Ball State University is preparing to stake a big claim in downtown Indianapolis, where it will offer classes and graduate degree programs at a new satellite facility.
"We really believe that we can provide working professionals with a range of programs that are going to help them move forward in their careers and help the city with its economic development potential," said BSU President Jo Ann M. Gora.
The Muncie-based university's new outpost at 50 S. Meridian St. will offer master's degrees in adult and community education, executive development for public service, special education, urban design and possibly public relations. Initially, staff will commute from the Muncie campus to teach the classes. The center will also administer Web-conference classes for master's degrees in business administration and educational administration and supervision. Classes start at the end of August.
BSU will also offer a slew of non-degree, non-credit classes targeted at professionals who need specific skills in their careers. They will range from Spanish instruction to corporate leadership training, to which companies can send their best and brightest to groom the next CEO.
University officials also hope the center will help keep BSU in touch with the 20 percent of its alums who work in the greater Indianapolis area.
"Alums can come in, buy a T-shirt, find out about hiring interns, connect with career fairs, and reconnect with their alma mater," Gora said. "We think it will be a gathering place."
Gora declined to release the cost of the expansion, but said the university is doing a targeted fund-raising campaign for it. She wouldn't go so far as to call it an Indianapolis campus, but Gora said she expects the Indianapolis center to grow.
"We believe we'll be growing well beyond this space," she said.
The plan has been in the works for months, but university officials kept it mostly under wraps. In the spring, it surveyed alums to see what locally based professional development courses they would want. BSU is to unveil the plan at a media announcement July 24.
Since early 2001, BSU has run a branch of the College of Architecture and Planning in Indianapolis, where two staff people and students lend planning aid to city and community development projects. Earlier this year, that program moved from the upper floors of the Victoria Center at 22 E. Washington St.
Its new home, and that of the other BSU programs, is in the Meridian Centre, a building on the northwest corner of Meridian and Maryland streets. BSU is renting roughly 11,000 square feet over four floors from locally based Corporate Park Development Inc.
The first floor will be home to several offerings. The CAP Indianapolis program will run the Indianapolis City Discovery Center, an interactive visitors' center explaining local architecture and advertising upcoming cultural events. It will also have gallery space to feature local arts exhibits. In addition, BSU is setting up university kiosks on the first floor to lure in and inform potential students.
The Indiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects is moving and expanding its Indianapolis bookstore from 47 S. Pennsylvania St. to the new space. The bookstore in the center will be 700 square feet.
The upper floors of the building will house three classrooms and university and AIA Indiana offices. BSU will also set up a "wired living room" in the upper space for a new Center for Media Design hub, where the university will be able to partner with companies to do research on people's reaction to media and advertising, including eye-tracking studies.
The master's degrees to be offered focus on traditional strong points for BSU–education, communications and architecture–but some overlap with graduate programs already offered at IUPUI, such as the master's in business administration, special education and educational leadership.
IUPUI spokesman Rich Schneider said his university welcomes the new classes.
"Plans by Ball State to offer programs that IUPUI does not–such as architecture–are welcomed by IUPUI because they will benefit residents of the community," Schneider said in an e-mail.
"At the same time, IUPUI believes in healthy competition," he added. "IUPUI is the quality and high-demand provider in areas where IUPUI competes with other institutions in Indianapolis."
IUPUI graduate classes run about $187 per credit hour for fees and tuition for in-state residents. BSU costs are roughly $212 per credit hour for Indiana residents for graduate classes not based on the Muncie campus.
Schneider cited BSU's plans to offer an emerging leaders development program and said it would have to compete with IU's Randall L. Tobias Center on Leadership Excellence at IUPUI.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved BSU's plans to offer master's degrees in Indianapolis in almost all the areas in the 1990s. BSU is still working on the details for an Indianapolis program for a master's in public relations and hasn't yet applied for state approval.
Deputy Commissioner Kent Weldon said the state commission's role is to review degree programs for public universities with the taxpayer in mind. He said state universities are generally charged with mission areas, but the commission allows for some overlap, especially if the programs cover areas where there is a worker shortage or if the new degree programs aren't expensive to establish.
The non-credit programs to be offered here don't need state approval and will target disciplines where the university can partner with industry.
For example, BSU officials worked with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to establish classes to help move recent college graduates into the insurance industry. The center also is setting up a class to help point college-bound high school graduates toward the field.
Indiana's insurance companies are headquartered mostly in Fort Wayne and northern Marion and Hamilton counties, said IEDC Director of Insurance Initiatives Mike Chrysler.
But BSU and Indiana State University offer the only insurance-specific degree programs, Chrysler said, and the state has been working with the two universities to get training closer to where the companies are.
"The insurance industry is aging," he said. "If we can position ourselves as a center for training and development of new insurance employees, we're going to be a place where the industry is looking to locate."
Other non-credit programs will include communication strategies and training for charter school leaders.
Gora said BSU also worked hand in hand with the city of Indianapolis to help target areas for professional development.