Austin Fast

Nontraditional Miami University students will now have a “voice” in the search for education, with the unveiling of the new Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester, Ohio.

President David Hodge released the plans for the new learning center March 29, with groundbreaking scheduled for August 2007. The center, which will be located on Cox Road in West Chester, just off I-75 between Cincinnati and Dayton, is designed to provide maximum benefits for nontraditional Miami students.

Carole Johnson, coordinator of internal communications for Miami, said that Hodge played a critical role in the advancement of ideas for this facility.

“President Hodge obviously wasn’t involved in groundwork as he arrived (to Miami) last July,” Johnson said. “But he has been very instrumental in pushing this idea to the forefront and making it a priority for the university.”

According to Rod Nimtz, senior director of administration at Miami’s Middletown campus and the learning center’s project manager, the $7.5 million facility should be completed by December 2008. When it opens in January 2009, he said the center will concentrate on accommodating nontraditional students in a location that’s convenient for many in the area.

“The learning center will provide a centrally located place (offering) courses and programs designed to serve people who are working to enter the workforce for the first time, people who are in the workforce looking for opportunities for advancement, and people in the workforce who need ongoing and continuing education because of requirements,” Nimtz said.

According to Nimtz, the center will offer a professional master’s in business administration program designed for working professionals.

“The Farmer School of Business designed this master’s in business

administration program as a part-time program for working professionals on evenings and weekends, as opposed to the full-time program currently offered in Oxford,” Nimtz said.

Nimtz also mentioned that Miami’s School of Education and Allied Professions will offer a variety of courses at the learning center for students pursuing a master’s degree in education.

However, the learning center will not only focus on graduate work. Nimtz said it will offer several undergraduate courses as well, as part of both associate and bachelor’s degrees.

“The undergraduate programs are being coordinated through Miami’s branch campuses,” Nimtz said. “I feel it brings the best of all three Miami campuses to a convenient location.”

Despite similarities with branch campuses, the Voice of America Learning Center will not be considered a branch of Miami University, but strictly an instructional academic building. This means it will focus only on offering academic services and not food, athletic or commercial opportunities for students.

“It is not a campus, it is a learning center,” Nimtz said. “A campus has services and amenities such as a bookstore, recreational facilities, and food services – all non-instructional aspects of a college or university. This will specifically be an instructional learning site.”

Nimtz explained that once the building is completed, a committee comprised of the deans of Miami’s regional campuses, the provost, and other school officials will select a director to run the center in approximately a year from now.

Besides its educational offerings, Nimtz feels that the 23,000-square-foot center will benefit the community in several ways. He explained that the facility has availability for business and industry training, an instructional media studio, online access to Miami University libraries, and a 150-seat auditorium that can be used by members of the community.

Carole Johnson feels that the West Chester community is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the center.

“They are very excited,” Johnson said. “We see the center as a wonderful opportunity to create more convenient opportunities for people to take part in a Miami education, especially in the southwest area, which is becoming increasingly more populated.”

According to Johnson, the land the center will be located on has a fascinating history. Formerly the location of a radio station – similar to Miami’s NPR station, WMUB – it was established by the U.S. government during World War II in order to broadcast ideas of democracy into countries such as Russia.

The radio station, Voice of America Bethany Relay Center, was shut down in 1995, Johnson said. The community then had the opportunity to apply for land grants from the government, and Miami received 20 acres in 2000 to build some sort of learning center. It is from this former radio station that the new learning center takes its name – the Voice of America Learning Center.