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OUR OPINION: Full steam ahead, State Tech

June 9, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Go big or go home.

The catchphrase, which came to prominence in the 1990s, has come to define the performance and success of a Mid-Missouri college that has a simple and unique mission: equipping and training the workforce of tomorrow.

At the root of the phrase is the understanding that one makes an all-out effort or none at all.

With Missouri State Technical College, it's an all-out effort that has seen the footprint of the campus more than double and its enrollment numbers continue to climb.

And the Linn-based campus has no intention of letting off the gas.

"We are definitely not slowing down whatsoever," said Shawn Strong, president of the two-year technical college. "I do appreciate the campus community -- rather than say we can't handle any more change -- kind of understanding that these are generational opportunities, and you have to take advantage of them."

His comments were made at the semi-annual meeting of the college's Board of Regents where plans for the next generation were laid out.

Among those changes are plans to launch a new associate degree program in agriculture operations and to acquire more than 300 acres of future farmland for the program, which is expected to launch in the fall of 2024.

Using funds from state Agriculture Innovation grants, State Tech has bought five properties. Two are contiguous with the main campus; another is about a mile away. Future plans may include construction of an agriculture building on campus.

"Like always, we go big or go home," Strong told the regents in laying out the vision for the program. "We're definitely going big in ag education."

But the agricultural operations program is just one piece of the puzzle State Tech is piecing together.

Other pieces include:

Development of a "safety village," which will house underground utilities and working HVAC systems for training students.

Renovations at the nearby golf course, which is bringing a 31,000-square-foot, $12 million event and entertainment center to Linn.

The second phase of the campus Utility Center, which will help the college scale up some of its technical programs.

Planned renovations of the Nilges Technology Center, which will get 30,000 square feet of expanded lab space.

These sort of pieces contribute to a pattern of identifying the needs of employers and then attracting students who will become that future workforce.

State Tech created a facility management program that will launch this fall and all but one of its seats are full, administrators said Tuesday. They created the program because employers identified the need for workers with skills to manage facilities.

Efforts like these have resulted in enrollment to increase 75 percent from seven years ago and 50 percent from five years ago.

"There's no college in the state that comes remotely close to just the incredible growth that we've seen, and we'll set another enrollment record this upcoming fall," Strong said.

With these new programs and student opportunities on the horizon, there's no reason to believe that State Tech will falter in its upward trend.

Go big, State Tech. Go big.

-- News Tribune

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