Waubonsee has been meeting the educational needs of our community since 1966.
Waubonsee Community College, a two-year public institution of higher learning, came into existence in August 1966 when the electorate of 12 school districts in most of Kane and portions of Kendall, DeKalb, LaSalle and Will counties voted to establish Community College District 516 (pdf). Today, the district encompasses nearly 600 square miles and has an assessed valuation of approximately $8.4 billion.
From the beginning, the college’s philosophy has been that education is the cornerstone of a literate, democratic society; learning is a lifelong process; and the pursuit of knowledge must be supported by institutional policies demonstrating accessibility, service, quality, innovation and value.
With the objective of meeting the lifelong learning needs of the community, the college truly began taking shape in early 1967, as the college’s first president assumed his duties and subsequently began assembling a staff, developing a multilevel curriculum and locating classroom space. However, the college still needed a name, and for that, the school called upon its community.
A district-wide naming contest was held in March of 1967. From among the 600 entries, the name suggested by both Susan Miller, of Aurora, and Patricia Ann Dillon, of Batavia, stood out, and the Fox Valley’s community college officially became Waubonsee Community College. Waubonsee, meaning “early dawn” or “early day,” was a Pottawatomie Native American chief who lived in the Fox River Valley during the 1800s.
Waubonsee Community College had a permanent name but had yet to locate to a permanent campus and so, when the college opened its doors for classes on Sept. 11, 1967, the doors were those of a variety of community facilities. The school’s initial enrollment of 1,603 students — 403 full time and 1,200 part time — has grown steadily since that time, with the college currently serving more than 12,000 students each semester.
Just a few months later, in December 1967, a successful bond referendum allowed the college to begin planning its first permanent campus. The campus, situated on a 243-acre tract of land north of Sugar Grove on Route 47, still serves as the college’s main campus. In addition to classroom space, facilities there also include conference rooms, specialized laboratories, Student Center, café and coffee bar, library, bookstore, observatory, kiln shelter, 375-seat auditorium, multipurpose event space, gymnasium, 120-workstation computer center, fitness center and two-mile nature trail.
A second Waubonsee campus opened in 1986 in downtown Aurora at the corner of Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue, but this structure ceased operations in May 2011. In June 2011, Waubonsee moved its downtown campus to a new 132,000-square-foot facility at 18 S. River St. The Aurora Downtown Campus remains the headquarters for Workforce Development, Adult Education, GED, English as a Second Language and the Adult Literacy Project.
Waubonsee established another major extension center in January 1997 on the Rush-Copley Medical Center campus, adjacent to Route 34 in far east Aurora. Renovated and renamed the Aurora Fox Valley Campus in summer 2016, it will now house the college's health care programs, in addition to offering general education courses and comprehensive student services.
Spring 2011 marked the beginning of courses at the college's fourth permanent campus, located in Plano. Situated on a nine-acre site adjacent to the Lakewood Springs development, north of Highway 34 and west of Eldamain Road near Lake Plano, the Plano Campus offers complete associate degrees to area residents, along with noncredit learning opportunities.
The new Aurora Downtown and Plano Campuses are among the many projects undertaken as part of the 2020 College Master Plan. During the 2002-2003 academic year, the board of trustees adopted this plan, which outlined educational facilities necessary to meet the needs of students now and into the future. Five building projects were completed at the Sugar Grove Campus: the Campus Operations facility opened in August 2005, the new Science Building opened during the fall 2006 semester, the Academic and Professional Center held classes for the first time in fall 2007, and the Student Center opened in spring 2009, and the Field House opened in spring 2015.
While Waubonsee is continually working to improve its campuses, the college also recognizes the need for other convenient course locations, and so, classes are held at nearly 16 other extension sites throughout the district as well. For those students who prefer to learn from home, Waubonsee offers online learning options. Waubonsee has always been a leader in distance learning, from being a founding member of the Illinois Virtual Campus (IVC) to providing courses to students statewide through Illinois Community Colleges Online (ILCCO). Currently, the college offers nearly 200 online courses and delivers fully-accredited associate degrees and certificates to students in an online format.
As the educational needs of its district change, so too will Waubonsee Community College. What will always remain the same, however, is Waubonsee’s commitment to student success through quality teaching and learning experiences.