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WIU at home in Quad-Cities with center

MOLINE -- A 24-foot-wide, 5-inch-high concrete rectangular sign bearing the name of Western Illinois University rests on a hillside in the 3500 block of 60th Street in Moline, where an IBM sign once stood.

Western's presence had been felt in the Quad-Cities for about 40 years, but it didn't have a place to call home here until the former IBM building was purchased in 1994 for $1.4 million and renovated into a Regional Center. Overall, about $4.2 million was appropriated by the state to purchase the 10.14-acre site and remodel the property.

It is Western Illinois University's base of operations in the Quad-Cities, dean of extended and continuing education Linda Stickney-Taylor said.

``We provide Quad-Citians access to quality, public higher education without them having to leave the area,'' she said. ``They can pursue their education while keeping their jobs and family obligations.''

Ten bachelor-degree programs and 13 graduate-level disciplines are available to students at Western's Regional Center in Moline. More than 2,000 students participate in university-sponsored programs each semester.

The 61,000-square-foot building contains more than 20 classrooms and the latest high-tech equipment, including distance-learning classrooms, computer labs and a John Deere Decision Science room.

Western received a half-million-dollar donation from the John Deere Foundation at a 1995 open house event. Ultimately, more than $700,000 from corporate donors helped the renovation project.

``Another highlight thanks to the generosity of the John Deere Foundation is a Western Illinois University branch library designed to meet students' information needs,'' Ms. Stickney-Taylor said.

Internet access points and work stations allow students to link into 44 academic libraries throughout the state.

``We also provide student services including counseling, admissions, financial aid, career counseling and job placement,'' she said.

Overall, 40 faculty and staff members are permanently based at the regional center.

``And we continue to bring our resources from the main campus (about 90 miles south in Macomb) to the Quad-Cities,'' Ms. Stickney-Taylor said.

``It provides Western the opportunity to bring under one roof all the educational resources we can to serve students who, in many cases, are place-bound,'' she said. ``Western provides access to the type of public higher education that can enhance the quality of life for Quad-Citians.''

The Regional Center is only blocks away from Black Hawk College. Before moving into its new building, Western's Quad-Cities operation was physically located at Black Hawk's Moline campus.

``It was rare to see a four-year university leasing space from a community college,'' Ms. Stickney-Taylor said. ``We have had a long history with Black Hawk and will continue our relationship.''

The long-standing partnership has allowed students to finish their first two years at Black Hawk and automatically transfer to Western to complete their undergraduate degrees.

``We also provide a shuttle-bus service for our students to park at Black Hawk and get a ride to the regional center,'' Ms. Stickney-Taylor said. ``Black Hawk College also is providing security at our building.''

Western Illinois University's overall mission is to provide the premiere undergraduate education among public universities in Illinois and in selected disciplines far beyond Illinois borders, she said. Its commitment includes expanding its service in the Quad-Cities.

-- By Leon Lagerstam (January 26, 1998)

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