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In just one year, Waubonsee Community College’s new downtown Aurora Campus has served nearly 9,500 students, hosted numerous events and revitalized a city block. Waubonsee opened its newest campus at 18 S. River St. one year ago, on June 1, 2011.

Waubonsee Marks First Anniversary of New Downtown Aurora Campus

Aurora Campus building shown at night with lights on and sign in front.
Waubonsee Community College's new downtown Aurora Campus at 18 S. River St. opened one year ago on June 1, 2011. The past year has seen a 20 percent increase of students taking courses at the campus and a 122 percent increase in the number of credit course semester hours taken.

In just one year, Waubonsee Community College’s new downtown Aurora Campus has served nearly 9,500 students, hosted numerous events and revitalized a city block. Waubonsee opened its newest campus one year ago, on June 1, 2011. The new 132,000-square-foot campus, which is located at 18 S. River St. in downtown Aurora, replaced the college’s former campus on Stolp Island.

“Waubonsee’s downtown Aurora Campus offers Aurorans a wealth of opportunities,” Waubonsee President Dr. Christine Sobek said. “No matter where you’re starting on the ladder to educational success, this campus provides the knowledge and support you need to meet your goals.”

The biggest difference between the new location and the former Aurora facility is that the new campus is comprehensive, meaning students can start and finish complete associate degrees and certificates right in downtown Aurora. While the overall year-to-year growth in students served is 20 percent, credit course semester hours showed even larger gains, jumping by 122 percent. Some of the most popular credit courses were Introduction to Psychology, First-Year Composition I and II, Fundamentals of Speech Communication, Elementary Algebra, Nurse Assistant Skills, Introduction to Business, and Introduction to Biology, which along with Introduction to Chemistry was offered in downtown Aurora for the first time this year.

Students learning in the state-of-the-art educational environment are taking advantage of the specialized classrooms including chemistry and biology labs, numerous computer classrooms, a certified nurse assistant (CNA) lab, a sign language and interpreter training lab, among other unique learning spaces.

Another big change for the new campus is the direct, on-site access to student services. Offering a “one-stop shop” model, new and returning students can now visit with admissions, counseling, financial aid and registration to plan their educational careers at the college. These areas have seen an increase of more than 40 percent in student traffic compared to the former Stolp Island campus. Greater access to student services allows more students to utilize the critical resources they need to succeed.

“Waubonsee’s beautiful new downtown campus has increased access to education to many people, especially those who lack transportation,” said City of Aurora Ward Two Alderman Juany Garza, whose ward houses the new Aurora Campus. “Students no longer have to drive to Sugar Grove. They can walk to and from school. I know many people from my Ward that have returned to school because of the increased accessibility the new campus has provided. Our community is very fortunate to have an institution that provides access and opportunity to all our community members.”

In addition to the increase in credit-seeking students, the college continued to serve the community through Adult Education programming. Adult Education programs include the popular GED and English as a Second Language classes, which also benefit from the advantages of a new, modern facility. Other Adult Education classes help adults learn basic educational concepts, teach literacy through a volunteer-based program, serve younger district residents through a youth program, and provide access to technology via the Adult Education Computer Center.

Like Adult Education, Waubonsee’s Workforce Development Department is also based at the Aurora Campus. Community members and local businesses benefited greatly from the workforce development, professional development, small business resources and customized training offered at the Aurora Campus.

The Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) continued to provide world-class advice, support and resources for local entrepreneurs. The SBDC also co-hosted a Government Procurement Workshop and Mini-Fair at the Aurora Campus co-sponsored by the Aurora Regional Chamber, Quad County African American Chamber and Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; a Small Business Administration Lenders Forum, in partnership with the Small Business Administration and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; and a Retail Roundtable, in partnership with the Center for Business Education and Innovation and Development.

The new campus allowed Workforce Development to extend its reach over the past year. The department partnered with the City of Aurora to provide training in energy efficient building practices, leading to 32 BPI certifications for local residents and contractors. The campus’ new Macintosh computer lab allowed individuals seeking professional development on Macs to learn these new skills in downtown. The new Assessment Center enabled the college to begin offering National Career Readiness Certificate testing. Numerous other community residents gained access to new programs given the depth and breadth of professional development courses now offered in downtown Aurora. Businesses also found the new location convenient for customized training offered through the department.

More than just a building of classrooms and offices, the Aurora Campus houses a tech-centered library, full-service bookstore, early childhood center, grab-and-go café and coffee bar, and media-ready multipurpose room. The multipurpose room, which is available for rent for professional meetings, has become a valuable asset for the downtown community.

“Waubonsee is truly our community’s college,” said State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia. “Providing an education to those who need it most benefits the individual, the city, the region, the state and the entire country. This new campus shows Waubonsee’s commitment to serving its community with life-changing educational opportunities.”

In the past year, the college has hosted the Daily Herald Business Ledger Newsmakers Forum on Manufacturing in Illinois; Aurora Business United; Mutual Ground; the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley; the Annual Interpreter’s Conference; the Valley Industrial Association Board; the Exchange Club of Aurora; librarians representing the eight participating libraries in the Fox Valley Reads program; the Illinois Human Services Commission public forum chaired by the Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary and attended by more than 60 area human service agencies; a Business Financing Workshop targeting Hispanic business owners with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk’s office; one of 14 Illinois House Task Force on Emergency Medical Services Funding Public Hearings; and many others.

Waubonsee has been a part of the Aurora community since the college was founded in 1966. Many of its first classes in 1967 were offered at sites throughout Aurora. A dual history event in March marked Waubonsee’s entwined history with that of the City of Aurora, tying in with the city’s 175th anniversary. An exhibit of photographs captures Waubonsee’s impact on Aurora, and the college’s Community Education Department also hosted a special historical presentation on the history of Aurora’s Pigeon Hill neighborhood.

The college kicked-off its new campus with a Grand Opening celebration on June 3, 2011. Later, in September, the college hosted a Community Open House that featured tours of the building, family-oriented activities and a “Taste of Downtown Aurora” that included numerous downtown Aurora restaurants providing free samples of their cuisines. Together, more than 2,000 local residents helped celebrate the addition of Waubonsee’s new campus to the fabric of the downtown community.

“In terms of economic impact, few things make as much difference to the success of a city as a well-educated population,” Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said. “Waubonsee’s new downtown Aurora Campus not only increases our city’s marketability by increasing the education of our workforce, but the campus itself is also an economic beacon, showing the vitality of downtown Aurora to future investors and entrepreneurs.”

While the past year has been worth celebrating, Waubonsee continues to look to the future with new programs and new initiatives to continue meeting the educational needs of all Aurorans. This summer the campus will offer a full array of credit and noncredit courses including the greatly expanded Xcelerate enrichment camps for children and young adults and a high school summer school program where students can catch-up or work ahead on their high school academics. View all summer course offerings at the Aurora Campus.