Stark State's President Talks about the School's Future in Akron

Feb 26, 2018

Stark State Akron campus under construction along Route-8 east of downtown.
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU

Stark State College is just about done with construction of its new 13-acre Akron campus. As she toured the construction site, Stark State’s president talked about why the growing community college is expanding to the north.

You can’t miss it
It’s a towering LED-sign visible up and down Route-8:  Stark State: Akron’s Community College.  

Para Jones says the Akron campus is being built because of input from students and community leaders who wanted a college for career-specific education in Akron.  And one that caters to students who work and go to school when they can fit it in. 

Community College approach
As we walk into what will be the main entrance of the three-story Stark State Akron building, Jones points out design features geared especially for those students. “We have a one-stop concept where all of our admissions, financial aid and registration are simplified for students in essentially one stop. They don’t have to run from office to office but they get things taken care of at one time." 

Para Jones tours the third floor of the new 68-thousand square foot facility.
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU

Our next stop is a vast, high-ceiling room.  Jones says going to school can be different for community college students. “Students on a commuter campus, you know, they don’t have a dorm to go back to.  So we create an open space with opportunities for dining and in this case it’s going to be mostly vending.  And then study area, computers; a nice gathering place for the students.  

Hands-on learning
The classrooms and labs in the building are relatively small.  Jones says that’s on purpose, to keep class sizes small. They are also fitted-out for maximum computer access. But that raises a question.  At a time of increasing competition from on-line education, is investment in the brick and mortar rooms wise?  Jones says that’s not a concern for schools like hers that provide practical, career-specific education and job training.  “Because of our applied technology degrees, we’re about hands on learning. Now, having said that, there is some very unique simulation technology that allows for educational experiences that come very close to hands on.” 

Close enough,
Jones says, to provide students flexible and less expensive alternatives to not-critical aspects of reality-based studies. “Virtual cadaver software is an example. All of our health science laboratories have actual cadavers thanks to a partnership with NEOMED that is 25 years old.  But we also have software that allows students to have a virtual experience of working on human cadavers.

The main building of Stark State Akron campus is nearing completion.
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU

'Old School, ' with new twists
There is software to help with everything from the Fire Sciences curriculum to truck driving according to Jones.  But she returns to the hands-on-learning and links to employers that are still staples of Stark State like welding. Here on the first floor, nearest the highway, a big door opens to a specially designed parking area for a mobile classroom. “We had custom built a 12-welding-station tractor trailer where the students learn all the principles of materials and welding.  And then we can take it to an employer site to help with welding training and testing. These are actual welding booths on a 45-foot trailer. Pretty cool!”

A lab under construction at new Stark State Akron campus.
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU

Why Akron?
As we finish the tour, I ask Jones to sum up why putting a community college campus in Akron is wise for Stark State, and necessary for the city. Our programs truly are different. We specialize in that applied technology degree that leads to in demand employment, here in the region.

Stark State in UA’s back yard
Stark State’s new Akron campus is within walking distance of the University of Akron.  Jones says that big new LED sign along Route 8 is not meant to send any sort of message to UA.  She says this is not a competition.  “The majority of our students who transfer on for a bachelor’s degree go to the University of Akron.  So this location will really facilitate what students are asking for.”

Stark State Akron’s opening student capacity will be fifteen hundred.  Its attendance projections show it reaching five thousand students in five years.