Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser, and Commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) Carol Gladstone visited Salem State University today with an announcement that the university will receive $30 million for its transformational building project, called SSU BOLD: A Campus Unification and Modernization Project (SSU BOLD). The news was part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s announcement of more than $150 million of investments in public colleges and universities to renovate and expand campus facilities.
A Campus Unification and Modernization Project
SSU BOLD: A Campus Unification and Modernization Project (BOLD) addresses the major capital needs of the university identified in the Campus Master Vision (Sasaki, 2013) by establishing a compact and efficient campus core while maximizing programmatic synergies and streamlining operations. This exciting and transformative project enhances the overall campus experience for all students and positions us well to serve the North Shore region and prepare its future workforce.
In essence, BOLD takes a multipronged approach to achieving our capital goals in a way that utilizes Salem State’s and the Commonwealth’s resources in the most efficient way for both time and budget. It includes the sale of South Campus; the renovation of the Horace Mann Building; and the construction of a Meier Hall Addition, which will house much needed, modern, flexible high-intensity teaching labs for our science programs.
Components of SSU BOLD
Divestment of South Campus
The sale of South Campus allows Salem State to unify our academic programs, physically bringing our community closer together and allowing for increased multidisciplinary collaboration that will improve student experience and retention. South Campus houses most of the programs in the Maguire Meservey
College of Health and Human Services (MMCHHS) in a building that requires significant upgrades, especially in the nursing and occupational therapy (OT) simulation (SIM) labs. Their South Campus location is challenging both for students and faculty because of the physical distance, approximately one mile, and travel time between campuses. These programs are further constrained by capacity as the existing SIM lab spaces cannot accommodate student demand or clinical experiences that could be achieved in updated facilities. In addition, the student housing located on South Campus is no longer needed as there is capacity in the residence halls on North and Harrington Campuses. The unification of our campus through this sale reduces operational costs while also eliminating a significant amount of deferred maintenance and the need for future investments in buildings that have outlived their purposes.
Horace Mann Building Renovation
The Horace Mann Building was vacated in June of 2017, when the Salem Public Schools’ Horace Mann Laboratory School moved off campus and into a building on Willson Street. The building has sat vacant since because of the significant upgrades required to open it to university use. BOLD will allow for a complete renovation of this building, including exterior and HVAC repairs consistent with emerging standards necessary to reach our clean energy goals, continuing the progress we have made in the sustainability of our campus buildings. This renovation provides Salem State with the opportunity to build new SIM labs for our healthcare disciplines. Housing these programs in the Horace Mann Building significantly reduces travel time between classes and provides students easier access to supporting lab coursework in Meier Hall and other programs. It allows for easier cross departmental collaborations in areas of mutual interest, such as cybercrime, green chemistry, and climate resiliency. It also provides opportunities for much improved SIM labs with greater capacity and new general, flexible teaching spaces to North Campus that will support the technology required for alternative delivery models and innovation.
Meier Hall Addition
The Meier Hall Addition brings seven new, high-intensity teaching labs to Salem State. It provides much needed, modernized and flexible lab space largely for, but not limited to, biology and chemistry that cannot be retrofitted into the existing space built in the 1960s, while keeping all courses in these programs housed within the same building. The flexible design of the labs within the addition increases capacity for our science programs and allows for multiple programmatic uses, creating greater flexibility in course scheduling, student and faculty research, alternative delivery methods, and external partnerships. The addition also frees up space in Meier Hall where biology and chemistry courses are currently taught, increasing capacity for courses that require less specialized spaces, all while adding capacity for general education and healthcare support courses. The new facilities will give our students authentic lab experiences which correspond to those they will find in graduate school and the workforce.
Meeting the Needs of Our Region's Workforce
Salem State draws most of its students from the Northeast and Greater Boston regions. BOLD directly addresses two sectors identified as priorities in these regions’ Labor Market Blueprints and subsequent updates: healthcare and social assistance and professional and technical services. The North Shore is also seeing an increase in the workforce needs of the life sciences industry.
