For years, Medina County business and civic leaders recognized that in order to maintain their competitive edge,they needed to have a way for residents and employees to increase their academic and workforce skills. So, five years ago, they approached The University of Akron with an idea of creating a unique educational facility within the county that would address the region’s educational and economic development needs.

The Medina County University Center, now under construction and due to open next fall, is the exciting result of the partnership forged that day. Focused on the evolving needs of today’s technology driven business and industries, the center will provide a unique approach to higher education with a flexible, responsive curriculum.

Nestled on 50 acres of picturesque land in Lafayette Township, just south of the city of Medina, the Medina County University Center is being built amid a new technology park through the financial support of state and federal appropriations as well as public and private sources. The first phase is an $8 million, state-of-the-art center.

“The University believes, as do the leaders in Medina County, that higher education creates opportunities for individuals as well as communities,” says Dr. Elizabeth Stroble, senior vice president and provost at the University. Currently, curriculum development teams are focusing on building core programs in general education, polymers, healthcare, education, business and finance, emergency management and public safety, manufacturing and aerospace. The center will offer a broad range of credit and noncredit coursework as well as specialized certificate programs and customized training, providing companies with immediate access to the most recent business and technological advances.

“One of the unique features of the Medina County University Center will be its flexibility for delivering ‘just in time’ programming that responds to the needs of the residents and employers of Medina County and the region,” says Holly Harris Bane, associate vice president for strategic initiatives at UA. “We view this as an evolving process, driven by local need. Our goal is to offer customized training when it is needed, where it is needed, through industry advisory teams.”

Once fully operational, a diverse schedule of day and evening classes will be offered six days a week, says Sue Louscher, director of the Medina County University Center. In addition to traditional classroom and laboratory settings, the center will feature state-of-the-art video-conferencing facilities and Web-based instruction. Some programs will be delivered on-site at local companies. In fact, the center is already delivering courses for its newly launched Polymer Certification Program at several off-site locations.

In keeping with the concept of flexibility, there will be no resident faculty at the center. Instead, University faculty as well as faculty from partnering universities and organizations will support the programming.

“Throughout this process, we have been defining the center as to what it is not,” says Stroble, “and we have determined we are not a branch campus. The center is a product of an innovative partnership. The fact that the center will be located within a technology park sets it apart from other campuses. We will be able to create a symbiotic relationship between the center and industries within close proximity in support of research and technology transfer.”

Down the road, Louscher would like to see the Medina County University Center used as a model for other institutions of higher learning. In the meantime, The University of Akron and Medina County officials are counting on the initiative to enhance the competitiveness of regional businesses, attract new business and enhance the lives of the county’s residents by providing timely access to higher education.

“We have learned a lot about Medina throughout this process,” says Stroble. “And hopefully, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves.”

She may not have a permanent office, but she has a vision. Susan Louscher (BA ’89) was appointed as the first director of The University of Akron’s Medina County University Center in June. She will divide her time between offices in Medina and the UA campus until the center opens in fall 2007.

“I was attracted to this position because it was an opportunity to be involved in the establishment of an innovative center that has the potential to be a model for how universities and communities partner to stimulate economic growth through education,” says the Uniontown resident. “Being able to return to my alma mater and contribute to its future success was a bonus.

“I inherited a project that had been very well planned and was poised for a successful implementation,” adds Louscher, whose varied responsibilities include raising the center’s profile in the community and establishing relationships with local businesses and industries.

Louscher earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at The University of Akron and a master’s degree in international security policy and international science and technology policy at George Washington University. Prior to joining UA, she was assistant director for continuing studies and community development and assistant director for workforce development at Kent State University’s Tuscarawas Campus, where she created employee development programs based on the needs of residents and businesses. Before that, she worked in the area of business development in Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va.

“We are very pleased to have an individual with Susan’s workforce and business development background step into this critical role as we launch the Medina County University Center,” says Senior Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Stroble. “I am sure she will lay the necessary groundwork for success as we prepare to open this innovative workforce development center.”

Through their financial support, many individual and corporate donors have helped make the Medina County University Center a reality. In addition, several Ohio legislators have been invaluable to the project. They include U.S. Congressman Ralph Ragula, State Representatives Chuck Calvert and Bob Gibbs, State Senator Ron Amstutz, and commissioners Pat Geissman, Stephen Hambley and Sharon Ray.

Individuals

Mr. and Mrs. Jerry L. Allen
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas R. Bahr
Rev. James and Mrs. Holly Harris Bane
Mr. and Mrs. James D. Boyes
Dr. and Mrs. Michael E. Carlson
Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Carmany
Mr. and Mrs. James A. Doutt
Mr. and Mrs. Timothy R. DuFore
Ms. Barbara J. Dzur
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Festi
Mr. and Mrs. Dean Holman
Mr. and Mrs. William J. Koran
Mr. and Mrs. David J. LeHotan
Dr. Lawrence J. and Mrs. Susan A. Marks
Mr. and Mrs. Roger W. McManus
Mr. and Mrs. John C. Milks
Mr. and Mrs. George P. Paidas
Mr. and Mrs. James L. Ruhlin
Mr. James A. Shields
Mr. and Mrs. Dan Schumaker
Mr. and Mrs. R. Daniel Sondles
Dr. Elizabeth J. and Dr. Paul E. Stroble

Corporations/Foundations/Organizations

Westfield Group — Lead Gift
Campbell Construction, Inc.
Michael Day Enterprises, Inc.
Feckley Charitable Foundation
FirstMerit
James Gerspacher Real Estate Inc.
Key Foundation
Kohanski, Arnold and Chin Architects
Luke Engineering and Manufacturing
Company
Medina Area Chamber of Commerce
Medina County Economic Development
Corporation
Medina County Homebuilders’ Association
Medina Paper Recycling, Inc.
M.W. Mielke, Inc.
Partners in Plastics
RPM, Inc.
Rea and Associates, Inc.
Remington Products, Inc.
Richey Industries, Inc.
Sandridge Food Corporation
Simmons Brothers Construction
Stop-N-Go
Superior Roll Forming Company
Three D Metals, Inc.
Western Reserve Bank
Willard Stephenson Foundation
Wolff Brothers Supply, Inc.

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Medina County University Center
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