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Waubonsee Opens New Aurora Campus

College leaders held a grand opening ceremony on Friday for their new $50 million, 132,000-square-foot building in downtown Aurora.

Summer classes begin today at the new Waubonsee Community College in downtown Aurora. To celebrate the grand opening of the massive new campus, the college threw a party on Friday, complete with guided tours of the 132,000-square-foot facility. And hundreds of people turned up to take a peek.

The new campus, at 18 S. River Street, cost $50 million to build. It will house some 3,000 students, similar to the former Aurora campus, just down the street on Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue. (During the most recent spring semester, 805 of Waubonsee students were from Montgomery and 923 were from Oswego, according to Stephanie Wennmacher, marketing and communications manager.)

Unlike the old one, which closed at the end of last month and is now for sale, the new campus is equipped to offer everything students need to get an associate’s degree or certificate, without ever going to the Sugar Grove campus.

The Aurora complex has 52 classrooms, including two science labs, eight computer classrooms, and full wireless Internet access. The new classrooms are miles above the old, according to the teachers who will be using them.

“It’s an amazing facility for us,” said Judith Sotir, adult education instructional technology manager. “We’re so excited about it.”

You could see that excitement on Sotir’s face as she pointed out the features of the new computer classrooms. They’re equipped with audio and video, controlled by a handy panel at the professor’s fingertips. The computers are loaded with educational software, including the best of the best from the old campus.

English as a Second Language students, for example, can work with programs that allow them to listen to English words, and then speak them into microphones mounted at every station. The computers then will check and grade their pronunciation.

Chemistry instructor Nancy Christensen said the new campus’ labs are comparable to those in Sugar Grove, and much better than the ones in the old Aurora campus—since that building didn’t have any. Christensen said she knows several students who simply didn’t take chemistry, because they couldn’t get to the other campus for classes.

The new campus is so advanced that it brought a pang of jealousy to Alice Steinberg, who taught at the old Aurora campus, and retired in 2009.

“It just blows my mind away,” she said.

Jeff Noblitt, director of marketing and communications for Waubonsee, said he was pleased with the turnout on Friday, and the successful opening of the new campus.

“It shows the impact Waubonsee has had on the community, and the role the community plays for us,” he said.

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