Ferris State University’s Center for Virtual Learning is another major step closer to reality. At its regular meeting on Friday, Feb. 19, the university’s Board of Trustees approved proceeding with the construction of the $29.5 million main campus building.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, on Dec. 29, signed into law Public Act 257 of 2020 to grant full authorization to proceed with Ferris’ state of Michigan capital outlay project. The future Center for Virtual Learning will serve as a centralized location to host the Information Security and Intelligence program, the School of Digital Media, the School of Education and eLearning at Ferris. The CVL will stand next to the FLITE library, at the current site of Vandercook Hall, which will be razed.
“The Center for Virtual Learning represents our commitment to providing students and faculty with state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and learning,” President David Eisler said. “The development and creation of this signature building will change the landscape of Ferris State University and support our students and faculty engaged in these high demand career fields.”
In addition to the academic programs and online learning support, the CVL will also be home to Ferris’ eSports and cyber competitions.
“The Center for Virtual Learning presents a unique opportunity for Ferris to showcase ourselves as a leader in innovation and technology among our peers in the state of Michigan,” said Bobby Fleischman, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “The CVL brings our information security, artificial intelligence, and computer science programs together with education, digital media and e-sports programming in synergistic ways that will afford our students an opportunity to develop skills engaging technology that will prepare them to enter a dynamic, technologically-driven workforce.”
The Board of Trustees’ approval was necessary to complete the design, construction phase services, furniture procurement, fixtures and equipment, and other required professional services.
Bishop Hall, located on the west side of campus, will be razed and the area restored. The School of Criminal Justice will be relocated to space inside the Interdisciplinary Resource Center (IRC).
Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2021 and continuing through December 2022. The Center for Virtual Learning is expected to be ready for occupancy in January 2023.
Board members also approved a new Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence in the College of Business. Ferris envisions itself as being at the front of artificial intelligence degree-granting, where job growth has been 74 percent annually, ranking it first among the top 15 emerging jobs in the U.S., according to a LinkedIn report. Primary areas of focus for the new Artificial Intelligence degree will be cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, health care, business and educational applications. Industry experts see AI as a necessary complement to cybersecurity, thanks to automation and general efforts to address the increasing sophistication and high volume of cyber-attacks.
In other Feb. 19 action, the trustees approved:
- Eight sabbatical requests for the 2021-22 academic year as recommended by the administration;
- The FY21 and FY22 portion of the University’s Capital Renewal and Deferred Maintenance
Phase III five-year plan including the retention of professional design, construction
management and other services as required;
- 17 appointments or reappointments to the boards of directors of FSU-authorized charter school academies, an additional campus for Blended Learning Academies Credit Recovery High School, in Livonia, and a name change for the now Conner Creek Academy East – Elementary School, in Roseville and Warren, to become Michigan Collegiate Elementary, effective for the 2021-22 school year.
The current trustees are chair Amna P. Seibold, of East Grand Rapids; vice-chair Ana L. Ramirez-Saenz, of Grand Rapids; secretary Rupesh K. Srivastava, of Wixom; member-at-large LaShanda R. Thomas, of Grosse Pointe; George K. Heartwell, of Newaygo; Kurt A. Hofman, of Grand Rapids; Kari L. Sederburg, of East Lansing; and Ronald E. Snead, of Stanwood.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Trustees is Friday, May 7, tentatively scheduled for the Big Rapids campus. Committee meetings begin at 12:30 p.m. followed by the full board meeting at 1:30 p.m.