Ball State plans new immersive learning lab for hospitality and food management program

Topics: Immersive Learning, Administrative

April 25, 2012

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An artist~~~s rendering depicts the proposed McKinley Commons as seen from McKinley Avenue.
Ball State is in the final stages of planning a new immersive learning laboratory to enhance its growing hospitality and food management program. The new facility, to be located at the northeast corner of University and McKinley avenues, will expand the program's offerings and is anticipated to serve as a catalyst for private development in the Village.

McKinley Commons will feature a living-learning community for approximately 50 students and laboratory space for hospitality, food and events management students. It will likely include two restaurants, a student-run sales area, large and small meeting rooms and a lodging facility with approximately 100 rooms that will replace the university's current hotel in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. The facility will be an attractive destination and gathering space for visitors to campus, the hospital and the larger community. Working directly with industry professionals, students will benefit from exposure to and involvement in the management of a full-service hospitality operation. They will gain experience in personnel management, cost control, pricing, marketing, customer service and event planning and management.

"The hospitality and food management program has approximately 300 majors and minors, and enrollment is growing," said Mitch Whaley, dean of Ball State's College of Applied Sciences and Technology. "This on-campus facility will greatly strengthen our program and bring us in alignment with the best programs in the country. It will provide critical firsthand experiences where students apply the concepts they learn in the classroom. Our students will be even more competitive in the marketplace."

The living-learning community, focused on students with interests in hospitality and food management, will complement the Commons and be similar to existing living-learning communities in other residence halls. These communities give students the opportunity to live with others pursuing similar academic and lifestyle interests. Faculty members enhance the communities by providing academic content and involvement that enrich the students' experiences.

"McKinley Commons and our other living-learning communities are more than a place to live. They are a strategy for student success and persistence to graduation," said Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs. "Living-learning communities are important in our effort to increase the number of students who choose to live on campus beyond their freshman year. Students who live on campus are more likely to do well academically and persist to graduation."

In addition to supporting the university's immersive learning goals, the new facility will advance an emerging goal in the nearly final 2012-2017 strategic plan. Under the new plan, the university will seek to advance Indiana through projects and programs that benefit business, community and government partners across the state.

"There's no better place to start than in the Village," said President Jo Ann M. Gora. "While we've been helping Muncie and other communities for decades, McKinley Commons is new and special. The desire to revitalize the Village is broad and deep in our community, and Ball State can help. This impressive facility is an important and significant step. Our vision is that this development will benefit not only our students but also our community. Foot traffic in the Village will increase, providing customers for new and existing businesses in the area. We hope it will serve as a catalyst that attracts additional private investment in the area. Between the university and the hospital, there is enormous interest in this area every day. This is a way we can lead and do our part to make the Village a destination to live, work and play."

"McKinley Commons is a great investment for Muncie. It can serve as the first of many steps that could revitalize the Village," said Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler. "It makes private investment in the area very attractive, providing the spark needed to accelerate private investment. This is very good news for our community, and particularly for business owners in the Village. It will create new jobs, not only during construction but through its operations. We will do all we can to capitalize on this opportunity."

McKinley Commons will be managed as an auxiliary operation of the university. As with other residence halls and auxiliary operations, it will require no capital funding from the state or student tuition. In addition to the Ball State components, the building might house a few commercial tenants such as a bank or restaurant on a lease or franchise basis.

About the Village

The Village is a retail and residential district adjacent to the southeast corner of the Ball State University campus. It consists of restaurants, retail establishments and residential living. The core of the district has boundaries at McKinley Avenue on the west, Dicks Street on the east, Ashland Avenue on the north and Gilbert Street on the south. The district has been a destination for students, the community and visitors since at least the 1960s.

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