Ferris State University’s Center for Virtual Learning is another major step closer to reality after the university’s Board of Trustees recently approved proceeding with the construction of the $29.5 million main campus building.
The future Center for Virtual Learning will serve as a centralized location to host the Information Security and Intelligence program, the School of Digital Media, the School of Education and eLearning at Ferris.
The CVL will stand next to the FLITE library, at the current site of Vandercook Hall, which will be razed. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Public Act 257 of 2020 into law in December to grant full authorization to proceed with Ferris’ state of Michigan capital outlay project.
“The Center for Virtual Learning represents our commitment to providing students and faculty with state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and learning,” President David Eisler said. “The development and creation of this signature building will change the landscape of Ferris State University and support our students and faculty engaged in these high demand career fields.”
In addition to the academic programs and online learning support, the CVL will also be home to Ferris’ eSports and cyber competitions.
“The Center for Virtual Learning presents a unique opportunity for Ferris to showcase ourselves as a leader in innovation and technology among our peers in the state of Michigan,” said Bobby Fleischman, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “The CVL brings our information security, artificial intelligence, and computer science programs together with education, digital media and e-sports programming in synergistic ways that will afford our students an opportunity to develop skills engaging technology that will prepare them to enter a dynamic, technologically-driven workforce.”
The Board of Trustees’ approval was necessary to complete the design, construction phase services, furniture procurement, fixtures and equipment, and other required professional services.
Bishop Hall, located on the west side of campus, will be razed and the area restored. The School of Criminal Justice will be relocated to space inside the Interdisciplinary Resource Center (IRC).
Construction is scheduled to begin in May and continue through December 2022. The center is expected to be ready for occupancy in January 2023.
Board members also approved a new Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence in the College of Business. Ferris envisions itself as being at the front of artificial intelligence degree-granting, where job growth has been 74 percent annually, ranking it first among the top 15 emerging jobs in the U.S., according to a LinkedIn report. Primary areas of focus for the new Artificial Intelligence degree will be cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, health care, business and educational applications. Industry experts see AI as a necessary complement to cybersecurity, thanks to automation and general efforts to address the increasing sophistication and high volume of cyber-attacks.