Designs released, WEOC contribution announced for EMU Strong Hall renovation

A contribution from the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium's (WEOC) Early College Alliance (ECA) program has brought Eastern Michigan University (EMU) one step closer to a summer renovation of its science complex.


Superintendents from all nine school districts in Washtenaw County were on hand for an April 19 ceremony that included EMU receiving a $200,000 check from WEOC, as well as the release of conceptual sketches of renovations to Strong Hall.


The renovation project is projected to cost $39.5 million, with about 75 percent of that funding coming from the State of Michigan's capital funding plan and 25 percent from EMU. The $200,000 from WEOC will offset the university's share of funding for the project, which aims to renovate the entire 80,713-square-foot building.


Strong Hall houses about 25 percent of the university's science classrooms, including a weather simulation lab and several physics labs as well as the departments of astronomy and physics and geology and geography.


The university plans to close the building and begin renovations this summer, including modernizing classrooms, labs, lecture rooms, and common areas, as well as infrastructure upgrades to the structural and electrical systems.


"It's not just bathrooms and water fountains. Most of the money and the focus of the renovation is on lab space, with a very instructional intent," says Dave Dugger, executive director of WEOC.


Dugger says WEOC's board and staff collectively decided to recognize EMU's commitment to WEOC's ECA program by giving back to the university. The ECA program allows students in Washtenaw County high schools to earn up to 60 college credits at EMU at no cost to students or their parents.


"That's a heck of a deal in today's world, with rising tuition," Dugger says.


The ECA program is funded through a portion of each school district's foundation allowance. About 430 students are currently participating in the ECA program, and enrollment is open for next year.


Dugger says Eastern has been an "extraordinarily willing" partner in the ECA program, but it isn't participating entirely out of altruism.


"We find about 30 to 40 percent will go on to other universities, but still around 65 percent on average remain at EMU," Dugger says. "It's a feeder mechanism for Eastern, and really, it's a win-win-win situation."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at
Dave Dugger photo courtesy of Dave Dugger.

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