The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 6, 2013

ASU proposes $10M Decatur science center

By Karen Middleton

— Athens State University President Bob Glenn says the school could be better serving the needs of local industries and is proposing a $10 million science and technology center in Decatur.

Now, to come up with the cash to build the center, which could be located in an old city-owned cotton warehouse off West Moulton Street in Decatur.

This would be the second facility ASU has located in the River City. Athens State is partners in the Alabama Center for Arts with Calhoun Community College. However, a university official cautions that the science and technology center is still in the talking stages.

Vice President for University Advancement Rick Mould said Glenn first suggested the idea for the center at a “state of the university” address at a faculty-staff meeting in recent weeks and the idea has grown from there.

“We’ve talked to some businesses and industries in the Decatur area and also had conversations with the city of Decatur and Morgan County,” said Mould. “One of the things we’ve looked at was the industrial base and how the city and county could help and how industry could help.”

Mould said the university doesn’t have “the money sitting in an account” to build the center, which would award bachelor’s degrees with emphasis in local industries’ needs.

He said the city of Decatur had offered a city-owned cotton warehouse for renovation.

“It’s still in the conversation stages, still very conceptual,” said Mould. “It won’t move along if we don’t have the resources to put the whole package together.”

Mould said the school will put together a committee of business and industry to advise on curriculum and what their particular needs are for degreed people and what financial support they can give.

“What has come out of it so far is ways we can adjust our degree programs here,” said Mould. “We met with Carpenter Steel to mold our degrees so students would be more employable when they come out.

“The talks have been helpful for us in how we can better meet workforce needs of people in North Alabama.”

Mould said ASU’s “niche” has been older working students, but the school is looking at how it can work with younger people in better choosing the degrees.

“So far, it’s been a lot of research, but we have a long way to go before we pull the trigger on something like this,” he said.

Mould said Glenn talked about possibly locating the science and technology center in Limestone County, but most of the industries that will need specialized graduates are located along the river in Decatur and they will be the biggest base of support.