Education Village hosts grand opening


Nicole Girgen

The newly opened Dr. Donna J. Helble Hall hosted the grand opening of Winona State’s Education Village on Thursday, September 5. Four buildings make up Education Village, each tell the story of education history in Minnesota.

Morgan Reddekopp, Editor-in-Chief

Thursday, Sept. 5, the Helble Hall Atrium held the grand opening of Winona State University’s Education Village.

Education Village has been a work in progress since 2013, with the final cost being around $34 million.

There were 13 speakers at the grand opening ceremony. These included Winona State President Scott Olson, Minnesota politicians, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, former Dean of Education Tarrell Portman and current Dean of Education Daniel Kirk.

Tours were provided for visitors and alumni after the ceremony.

Morgan Reddekopp
Students, faculty members, alumni and visitors pack the Helble Hall Atrium before the Grand Opening of Education Village September 5.

According to Kirk, Education Village has been about a five-year project since the initial discussions. Construction itself took approximately two years.

Rather than building new facilities from scratch, already-existing buildings were renovated to cater to Winona State students and programs.

“These were three original buildings, so there have been no actual new buildings created,” Kirk said. “These were old buildings so there was pipe work, heating, ventilation and electricity had to be updated which takes some time. And it’s not over yet.”

Now that the buildings are being used, students and faculty can see which parts of each building are working and which things are not. For the next six months, small updates will be made to put the finishing touches on the facilities.

Michael Bjornberg was involved in the architectural planning and construction of Education Village. He said things he considered while planning were cost, deadlines and the existing buildings themselves.

“The challenge is that having ideas and pulling them together in the way that you originally saw them,” Bjornberg said.

Bjornberg also stated that something he considers is whether or not these new facilities work in the ways in which they were intended to.

Despite Winona State University being Minnesota’s first normal school (college for teacher training and preparation), only recently has the education department gotten their own “village” after other programs came to Winona State.

“Education has always been a key part of our programing and one of the core academic programs,” Kirk said. “Education was always there, but maybe sometimes in the shadow of some of the other programs that were established.”

Kirk said he thinks the overall mood toward education is changing, especially with there being an international shortage of teachers, with the U.S. alone needing hundreds of thousands of teachers over the next five years.

“The university system and the state system is investing in education here because at Winona State we have the history [of being a normal school], but we also have the ability to really think about how we develop teacher education and make it fit for the 21st century,” Kirk said. “I don’t think it’s the university taking a long time to realize that we need this, I think it’s a part of a national movement.”

A goal of Education Village is to make Winona State a national leader in teacher preparation.

“In my conversations with people about how this came about, it really was about building our education programs starting from what is needed locally,” Kirk said. “And then that grew and this whole idea of Education Village was developed, and the goal is that we become the national leader in teacher preparation.”

Nicole Girgen
Each classroom in Helble Hall is designed to be a movable and interactive learning space, the hope is that Education Village make Winona State a national leader for teacher preparation.

Kirk said he thinks Education Village will have two staggered impacts on students.

The initial impact will be the education students being able to move into the “fantastic, modern buildings.”

“The modern buildings should reflect how modern teaching should take place,” Kirk said.  “Teaching and learning in contemporary spaces should happen.”

The second area of impact will be delivering the programs in a way to properly prepare students for 21st century jobs in the teaching industry.

In the next two to five years, Kirk expects changes to the program and curriculum.

After five years, he expects that Winona State will begin to see people coming from all over the country for the Education Program.

Alisa Becker-Dunn, the president of the Education Minnesota Student Program and an elementary education with early childhood emphasis major, said she believes the building of the Education Village will have a vast impact on students in the education department.

“I believe the affect it will have is that it will make everyone more joyful and more excited to come to class,” Becker-Dunn said. “All I’ve been hearing the past few weeks is ‘I really like how the classes are built’… I think it will have a great impact on learning.”

Becker-Dunn also believes  Education Village will have an impact on the education program in general.

“The fact that we have more experience in the classrooms and we are changing a little bit of the curriculum will help us to be more prepared and more excited to go into the workforce and become teachers,” Becker-Dunn said.

Becker-Dunn spoke of her reaction after hearing about the construction of Education Village.

“I was really excited, especially coming in as an education major,” Becker-Dunn said. “I was really excited to have my own space to learn. I was kind of blown away that Science and Nursing got their own area, and I was really excited when we got our own space.”

Becker-Dunn said that the education department has been excited about Education Village for a long time.

“[This] college was built especially for teachers and for education,” Becker-Dunn said. “This is something that we have been craving, and something we have been needing for a while. I’m just really excited that I get to be a part of the process and part of the new round of educators going into Education Village.”

Among those in awe of Education Village were Jan Strawmatt-Meyer and Beverly Odden, who both graduated Winona State in 1956 as elementary education majors.

“It’s beautiful,” Strawmatt-Meyer said. “We didn’t have this when we were here. It would be so much more fun to go to college here now.”

Kirk encouraged all students, education majors and otherwise, to visit Education Village.

“Although this is where the College of Education is housed, these facilities are university facilities,” Kirk said. “Students from across disciplines should feel comfortable coming over to Education Village whether it is to come to our Starbucks or to hang out in some of our spaces. We have a lot of spaces that are open collaborative spaces with nice seating for students to work.”

Nicole Girgen
A small convenience store was added to Helble Hall, allowing students to stay close to Education Village for food or coffee breaks. The official opening of Education Village took place on Thursday, September 5.