The Dunwoody College of Technology has cut the ribbon on a $10 million renovation to help the 104-year-old school to address the state’s 21st century problems.
A new student learning commons and library are the first pieces of an approximately $50 million makeover of Dunwoody’s campus in the Lowry Hill neighborhood, just outside downtown Minneapolis.
President Rich Wagner said the project, the result of donations from alumni, philanthropists and local businesses, will help address a local skills gap in engineering, construction and other programs and make sure that Minnesota students don’t have to travel out of state to learn these skills.
“There are a lot of Minnesota companies (that say), ‘We need engineers, so how can we help?’ They are willing to line up and step up,” he said.
The nonprofit private college recently turned a 1924 gym into collaborative space for students to hangout, roughly 16 offices for admissions staff and a flexible classroom for classes or events. The two-story addition
The school built out a new library within the gym’s brick walls. Dunwoody discovered several students over the 1950s and ‘60s found their way up the gym’s catwalks and wrote their names on the interior brick wall, relics that remain in the new facility. Wisconsin- and North Carolina-based Credo Campus Planning & Architecture kept them exposed in the firm’s design, which Wagner said emphasizes the building’s engineering through exposed trusses and ductwork.
“It’s kind of our brand,” he said.
Future work will include building out a student center, an entrance area at the south end of the school’s main building and space for the Dunwoody’s new School of Engineering, a growing department that is seeing more four-year programs and more students.
Wagner said they’ve raised about $44 million so far. He expects Dunwoody will begin construction on the next phase next year and complete work in the spring of 2020.
The school’s first class of electrical engineering students started this year and other four-year programs like software engineering and mechanical engineering will have their first graduates in the next couple years. In total, Dunwoody offers 45 programs across engineering, architecture, design and construction.
The renovations come at a time when the school’s graduates are in high demand. Wagner said that for every Dunwoody graduate there are another eight unfilled positions in in-demand industries like construction and engineering. Not only do companies need skilled workers, he said, but they also need managers and people with specialized skills.
“While that’s good for our students, it’s bad for Minnesota,” he said.
The renovation will create infrastructure for a growing campus that’s becoming less of a commuter campus and is bringing in a more diverse student body. Dunwoody enrollment is up 15 percent from 2015. It offers the Youth Career Awareness Program and Women in Technical Careers Programs to attract underrepresented groups.