the Warner
Robins library will have access to Macon State's online periodicals
and other databases. The arrangement also means that WRC students
will have weekend access to library services without traveling to
the Macon campus.
Editor's note: The next issue of MSC Today will take an in-depth
look at Macon State's plans for the new Warner Robins Center.