WSU off-campus centers pop up in Roy, Morgan, Salt Lake

ROY — In the afternoon and evening, the delicious aromas of pepperoni, tomatoes and garlic waft through the halls and classrooms of Weber State University West. It’s not because students snack while they study — it’s because WSU West is in a strip mall, and shares a wall with a pizza company.

“We don’t notice it anymore,” said Gaylnn Mook, project manager for WSU’s off-campus centers.

The WSU West center, at 5627 S. 3500 West in Roy, is one of the school’s four satellite locations. Students can also attend Weber State University classes in Kaysville, Morgan and Salt Lake City.

“We’re just trying to make it more convenient for the student,” said Mook, adding that the time and cost of driving to the school’s Ogden and Layton campuses can really add up.

Saving time and money is important to just about everyone, but it may be more so for WSU’s many non-traditional students who are trying to juggle school with work and family life.

“It takes five minutes to get there,” said Beth Sanderson of Roy, who is taking an English class at WSU West. “I basically go to school on Saturday morning, come home and have lunch, then go to work. It’s nice not to have a longer commute.”

Enrollment requirements, and tuition, for off-campus university classes is the same as for on-campus courses. In addition to classes, the satellite sites offer services ranging from help with enrollment to testing centers, tutoring, computer labs and study space. There are also free community workshops offered on a regular basis at the Roy site.

WSU West is the only satellite site in a strip mall. Classes in Kaysville and Morgan are offered in Davis High School and Morgan High School, in the evenings. 

“We do have a center at Salt Lake Community College, that takes two of their programs from two-year to four-year programs,” said Brian Stecklein, WSU’s associate dean for continuing education, noting that the classes at SLCC are for computer science and criminal justice degrees.

In total, 67 courses are offered at the four satellite centers — 12 at Kaysville, eight at Morgan, 18 at SLCC, and 29 at WSU West. Most of the classes are general education requirements. The number of students taking advantage of the offerings is 815 — 194 in Kaysville, 13 in Morgan, 172 in Salt Lake City, and 436 in Roy.

The majority of the classes are taught on site by instructors, but some are offered through interactive video conferencing. 

“We can take a class at the Ogden Campus, the West Center or Davis Campus, and broadcast it up to Morgan,” said Mook. “That helps us reach those people who are at a distance, and also helps when we have smaller classes … we could have three classes running with the same instructor.”

The total cost for the off-campus centers is $1,091,115 per year, according to Stecklein.

“That includes instruction, utilities, lease amounts, and it includes staff costs — everything needed to run programs there,” he said.

The cost is worth it, he said, to help students achieve their dreams.

“We’re committed to those students that can’t come to campus, whether they have work commitments, family commitments or other types of commitments in their lives that don’t allow them to be on campus between the 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. time frame,” Stecklein said. “For us, it’s a commitment to their education.”

WSU’s arm in Layton started with a strip mall location, before moving to a bigger building and finally attaining campus status. WSU West started in Roy High School, but soon outgrew the space available and leased the strip mall site. The university has purchased 10 acres of land west of the current Roy location, to build a bigger facility to accommodate planned growth — but Mook says WSU West will remain a satellite center rather than becoming a campus.

Don Carper, an adjunct professor of English, says he likes the strip mall location in Roy.

“The pros are that parking is very nice — and parking is free,” he said, adding that he thinks the staff is great. “The secretaries here take really good care of me. I’ve been here 10 years now, so it’s like home to me.”

The downside is that there’s less involvement with campus life.

“We’re not going to have plays and things, so you’re not quite as excited to be part of it — they still tell us what’s going on, but I think you feel a little disconnected that way,” Carper said. 

The lack of student life isn’t a big deal to most off-campus students, because so many are non-traditional students.

“The fact is that I’m older, and have kids and family and another job,” said Sanderson. “I’m mostly going to Weber for education purposes, not necessarily any extracurricular activities — I don’t really have time for a lot of other stuff.”

Some students actually prefer the quiet of an off-campus center.

“On the other campus, there are so many kids, so many other students, it makes it really hard sometimes to focus with everybody walking by,” said Clint Ferguson, of Roy. “It’s a bit more secluded here. I feel like it’s a little easier to stay focused without the outside distractions.”

Ferguson takes most of his classes at the main WSU campus, but likes to use the study room at WSU West.

“I think the smaller setting fits really well for me, because there are not as many people,” he said. “It’s better than home, definitely, because at home I can’t study with kids and family.”

Stecklein is glad students have off-campus options.

“My whole career has always been dedicated to helping students who don’t have the opportunity to get an education in traditional ways. I know how valuable education can be throughout your life,” he said. “I’m a first generation college student, and know how it changed my own life.”

Contact reporter Becky Wright at 801-625-4274 or bwright@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @ReporterBWright.

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