Last weekend, I was incredibly honored to join President Jim Reynolds of Wilmington College and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to celebrate the grand opening of the college’s new Center for the Sciences and Agriculture. The new facility has been needed for decades, particularly due to Wilmington College’s rapidly expanding agriculture and science departments, and after years of planning and two years of building, it was a pleasure to show it off to the public.
Replacing the former Kettering Science Hall, which provided for the department since 1960, the new center can boast a 34,000 square foot renovation with a 13,500 square foot addition. With a quarter of students enrolled in a major within the agriculture department, the facility can accommodate its students with a number of state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, and lecture halls. Through a collaboration between the USDA—which provided a $19.7 million low interest loan towards the project—and the state of Ohio, which contributed $1.5 million through the passage of our capital budget, this long-awaited endeavor was made possible.
The Ohio House has made both higher education and workforce development priorities during the 131st General Assembly. The two issues are intrinsically intertwined—an accessible path to higher education, especially in fields of study that are in demand in the workforce, leads to the overall development of that workforce. STEM courses, meaning majors in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, are crucial to the growth of industry in Ohio and our economy. Thus, it’s important for the state to create and support initiatives that open doors for students to pursue these fields of study.
In Ohio, which is made up of many rural areas, agriculture is one of the most in-demand careers and certainly falls under the definition of STEM courses. One out of seven Ohioans is employed in an agriculture-related field, our largest industry in the state. The new center at Wilmington College devoted to these areas of study will enable students to more successfully follow their dreams and receive a quality education with the most updated resources, laboratories, and technology.
By ensuring the success of these students in their pursuit of higher education, we can assist their success in the labor force. By strengthening the pathways between education and career development, Ohio can continue to grow stronger, with a flourishing economy and prosperous families. I am proud to have supported the funding that went to Wilmington College for the construction of its Center for the Sciences and Agriculture. I look forward to seeing the wealth of students who benefit from this new facility.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.