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Minnesota West set to spread east and west

WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota West Community and Technical College is spreading out.

Already with facilities in Worthington, Granite Falls, Jackson, Canby, Pipestone and Marshall, officials at the two-year school continue to discuss movement east and west along the I-90 corridor -- in Fairmont and Luverne.

West President Dr. Ron Wood, who spoke to the Luverne City Council on Tuesday, is working with officials there to offer classes in the former Luverne Community Hospital. The college is already working on a model with unnamed partners to, in Wood's words, "solidify the opportunity."

At first, interactive television and online courses will be made available to Luverne-area students, with traditional classroom settings becoming possible if more students become interested. The moves should especially interest non-traditional students, Wood said.

"We will probably definitely be putting some kind of storefront in Luverne. Probably the earliest would be January (2007), and the latest would be fall of '07," Wood said Thursday.

"I am absolutely in love with the old hospital. It's just a great facility. The technology is in place, the basic facility will have a minimum amount of renovation required to make it operational," he added.

During the initial phase of the "storefront" college, Interactive TV technology will enable Minnesota West to bring course offerings to the very smallest number of students. Later, when the student population grows to 18 to 20 students, an instructor may be dispatched to the site.

"We're using our technology, which will allow us to minimize cost," Wood said. "Our Interactive TV has gotten so strong that we think we can hold classes for two or three students and still be cost-effective. That's the beauty of Interactive TV."

The college is working with officials in Fairmont "along the same lines," said Wood, adding that he is still uncertain how Fairmont views the future relationship. Minnesota West has already established a connection with Fairmont, however, having graduated 24 nurses from the city last year as part of the Mobility Nursing Program.

The Luverne storefront, Wood hopes, will provide more opportunities for non-traditional students and others near or beyond the South Dakota border who tend to go west instead of east. He believes, for instance, that the western outpost will draw students from Brandon, S.D., and eastern Sioux Falls.

"It allows us to reach out in a population area that we're not drawing from in significant numbers," he said. "We have not been able to break the Sioux Falls market."

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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