FLINT (WWJ) — Baker College of Flint Tuesday announced the construction of a new Center for Business to house its business programs and Business Center.

Baker also announced a new welding certificate and associate degree program at its Cass City campus beginning Jan. 13, with registration ongoing through the start of classes.

The Center for Business’ design and technology supports the growing emphasis on active learning and providing real-work experience to students.

“We’re encouraging active learning where students collaborate, solve problems and work on real-world business issues while earning their degrees,” said John Cote, Baker’s dean of business administration. “The focus is on evaluating data versus calculating data and for students to build relationships with businesses that will enable them to hit the ground running at their first jobs.”

Baker College began a multimillion-dollar renovation of 9,200 square feet of the Undergraduate Studies Building last summer. It will be complete before 2014 winter quarter classes begin Monday, Jan. 13.

The renovation is creating learning areas that can be reconfigured in size and according to function. The furniture is fully mobile, configurable and lightweight.

Technology is playing a large part, with every classroom having an interactive whiteboard system and webcam.

Baker’s interactive whiteboard system includes a computer, projector and software that connect to students’ iPads and computers in addition to storing information and presentations in the cloud for later access.

In combination with the webcam, the interactive whiteboard system enables classes to engage with guest speakers located anywhere in the world.

Additional large-format flat screens located at table level allow students to connect their laptops and iPads to the system and display their work for small-group interaction or transmit their work to the class whiteboards for classroom discussion.

iPads will be standard student equipment with permanent docking stations at the Center.

One existing classroom was equipped with the proposed interactive technology late spring, in time for five classes to use it last summer and to begin faculty training. Currently, 14 classes are using this pilot classroom. In January, when the center opens, about 100 classes will benefit from the new technology.

“This is a major shift for our faculty and students,” Cote said. “There will be fewer lectures. Instead of using textbooks, instructors will be turning to hundreds of digital sources. Technology can easily calculate numbers. This leaves more time for interpretation of the numbers. Students participate as active learners, and instructors become facilitators.”

Cote said that students and instructors have responded extremely well to the upgrades.

“Students don’t want to leave at the end of the day,” he said. “Instructors love it because the students are so engaged.”

When complete, the Center for Business will have 10 classrooms, a Business Conference Center, a conference board room and an auditorium that serves as a one-level multi-purpose room with large-format interactive video displays on four walls.

The Business Conference Center will serve as the hub for Baker’s Business Center that has partnered with more than 100 businesses during the past six years. Several regional and state entities refer businesses to this program, including the MEDC, the Detroit office of The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

Baker pairs students and classes with businesses to help solve problems for the businesses while providing real experience to students. Cote expects the number of partner businesses to increase, especially because of expanded accessibility through technology to communicate with entities beyond the region and state.  

Led by 40 faculty, current business programs include bachelor’s and associate degrees in accounting, marketing, management and supply chain management, bachelor’s degrees in finance and legal studies, associate degrees in accounting/computer information systems, accounting and management, administrative professional, digital media design, entrepreneurship, general business, human resource management, and interior design, and a certificate in clerical bookkeeping.

A public open house of the Center is being planned for early spring.

For more information about the Center for Business and the business programs offered at Baker College of Flint, contact the admissions office, (810) 766-4000 or jodi.cuneaz@baker.edu.

As for the welding program, Baker officials say it’s intended to help meet the needs of area employers, especially in the thumb area of Michigan, according to Karen Easterling, Cass City campus director.

“We’ve heard from farmers and representatives of manufacturers and refineries,” she said. “There is a lack of trained welding specialists. This program will provide training for those who have interest in becoming a welding engineer, welding inspector, structural ironworker, custom vehicle designer and metal art sculptor, among other welding professions.”

A new 5,000 square-foot welding lab will support the program. It is located a few blocks from Baker’s main Cass City campus, which is at 6667 Main St. Students enrolled in the program will take general education classes at the main campus, but will spend most of their time in the lab.

The program is already offered at three other Baker College campuses: Flint, Owosso and Cadillac. Easterling said that having four campuses in the state offer the same program is another “Baker benefit” for students. “If they need to relocate before completion of the program, they can easily transfer to another campus,” she said.

Easterling believes that Baker’s established welding curriculum combined with the new state-of-the-art lab will provide superior training beginning on the program’s first day.

The lab accommodates up to 24 students. There are 12 two-man workstations. Each station has a MIG (metal inert gas) and TIG (tungsten inert gas) welder. Other equipment to be shared by class members includes multiple torches, a plasma cutter, bench cutter, drill press, grinder, tube bender, band saws and a Scottsman Sheener that cuts steel.

Tours are available to prospective students beginning Jan. 2. They are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as enrollment may be limited.

A community open house is set for Tuesday, Feb. 11, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Attendees will tour the lab, meet faculty and members of the administration, and see the metals fabrication equipment and a few student demonstrations.

“The lab is in a renovated area within a former milk plant,” Easterling explained. “The plant naturally lends itself to be an industrial training site. It’s perfect. We were able to repurpose a vacant facility, offer a growth opportunity for the community and add a campus program.”

Graduates of the program will have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary for entry-level employment in the welding industry — skills including oxyacetylene welding, cutting and brazing, shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding and destructive weld testing methods. The curriculum will meet or exceed the requirements set by the American Welding Society.

For more information about the welding program, contact Baker College of Cass City admissions at (989) 872-6000 or karen.easterling@baker.edu. Students may also schedule an appointment by visiting http://www.baker.edu. Financial assistance opportunities are available.

The largest private college in Michigan, Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It is a nonprofit higher education institution serving more than 35,000 students on 12 campuses and in three satellite locations. Baker grants certificates and associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, health sciences, education and human services, and various technical fields, as well as a doctorate of business administration.


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