GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Valley State University plans to add a new learning space at its downtown Grand Rapids campus that will serve as an intersection of business and technology education for community members and students.
The GVSU Digital Learning Epicenter proposes to include digital production labs, fabrication labs, and serve as a location for startups to collaborate. The space would give students the opportunity to seek out internships or support tech startups to gain adjacent skills to their degrees.
The project timeline is dependent on securing funding, said GVSU President Philomena Mantella. University officials have identified space to build the potential project on existing property.
“We all know this tech revolution we’re in is going to require four to 10 times the amount of computer scientists, engineers and people in the workforce that can build a competency on top of a degree to get a next level position or new, evolved position,” Mantella told MiBiz. “This Epicenter creates an opportunity for startups to access university talent and faculty, and offers us an opportunity to grow those pipelines with businesses.”
The learning space is meant to help bolster the community’s tech talent base as well as entrepreneurs in business picking up adjacent skills. The planned center also would allow for collaboration between businesses, faculty members and students looking for internships or job opportunities, Mantella explained.
“Everything we think about at Grand Valley is about enhancing the learning for the students and economic development of the community, and a lot of times those two things are aligned,” Mantella said. “Having these kinds of facilities is a draw for students and creates an environment for them to work in a physical setting.”
GVSU has preliminary designs for the center, though officials are counting on an investment from the state because project costs would not be priced into tuition, Mantella said. GVSU also is pursuing a companion project that is more focused on digital learning, Mantella added.
“It’s all about growth and innovation, so it’s not just helping those that are here to stay to be connected but it’s creating an environment of growth and innovation for our community,” Mantella said.
The Digital Learning Epicenter was included in economic development organization The Right Place Inc.’s list of 12 projects that could be transformational for Grand Rapids. The list of 12 transformational projects was created with public and private partners as part of a new community development division for the organization. The list also was developed to attract attention from state lawmakers who could direct funding, including federal COVID-19 relief or infrastructure dollars, to local projects.
“These are big projects that are several tens of millions of dollars, and will take multiple years to build, but the whole idea is we’re at a unique point in time where there are dollars available,” Tim Mroz, senior vice president of community development at The Right Place, told MiBiz earlier this month.