The new Agricultural Learning Center construction is expected to begin in the spring at the R.T. Wright University Laboratory Farm for students to participate in profession-based learning.
Agriculture Director and Instructor Rodney Barr has worked in education for 33 years and said he is looking forward to the new Agricultural Learning Center.
Barr said about $7.4 million has been raised for the $8.5 million project. Several alumni, foundations, private companies and private donations have invested in the new learning center, and roughly $2.5 million in funds from the state helped spur momentum to move construction of the learning center forward.
One way Northwest attracted potential investors was through the Forever Green campaign.
According to a press release for the Celebration of Agriculture Nov. 16, the Forever Green campaign has been raising money for the Agricultural Learning Center. This brought in potential investors for the project.
Barr said the proposal for the learning center came up in the mid 1980s to early ’90s. The idea was mulled over for over a decade. He said nearly eight years ago, the project was put into place and a plan to start it was prepared.
“Without academic space on the farm, the use is limited,” Barr said.
He said the R. T. Wright University Laboratory Farm is useful, but when the weather is bad, for instance, students do not get a lot of learning from it.
Barr said the ground for the learning center has been leveled, and if all goes well with obtaining the last of the funding, construction could start as early as the up-coming spring semester.
Barr said the learning center will not only be beneficial to agriculture majors but to the entire campus.
The Agricultural Learning Center will have 10,000 square feet of open space that can be used for multiple events. Barr said the room will have a concrete floor that is easy to maintain. The 10,000-square-foot room could host livestock shows and sales or other campus events such as meetings.
Barr said that he met with all of the academic departments on campus and explained how their departments could utilize the space.
“It makes learning real … until you actually do it, that’s when learning becomes real and that’s when learning, I think, really goes to the next level,” Barr said.
The Agricultural Learning Center will have classrooms and five laboratories for students to get hands-on experience while at the farm. Barr said he sees a disconnect with students and their learning when they have to split their learning experience between two separate locations. The learning center is focused on curbing that reality.
He said he hopes the learning center will be able to help students make those connects to gain more enriching experiences.
Barr said half of the spaces in the learning center have been named, but the $4.5 million naming rights for the entire building have not been purchased yet.