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NDSU aims to stay unified during downtown Fargo expansion

FARGO North Dakota State University is expanding this fall, but officials and students want to keep the campus unified despite the growth downtown. "We're working hard not to create two campuses," said President Joseph Chapman. More than 2,500 ND...

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FARGO

North Dakota State University is expanding this fall, but officials and students want to keep the campus unified despite the growth downtown.

"We're working hard not to create two campuses," said President Joseph Chapman.

More than 2,500 NDSU students will attend classes downtown this fall with the opening of Richard H. Barry Hall.

As many as 4,000 students are expected to have classes in the three downtown buildings in the future. Renaissance Hall opened in 2004 and Klai Hall opened earlier this year.

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Some NDSU students, namely those in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, initially opposed moving downtown. But since the buildings have opened and the university addressed their concerns, they've come on board.

Justin Sherlock, a student senator who represents the College of Agriculture, said most student concerns have been addressed.

"I was definitely against it before," Sherlock said. "But now, as things have progressed and the building is coming along, I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Some general education classes will be held downtown, so all students may have the opportunity to take classes downtown.

As students move away from what's been considered the main part of campus, Chapman wants to maintain the feeling that it's still one university.

He sought advice from presidents of other metropolitan universities that have experienced similar expansions.

"Students have to feel fully engaged regardless of where they're taking a majority of their classwork," Chapman said. "We believe we've provided the services to ensure that."

Location, location

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NDSU's first downtown building, Renaissance Hall, is the former Northern School Supply and houses art and architecture departments.

In 2006, the NDSU Development Foundation announced plans to acquire and renovate two more downtown buildings.

Klai Hall, the former Lincoln Mutual Life building, first offered classes in January for architecture students.

Faculty and staff are now moving into Richard H. Barry Hall, the former Pioneer Mutual Life building. Classes are set to begin on Aug. 24.

It will house the College of Business and the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics.

This fall will be the first time NDSU has offered student housing downtown, with the addition of student apartments in the Cityscapes Plaza. Students can begin moving in Monday.

The main level of the Cityscapes development will house a campus police substation and a bookstore, and retail space.

NDSU is not looking for any more downtown buildings, but officials would consider a further expansion if the right opportunity came along, Chapman said.

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There also are no plans to occupy additional space in the Cityscapes complex, he said.

"Right now we want to get this transition made because it's a big move," he said.

Chapman is quick to point out that the downtown buildings are no farther away than some buildings on the main campus.

The distance from the NDSU Research and Technology Park to Memorial Union is about 1 1/4 miles, about the same distance as Memorial Union to Richard H. Barry Hall.

'Premier' facilities

Chapman toured Barry Hall last week, seeing it substantially completed for the first time.

"It's really something," said Chapman as he stood on the second floor looking out at the student lounge. "I know it's my job to say that, but in this case it's really true."

The facility will provide business students a place of their own. Previously, their classes were scheduled in several buildings on campus.

Carissa Barton, a sophomore marketing major, will take most of her classes at Barry Hall when she gets deeper into her major.

"I'm really excited because it's a humongous building," Barton said. "It's going to be a great place for business people to collaborate."

Several agribusiness students resisted moving downtown, primarily because of concerns about being separated from the College of Agriculture.

Sherlock, an agribusiness major with minors in crop and weed science and business administration, estimates it will take him an extra semester to graduate due to new scheduling conflicts.

It will also be more difficult for him to have office hours in the student government office, which is on the main campus, Sherlock said.

But overall, the advantages of the new facility outweigh the challenges, he said.

There will be new networking opportunities and students will be able to interact with businesses, Sherlock said.

AgCountry, a major donor for the facility, plans to hold some business meetings in Barry Hall.

The North Dakota Trade Office also will occupy space in the facility, opening up new opportunities for students.

Executive Director Susan Geib said there will be closer partnerships starting this fall, including a new export assistant program that will involve graduate students.

Students will feel like they're in a global business environment, with a digital world clock and stock tickers on the walls.

"This would be an incredible facility for any university in the world," Chapman said. "It's going to give our students an educational environment that's absolutely first class, premier."

A major emphasis with the downtown expansion is to ensure that students have access to the same services there that they do on the main campus.

That includes a Bison Connection, which offers student services such as financial aid and registration, a coffee shop and a computer help desk.

Amber Altstadt, NDSU's student body president, said students' main concern is transportation.

Parking will be limited downtown, so students are encouraged to take buses that will arrive every 12 minutes from the north end of the campus.

"It's going to be a change for many of us, but we'll adjust to it," Altstadt said.

Classes aren't scheduled to capacity in Barry this fall to ease into the transition. Additional general education classes will be scheduled downtown in the future.

Officials will monitor things this fall to see if adjustments are needed.

"Anytime you do something of this magnitude, there will be issues that come up that you probably haven't thought of," Chapman said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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