SMC to expand housing capacity

Published 2:49 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

DOWAGIAC — The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees decided at its regular meeting on Jan. 10 to add new rooms and a total of 36 beds to the three existing residence halls on the Dowagiac campus, expanding capacity to address growing housing demand. Construction will begin this summer and the new space should be available beginning in January 2025.

In his President’s Report, Dr. Joe Odenwald said the residence halls will house 367 students this semester, or 94 percent of capacity, compared to 345, or 88 percent, last spring. The residence halls were not only completely full in Fall 2023, but also had a long waiting list and some students were not able to secure a room.

“Enrollment again appears to be up about 8 percent for spring. Classes begin on Tuesday, so we’ll have a full picture next week.” Odenwald said. “Applications for Fall 2024 are ahead of this point last year, which shows that demand is building for what we offer at SMC.”

“This is a step in the right direction to grow the College,” said Board Chair Tom Jerdon.  “Clearly, student housing is the key.  It’s little different from say, a family farm expansion – it cannot be done without more acres, and SMC cannot expand without more student beds. The Board of Trustees is focused on a growth mission and we will continue to make decisions with this in mind. With the achievements of this administration, the word is now out on SMC being the place to go to college and now the challenge is meeting this demand, which is always the best position to be in.”

Human Relations Director Kristin Reynolds, who joined SMC in 2021 from Illinois Central College, reviewed with the board results of an employee satisfaction survey.

The professional survey, conducted with Ruffalo Noel Levits, identified core strengths as students being the top priority, excellent employee-student relationships, positive relationships with supervisors, feeling valued as employees, taking pride in their work, and feeling connected to the mission and values of the organization. Overall employee satisfaction scores for SMC were much higher than for the national benchmark group of two-year colleges.

Trustees congratulated Dr. Katie Hannah on her Jan. 8 promotion from Dean of Student Development to a senior leadership position as Vice President for the Student Experience, which will include oversight for enrollment, academic advising, campus life and housing.

“Most firms are rightfully obsessed with the customer experience,” Odenwald said. “Katie’s passion, her experience and our needs in this hyper-competitive and increasingly accountable environment justify this new emphasis.”

Hannah joined the college in June 2014 from Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Ill., as an accommodations specialist with special populations. From disability services coordinator, she became an academic advisor and, in 2018, First-Year Experience manager, from which she launched Welcome Week student orientation.

Becoming a dean in 2020, Hannah “has led efforts with others to improve retention to its best mark in better than a decade, and to record our best graduation rate,” Odenwald said.

Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2004 from the University of Illinois at Chicago, her master’s degree in counseling in 2009 from Oakland University and her Ed.D. in higher education leadership in 2022 from Central Michigan University.

The board also acknowledged 61 donations to the SMC Foundation totaling $40,550.  “This month’s donations are fabulous!” Jerdon said. “SMC is truly blessed to have such a generous and committed group of ‘Roadrunners’ who care about our students. On behalf of the entire campus, thank you to our donors!”