Honors College and International Center plans begin

Taylor Harrison

Gov. Steve Beshear announced a plan on Jan. 10 to allow Kentucky universities to issue agency bonds to fund campus improvement projects with university funds. This plan could lead to WKU getting an Honors College and International Center.

President Gary Ransdell said because WKU is a state university, they need state approval before they acquire debt, even though they will be paying for it. WKU has used agency bonds to fund renovation projects such as Van Meter Hall, College High Hall and Diddle Arena.

“A lot of our renovation projects have been done with university funds,” he said.

The $22 million project is one of 11 from six different universities included in one agency bond package, Ransdell said. He said he expects the General Assembly to approve all the projects at once in the spring.

“It was a prudent strategy for us to all agree on our priority projects and submit one proposal for one approval rather than each of us working independently…this is the first time that that’s occurred, so that’s a good sign that higher education is working well together,” he said.

Robbin Taylor, vice president of Public Affairs, said in an email that while design work for the building is underway, it is in the very early stages.

The preferred location for the new building is on Normal Street where the Chi Omega and Sigma Phi Epsilon houses are located. Taylor said the university is currently in negotiations with the student organizations regarding the property.

“With regard to a timeline, if the agency bond authority is passed in this legislative session, then we would hope to be able to complete the property acquisition and design by mid-fall, sell the bonds by the end of the year and break ground next shortly thereafter,” Taylor said.

Taylor said WKU intends to fund the project through the Navitas program.

Ransdell said this was WKU’s “priority project” because the Honors College and internationalization are two of the highest strategic priorities at WKU, with so many students.

The new building will consist of a combination of staff and faculty offices, as well as places for students to study and classroom research space.

Craig Cobane, executive director of the Honors College and chief international officer, said the new building will give them much needed space and help when it comes to recruiting students.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge for us to recruit them after they just spent, you know, two days even at Centre College and then they come and visit us in our current building,” Cobane said.

Cobane also said that he was adamant that the new building needed a large amount of “study zones” for students to work, but not just honors and international students. He said this would be a building for all students on campus.

“The synergy of doing these projects together in one building makes sense, and because we’ve created a revenue stream through international enrollments to fund it, the time has come to get the project done,” Ransdell said.