$126 million reshaping school

Friday, March 9, 2007

Historically black institution will 'look very different in 24 months,' emphasize multiculturalism


By JamesT. Hammond

The State Newspaper, Columbia, S.C.



ORANGEBURG — South Carolina State University leaders recently opened a new student residence, announced the school will host a national presidential debate, and launched a marketing campaign that aims to move the university beyond its historical roots.

With $126 million of new or renovated facilities in progress, the Orangeburg campus “will look very different in 24 months,” said John Smalls, the university’s vice president who oversees facilities.

Some of the improvements are:

• Five substandard residential halls have been closed. With new dormitories in place, three substandard buildings will be torn down, and two others will be renovated for offices.

• Construction of a $25 million computer science and engineering building will begin this year.

• A $20 million renovation of the science building will begin.

• Lowman Hall, one of the most historic buildings on campus, will undergo a $7.5 million renovation.

• And the first phase of construction will begin on the $26 million Clyburn Transportation Center.

Noting that facilities are a top-tier issue for students selecting a college, Smalls said, “We will have an enhanced campus and first-class academic buildings.”

President Andrew Hugine said the university is preparing to put its best face forward to the national media that will converge on his campus for the Democratic presidential debate April 26.

Recently introducing a “new state of mind” campaign, with a new logo, new Web site, and a goal of a “multicultural future,” board chairman Maurice Washington said the new facilities and a sharper focus on marketing the state-assisted institution will “better position the University for recognition, for planned growth, and for new revenues.”

“It was recommended that SC State strive to become known as South Carolina’s international and multicultural university — based on its heritage as a black university — but destined to serve students, faculty and businesses from throughout the world,” Washington said.

SC State also has reopened the renovated I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium, built in 1980 and the only museum with a planetarium on a historically black campus. The planetarium can project 4,000 stars onto the 40-foot domed ceiling and can simulate the evening sky from any place, date and time. It is available to the public and to school groups.

As SC State has begun to address badly needed facilities upgrades, the university recognized a need to target prospective students and donors.

In March 2006, SC State mailed questionnaires to more than 300 business leaders statewide and to 2,200 households across South Carolina. The result, Washington said, was a list of recommendations presented to trustees last summer.

Historically black colleges and universities have struggled in recent years against increased competition for academically gifted African-American students who are heavily recruited by such institutions as USC, Clemson University, Duke University and Harvard University.

The historically black institutions have sought, with varying degrees of success, to fight back with different strategies.

“Since our founding in 1896, we have reinvented ourselves again and again to better educate our students and to improve our service to all the people of our state,” Hugine said.


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