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Building a Tech Future

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation announced a gift in December of $2 million to the Idaho State University College of Technology capital campaign that will be used for the renovation of the ISU William M. and Karin A. Eames Advanced Technical Education and Innovations Complex.

“We applaud the ISU College of Technology leadership and commitment to providing certificates, credentials and degrees that lead to meaningful employment opportunities for its graduates,” Quarles said. “The foundation believes that ISU’s and College of Technology’s commitment to expanding these types of educational opportunities will pay big dividends to our state.”

He said their foundation is impressed by the College of Technology’s Successful Transitions and Retention Track (START) program. Quarles also went on to say that ISU’s business advisory support, job placement success and its approach to delivering a relevant post-secondary experience that leads to livable wage jobs is commendable.

In February 2017, ISU announced plans approved by the State Board of Education to relocate a number of College of Technology programs into the 150,000-square-foot Eames Complex to meet a growing enrollment. The University plans to make it the premier center for technical education in Idaho and to continue its role as a state-of-the-art research facility.

The Eames complex

William M. and Karin A. Eames Advanced Technical Education and Innovation Complex

The complex, located in the ISU Business and Research Park, is named after William M. and Karin A. Eames, longtime College of Technology and ISU supporters, and $2.5-million donors to this facility. With this move, programs that are currently located on various parts of the ISU campus will now be in one location. Research opportunities continue at the Eames Complex housing state-of-the-art ISU Office of Research facilities, including the Center for Archaeology, Materials and Applied Spectroscopy.

The total cost of fully renovating the facility and moving programs is estimated to be about $22 million. Renovations began in June 2017 and are ongoing.

“There’s never been a time in our history quite like this one,” said Scott Rasmussen, dean of the College of Technology. “We are embarking on a new era in the College of Technology. This gift from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation will be a monumental step forward. As we make our move into the William M. and Karin A. Eames Advanced Technical Education and Innovations Complex, it is a time for great optimism and the opportunity to make a difference in our students’ lives right now.”

College of Technology programs that will initially be moved to the complex include automotive collision repair and refinishing, computerized machining technology, automotive technology, diesel/on-site power generation technology, computer-aided design drafting technology and welding.

Success through START

Two years ago, Paula Ames was a full-time cake decorator with three children, going through a rough divorce. She had never really even considered college, mostly because the idea of taking math classes was so daunting.

Ames had no idea what she wanted to do for sure, but she knew she wanted to help others.  Hoping to change her life, Ames set aside her academic fears, and entered Idaho State University’s START program. There, she found confidence and support.

First, the START instructors refreshed her academics. After years of neglect, her math skills were so rusty that a class level was created just for her, and her instructors were persistent in helping her to understand. Her math teacher gave the class his cell phone number, and asked them to call as they were studying if they needed help.

“He just really had a passion for helping others,” Ames said. “START is a life-changing program. It provides support for all areas of a student’s life — academic, emotional and even financial. The teachers and support staff are phenomenal people who care about the whole student.”

That feeling of support is exactly what Cherisse Brown, START program director, hopes to create in her students.

Through START, a semester-long program, participants first meet with a counselor to discuss academic plans, career aspirations, and mental and emotional needs. Then, they take tests to see where they may need academic assistance to become college-ready, and begin classes.

“We know the top three things that keep people from coming to college are fear, anxiety and hopelessness,” Brown said. “We really just take away that overwhelming sense of fear, so they know they belong here. It’s kind of that warm, fuzzy place.”

Today, Ames has earned her associate degree and is working on a bachelor’s degree. She hopes to soon work as an advocate for victims of domestic violence. Ames says her life was changed by hard work, caring teachers, and Idaho State University’s START program. Now, she is a START mentor, who meets regularly with a group of students for peer counseling. START mentors can help provide encouragement in a way others can’t, because they have been in the same situation.

Ames takes her students on program tours, helps them navigate financial aid, and gives them tips others might not think about.

“We’re the gap between the students and the teachers. We know where all the free food is. We’ve been there. We know what it’s like,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t know what questions to ask. We can help with that.”

Each semester, 30 people are admitted into the START program — last semester there was a waiting list.  For those who finish the program with 80 percent attendance, and an 80 percent cumulative grade average, there is a scholarship to further their education, along with ongoing support.

“Once a START student, always a START student,” Brown said. “Our biggest goal is to get them going in the right direction.”

Paula Ames