Editor’s note, published Sept. 14, 2023: After reviewing the article last week on the Westlawn renovation, we would like to add some context and update the language used. Referring to the $7 million as “unaccounted for” was imprecise, and the subhead that described the funding as “missing” was a poor word choice — “fundraising is currently short $7 million” would have been more accurate.The fact that the project is two-thirds funded was not common knowledge before The Record’s article, and that information is newsworthy and merits prominence.
More context is required, though: It is President Stoltzfus’s “confident goal” that philanthropy and grants will fund the project, and the college has multiple other options if that isn’t the case. It is also common to begin large projects without complete funding to protect against inflation.
Golden hard hats and shovels were in order as Goshen College broke ground on a $21 million renovation of Westlawn Dining Hall. The renovation will include nursing and public health facilities, as well as redesigned dining services and communal spaces. Renovations are expected to be completed by 2025, with hopes that the dining hall can be reopened by the fall of 2024.
The renovation will cover roughly 40,000 square feet on all three floors of Westlawn and the annex which connects Westlawn to Kulp Hall. Planned updates include a two-story lounge with a second-floor mezzanine, a lactation room, a new lobby and expanded kitchen, student lounge and an elevator, finally making the building fully accessible.
The cornerstone of the renovation will be the nursing and public health facilities. Housed on the second and third floors of Westlawn, these facilities will include three inpatient simulation rooms, six exam rooms and a ten-bed skills lab.
In addition to $9 million from private donors, a $4 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and a $1 million grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County helped fund the project.
“Our confident goal is to have all of this renovation project, nursing and all the other amenities … serve the whole campus fundraised through philanthropy and grants.”
However, there’s still a ways to go.
Ben Bontrager, vice president for finance and operations, said that to date, GC has an “estimated two-thirds of the total $21 million funding needed for the project.”
That leaves $7 million unaccounted for.
Bontrager explained that the GC Board unanimously approved the project “given … the momentum in fundraising. … We will continue to raise the balance of necessary project funds through philanthropy and grant opportunities.”
The federal grant required an open bid process to find a company that could best meet GC’s needs while keeping the final price as low as possible. DJ Construction, a local contractor that has already constructed local urgent care facilities, submitted the lowest bid.
“We are super excited to work with DJ,” Brian Mast, GC’s director of facilities and project manager, said. “When you live in the same town as the contractor, they have a vested interest in this project going well, and I think that leads to a good partnership.”
Goshen’s nursing program has consistently received top marks — their registered nurse to bachelor’s of science in nursing program was
ranked second-best in the Midwest in 2022. The program is esteemed for its high cultural awareness and holistic care, according to GC’s website, and, as Stoltzfus mentioned in her speech, 42% of current undergraduate nursing students are Hispanic.
“Nurses who are Hispanic and speak Spanish provide more culturally competent and trusted care to our growing number of Hispanic community members,” Stoltzfus said.
Jewel Yoder, professor of nursing and chair of the nursing department, was grinning from ear to ear as she walked up for her speech.
“Our mission is to produce not just skilled nurses,” Yoder said, “but compassionate healers who understand the significance of every touch that they make, every word that they speak and every smile that they share. With this new space, we aspire to foster an environment where curiosity flourishes [and] where the pursuit of knowledge meets the art of caring.”
GC will welcome Ivy Tech, a community college located about twenty minutes north of Goshen, to use its facilities. GC’s program is limited to bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and a doctorate of nursing practice. Ivy Tech, in contrast, offers a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) certification that can be completed in a 12-week program.
“We’re going to experiment with some different formats,” Stoltzfus said of the CNA offering. “It could be done as an intensive … over the holiday break.”
CNAs are in high demand in Goshen for both part-time and full-time roles.
“It immediately gets you a job at a livable wage,” Stoltzfus said, “and you can work your way up from there.”
Lounge, study and collaboration spaces will be open to students without the use of a meal swipe. “My hope,” Stoltzfus added, “is that commuter students who have not had a lot of reason to enter Westlawn Hall if they’re not on a dining plan will have multiple reasons to be in and out.”
Credo Design’s initial thought was to tear down Westlawn and create a new building in its place. GC’s leaders, wary of road noise from Main Street and the loss of a historic building, preferred a renovation.
Cynthia Good Kaufmann, director of planning and events and the person in charge of the project before Mast, said, “I’m thrilled that we are making use of a building that otherwise was just languishing. These two floors of Westlawn have for 25 years just been storage units, or a place to have a haunted hall.” “One of the things that brings me incredible satisfaction out of this,” Stoltzfus said, “is to take a building that people have felt like had become an outdated eyesore at the corner of College and Main, and to turn it into a signature facility that is modern looking and that will be a stop on the admissions tour.”