St. Catharine College: A campus on the grow

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By Special to The Sun


A lot has changed at St. Catharine College since it started 80 years ago. The little college that thought it could is now the little college that knows it can. The institution has expanded in many ways with a record graduating class in Spring 2011, record enrollment for Fall 2011, an expanding list of degree programs including the first graduate courses scheduled for Spring 2012, and a campus-wide expansion of facilities.

SCC welcomes a record-breaking freshman class this fall and looks to break the 1,000-student mark this semester.
“Preliminary enrollment figures during the first week of classes indicate that when the census date for the semester arrives, total enrollment is on track to exceed 1,000 students in the fall semester for the first time in the college’s 80-year history,” said Dr. Vicki Guthrie, Vice President for Enrollment Management & Dean of Students. “St. Catharine is also on course for one of the largest entering student classes on record. Freshmen and transfer students new to the college combined currently total 293, with every possibility of exceeding 300 when all is said and done. The number of first time freshmen is the highest on record.
St. Catharine’s residence halls are at capacity this year with 298 students living on campus. This is an all time high for St. Catharine College and has resulted in students living in overflow housing in Bertrand Hall that was not anticipated to be used this year after the opening of the new 100-bed apartment facility, Aquinas Hall.
The total enrollment at St. Catharine is made up of approximately 700 full-time students, slightly less than half of whom live on campus. Commuting students make up the other half of the full-time enrollment. Approximately half of the full-time students participate in athletics as players, managers, statisticians, or student assistants. Part-time students and high school students enrolled in the Early College Program, dual credit courses, or attending classes on campus make up the remainder of the total student population.
Many people who haven’t visited the campus in a while may not recognize it when they see it now, and SCC President William D. Huston wouldn’t have it any other way.
The campus’ growth all stems from the college’s $150 million Master Plan announced a year and a half ago. Huston said the $150 million expansion plan was originally estimated to take 15 to 20 years to complete, but now he hopes to reduce that timeframe to 10 to 12 years.
“We’ve had a few inconveniences because of the construction - employees, students, parents and visitors - but those are good problems to have,” he added. “That’s a part of progress and we never want to stop moving forward.”
The next step for SCC is building the new Emily W. Hundley Library and Center for Graduate Studies. The $8 million project will become the hub of campus activity and will serve many functions.
“For starters, the building is going to be a beautiful facility,” said Ilona Burdette, director of library services at SCC. “Knowing that we can’t anticipate all of the technological changes that will happen in the future, we’re trying to build a maximum amount of flexibility into the structure, both wired and wireless. We’ll be able to offer more selections on the stacks, have expanded group study areas as well as individual study spaces, additional classrooms which are much needed, conference rooms, a café, computer labs, plus an archive section showcasing a lot of the history of not only St. Catharine College, but we also hope to house special collections such as materials from Elizabeth Madox Roberts. This is going to be the centerpiece of the campus and a source of pride for the college and the community.”
To help launch the fundraising effort for the new library, 100-percent of all SCC faculty and staff recently pledged over $200,000 through payroll deduction to start the process.
“We’re still on schedule for that to go to bid in September,” Huston said. “That project will be about a 14-month process. We hope to have it done by December 2012. There are plenty of naming opportunities for corporations or individuals who would like to be a part of building history at St. Catharine.”
The college dedicated its latest residence hall, Aquinas Hall, this past Monday, and work is nearing completion on the restructured athletic complex, which will include a new soccer field, tennis courts and an eight-lane track.
SCC athletic director Mike Doig said the final cost for the project will approach $1 million upon completion.
“When you talk about the different venues of track, soccer and tennis there is so much to consider,” he said. “In addition to the subgrades established for each facility, you also have to include sewer, electrical, irrigation, drainage and parking areas. And there was a lot of rock that had to be blasted before any dirt was moved. In addition, Goodlett Drive was re-routed to provide a new entrance to all of the athletic fields.”
Even before that, Doig added, there was considerable excavation that took place in order to provide the aesthetics of the entire athletic complex that will be developed on different levels.
“We couldn’t do what we are doing without the generosity of many people who believe in St. Catharine and our athletic programs,” said President Huston. “There will be two naming opportunities presented later for the track and tennis facilities, which will tell the story of a couple major gifts. And, of course, we will retain the name of the Barber Soccer Complex.”
Even the entrance to the campus has taken a dramatic change over the summer. Due to the opening of the US-150 bypass in front of the college, the stretch of old US-150 at SCC has been transformed into a two-lane boulevard with a landscaped median in the center and a roundabout entrance in front of the St. Catharine Motherhouse.
“This is great for the college in many ways as far as appearance and safety,” said Huston. “We’re excited at the fact that the state is going to transfer what is now old US-150 from Locust Lane by the roundabout down to our current main entrance to the county, who will then transfer that property to the college and that will become our entryway. In the near future, we’ll be adding more plants, lighting and sprinklers to the center islands. It’s going to be a beautiful entrance into the campus.”
Change at St. Catharine College isn’t limited to the main campus. In addition to locations in Bardstown and Lebanon, SCC has expanded into the Washington County community by partnering with Washington County High School to offer an Early College Program.
“Washington County students who complete the Early College Program will be able to graduate from St. Catharine College with either an Associate of Arts (AA) degree in Liberal Arts or an Associate in Applied Science degree (AAS) in Early Childhood Education at the same time they earn their high school diploma,” said Dr. Don Giles, SCC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The AA/AAS degree will allow them to either continue at a four-year higher education institution with their first two years completed or enter into the job market with stronger credentials than their fellow high school graduates. This competitive edge is critical in today’s challenging economy.”
On the other side of the spectrum, SCC’s Continuing and Community Education Program was recently launched to great success, offering non-credit courses such as digital photography, cake decorating and computer classes for senior citizens. A highlight over the past summer was Kids College held at Centre Square in Lebanon. This week-long program provided children grades 3-8 many different learning experiences, like archery, science, counted cross stitch and drawing superheroes.
For those tech-savvy Web surfers out there, you can even find SCC’s presence on their re-tooled Web site at www.sccky.edu or social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But while the college is reaching out into the vast expanses of cyberspace, it also knows the value of neighbor helping neighbor.
St. Catharine College has been a valuable asset to Washington County for 80 years, providing quality higher education to residents right in their own neighborhood.
To be a part of the growth and excitement at St. Catharine College, contact the college at (859) 336-5082.