By Carl Borleis
Riverland Community College in Albert Lea is receiving a facelift. This summer, the campus has been home to a 48,000 sq. ft., $10.1 million renovation. The main focus of this renovation is in the transportation wing of the college. The project will make existing classroom and lab space more modern, demolish an obsolete building, create a new accessible rear entry, create a truck driving range, relocate the truck driving program from Austin to Albert Lea, and address deferred maintenance items. Another added feature will be the addition of more convenient bathrooms on the lower level of the campus.
When I visited the campus this spring, before COVID hit, there was already a significant amount of construction occurring, creating a maze-like access to the various shops and programs in that area of the campus. The construction happening during spring semester was not supposed to drastically interrupt current programs, with the bulk of construction to occur during the summer.
Part of the modernization of the diesel shop is to add space/access to allow farm equipment and larger vehicles into the shop through the addition of a 30’-wide door. The creation of a truck driving range, along with moving the truck driving program from Austin will allow more mutual assistance between the diesel and truck driving programs. The automotive program will receive renovations including angled parking, a new alignment machine, and 7 vehicle lifts.
According to the President of the college, Adenuga Atewologun, the campus has not seen a project like this in at least four decades. Minnesota State Chancellor, Deinder Malhotra described the project as a transformation from dark and dingy shops to modern, bright, and energized teaching and learning spaces for students. Riverland Community College is home to about 495 students, with about 20% of those students coming from a diverse background. The increase in technology, along with the more modern look to the school is expected to draw additional students to the college. Riverland’s Chief Financial Officer, Brad Doss said that just the excitement of new facilities in fall has doubled enrollment in some of the programs.
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