Columbus Learning Center.

Position:Continuing education in Columbus, Indiana - Brief Article

The $34 million facility opens mid-2003.

When the Columbus Learning Center opens its doors in mid-2003, the $34 million facility and its comprehensive approach to education will stand as more than books and bricks. The center and the coalition creating it are a result of an unparalleled partnership between business and education and a community's commitment to provide learning from the earliest years through late career. And the Learning Center is just the start of what Columbus envisions.

The story behind the construction that got under way this fall began in 1997 with a study by the Hudson Institute, an Indianapolis-based think tank, on the economic well-being of Columbus. The study found that Columbus' most urgent priority should be enhancing the quality of its workforce by strengthening its public schools, the local college and university, and by creating a greater connection between education and area businesses.

"The Hudson report was critical of our post-secondary offerings and their connections and relationship to the community and of our public school system," says Tom Clerkin, ArvinMeritor human-resources vice president and volunteer chair of the Columbus Education Coalition.

"We viewed that study as a challenge to begin a dialogue in the community," says John Burnett, who was hired by the coalition to serve as its president. The coalition-linking representatives of education, government and business-was formed shortly after the community received the report to address its findings and recommendations. A $5 million Community Alliances to Promote Education grant from Lilly Endowment is helping fund its work.

The Learning Center is the most tangible of the coalition's accomplishments. The 124,000-square-foot, two-story building is going up on land that literally connects it to both the Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus campus and to Ivy Tech State College. The building will be owned by the city and managed and operated by a non-profit organization, the Columbus Learning Center Management Corp.

It will house 20 classrooms, each equipped with digital projectors, VCRs, document cameras and network connections. The building will be filled with standup e-mail bars for student use. Other features will include conference rooms, a 210-seat auditorium, professional development labs, tutoring rooms and small group study rooms.

There's emphasis on high-tech, says Brooke Tuttle...

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