Testimony before the Governor’s Hearing on the Capital Budget

Governor’s Hearing on the Capital Budget
Rooms 210-11, LOB
21 June 2012

Testimony by Sara Jayne Steen
President, Plymouth State University

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.  As Chancellor MacKay noted, the outcomes of investments in KEEP (the Knowledge Economy Education Plan), a partnership between the state and its University System, have been impressive. The major Plymouth State University project funded by KEEP was a renovation and expansion of Boyd Hall, the campus’s primary science and laboratory facility.

Among the outcomes have been:

  • An expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs needed by the state’s schools and employers, with undergraduate programs in Environmental Science, Chemistry Education, Biotechnology, and Neuroscience, and graduate programs in Environmental Science, Biology, Meteorology, and Science Education.  Undergraduate annual enrollments in these critical fields have more than doubled to 311 students this year, and graduate enrollments increased by 1400%, to 72 students.
  • Workforce enhancement.  Students have won national awards for excellence, and many are entering the state’s schools as educators, impacting future students’ interest in science and technology, and the state’s businesses as science and technology professionals, advancing New Hampshire’s ability to compete economically.
  • Creation of centers of excellence.  The Judd Gregg Meteorology Institute has developed partnerships with the National Weather Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, and other agencies, with students studying wind patterns and hurricanes. In the Center for the Environment, faculty and students work with partners on projects from water quality in Newfound Lake to soil studies in the White Mountain National Forest.
  • External funding and economic development.  Following the infusion of new faculty and students from new academic programs, faculty have generated over $10 million in grant funding supporting student and faculty research and outreach, with solid benefits to New Hampshire, as well as nearly $2 million from private sources.  The average annual economic impact to the region for equipment, services, and salaries associated with these projects has been strong.

None of this would have been possible without the KEEP investments.  We expect similar outcomes from the state’s prospective investment in KEEP-UP, which includes PSU’s Active Living, Learning, and Wellness (ALLWell) Center.

The ALLWell Center will allow PSU better to meet its mission, with improved classroom and laboratory space for our third-largest department, Health and Human Performance (HHP), and important athletic and recreational spaces for all students.  It will replace an outdated, aging facility built in 1968 for a very small student body and now in such poor condition that replacement is more cost effective than renovation; advance our student recruiting and allow for new academic majors and options related to health and wellness; increase our ability to attract external funding through sponsored research; and allow for additional community programming, economic development, and critical workforce development in much needed fields of health and wellness.

PSU’s current physical education building damages our ability to advance the campus mission. The building was a state-of-the-art facility in 1968, but it has simply outlived its service life.  In recent years, PSU has had to commit $1.75 million to basic maintenance, and an external study concluded that it is more cost effective to replace rather than to continue to repair and renovate the facility.  The building was designed when the campus had 1200 students, not our current 7200 (4200 undergraduates and 3000 graduate students).  Nearly eight hundred current students are involved in athletics, two-thirds of undergraduates engage in recreational and intramural sports, and one-third take physical activity courses or are in majors associated with Health and Human Performance. The building was designed when building codes were very different, creating challenges for the campus to meet the changing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and life safety standards. The facilities assessment study concluded straightforwardly that the facility is unable to meet current or future needs.

The campus’s academic programs also are different than they were in 1968. The Health and Human Performance department, which at one time consisted of physical education, now houses thirteen multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare students to enter the workforce in much-needed positions in healthcare, exercise prescription, cardiac rehabilitation, health fitness, coaching, athletic training (an allied health medical profession), adventure education, and health and physical education. Students conduct research in exercise physiology and work with faculty members on topics from reducing childhood obesity to keeping older adults active.  Graduates of the department will become athletic trainers, fitness specialists, clinicians, business owners, and more.  A federally funded Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities focusing on rural wellness and the needs of rural communities is based in the department.  Faculty members are working at national levels and attracting funding from sources such as the National Institutes of Health.  With appropriate facilities, they can accomplish much more, and one of the greatest areas of state need and job growth will be in health care.

The ALLWell Phases

Phase I of this project, for which we are not requesting funding, is a building that combines the Eugene and Joan Savage Welcome Center and the Hanaway Rink, completed in the summer of 2010.  This facility is a self-supporting auxiliary building and was funded through HEFA bonds, fundraising, and student fees, with the only state dollars being $600,000 in CDFA tax credits for economic development.  (An economic impact report indicated that the building means $2.3 million annually in increased visitation and nearly 20 additional jobs to the region.)  In the past year and a half, we have seen the difference that such a facility can make: opportunities for athletic training and performance analysis, support for a major in sports management, ice-related classes; a winter training site for EMTs, adult and youth hockey programs, and a presence for the chamber of commerce. On the men’s hockey team, 17 of 27 players received academic recognition; and the team won its first conference championship and engaged in NCAA DIII tournament play.  Phase I has confirmed our sense of what the completed Center will mean for the campus and for the state.

Phases II-IV, which are not auxiliaries and are included in KEEP-UP, will be transformative in their impact on teaching, research, athletics and recreation, community programming, and economic and workforce development.  Construction of the integrated facility in phases allows minimal disruption to students and programs. Phase II: ALLWell North will support HHP academic programming, including exercise and prescription testing, cardio-classes and laboratories, student and faculty research that requires large controlled space, adventure education and physical activity programming.  It will include the field house, the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities, and the mechanical infrastructure for phases III and IV.  Phase III:  ALLWell West includes classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, multi-purpose teaching spaces; a lecture hall; activity spaces; offices for the HHP department; and an aquatic center with a pool, diving well, and locker rooms.  Phase IV:  ALLWell East includes classrooms, research laboratories, offices; the athletic training suite; the strength and conditioning facility; the gymnasium, wrestling room, practice room, and public lobby.

In sum, ALLWell will allow PSU better to meet its mission in serving students and the state of New Hampshire and creating the health and wellness workforce needed for New Hampshire’s future.