While COVID-19 changed the ways of work with remote and hybrid options, work in the healthcare and life science sectors still requires a skilled workforce with practical experience with specialized facilities and equipment. BOLD’s programmatic focus on life and physical sciences aligns with the high-skilled workforce needs of the healthcare and life science sectors, providing the degrees required to support regional workforce demands. The state is already investing significant funds into programs to prepare the workforce of the life sciences industry, most recently with grants for apprenticeships in biomanufacturing, but investment also needs to be made in the infrastructure where this workforce will be educated.
The lab addition and renovated healthcare SIM labs will increase Salem State’s ability to provide students with academic and technical preparation that is directly comparable to the lab environments where they are likely to work, while also permitting the expansion of graduate level offerings in these areas. The new labs enable Salem State to further partner with regional industries to provide employee training, certification programs, industry guest lectures, and university-provided lab services. The SIM labs will increase our ability to offer the hands-on clinical experiences students require on campus, as external clinical placements have been harder to secure in recent years.
The Future of Work Report indicates that healthcare is facing significant workforce development challenges and is anticipated to be the largest source of employment growth in the state with an estimated 210,000 – 230,000 jobs by 2030. It noted this growth will likely be more pronounced in Gateway Cities with a sector growth of 25 to 31% by 2030. With Salem State serving 11 of the 26 Gateway Cities in the Commonwealth and with 20.5% of the 200 largest employers in Essex County in the healthcare and social assistance industry, the need to increase the pipeline of an educated and skilled healthcare workforce is something that BOLD can help address.
MassBioEd notes in its 2021 Employment Outlook that the life science industry’s employment base has grown by 67% over the last decade. They estimate that over the next four years more than 20,000 new jobs will be generated in this industry with a sizable talent supply gap of more than 3,000 research scientists by 2024. The demand for a highly educated workforce in this industry is apparent in the state with MassBioEd noting that 90% of life science firms are looking for candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The Commonwealth Corporation’s STEM Brief 2021 adds that diverse representation in STEM positions continues to be low, and the state is prioritizing workforce diversification to ensure upward mobility for all. Reporting that 59% of STEM jobs require a bachelor’s degree, the new labs in BOLD will help prepare our graduates to compete for these much needed positions.
Salem State is educating a diverse, future STEM workforce as the 3-year average of racially minoritized students in biology is 47%, chemistry is 47%, healthcare studies is 59%, and nursing is 40%. With most of our students staying in the region after graduation, these students will diversify the workforce of the region and the Commonwealth. However, with our limited and outdated labs, our capacity is restricted, and we place our students at a disadvantage because they are not able to work in modern facilities that match those they will find in the workplace. Thus, the quantity and quality of current labs pose challenges for not only our students but also our region’s workforce.
Completed in July 2013, the SSU Campus Master Vision established a plan for the university’s presence in the greater North Shore region—a plan rooted in its academic mission and one that advances its role in community and economic development. The Campus Master Vision builds on and extends the ideas originally communicated in the 2007 Campus Master Plan. Significant deferred maintenance and an urgent need for modernized lab facilities have been consistently documented issues in each of the planning studies and were verified in a recent Readiness Study completed in 2019.
These studies, combined with the unprecedented opportunity of a vacant building on our academic hub, led to SSU BOLD. The four key principles that governed the 2013 plan remain intact through BOLD: flexibility, connectivity, identity and community. These principles reflect the university’s aspirations to establish a compact and efficient campus core that maximizes programmatic synergies and consolidates SSU’s footprint within its Central and North Campuses.
Since completion of the 2007 and 2013 planning efforts, Salem State has successfully completed numerous projects to improve both the academic and student experience while addressing deferred maintenance issues within aging buildings and infrastructure. Some of these projects were completed in partnership with the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), including full state funding for the Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons and partial state funding (roughly 27.5 percent) for the Sophia Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts renovation. Other projects were completed in collaboration with the Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA), which issued bonds that are repaid by student fees, including the Harold E. and Marilyn J. Gassett Fitness Center, Viking and Marsh Residence Halls, and the North Campus Parking Garage. Salem State has also funded various leases and fit-outs to accommodate administrative and academic needs with operating funds. All of these projects demonstrate a strong commitment to implementing the Campus Master Vision and exhibit the university’s willingness to contribute its own funds toward making the vision a reality. The Salem State University Board of Trustees strengthened this commitment with a vote in favor of supporting SSU BOLD through a combination of university cash and debt.