The Goodman South Campus is up and running for Madison College and even after just two weeks of classes, it has become clear that the long-term impact the school is going to have on Madison will far exceed what was ever imagined.
Madison College’s new building, in the heart of the south side of the city, is a sparkling, beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, set to serve as the beacon of revitalization for the city’s most underrepresented area. But, for the faculty working there, it has been a surprise just how spectacular and impactful than it already is.
On Friday evening the faculty of the new South Campus got together for a meeting to debrief on how the first couple weeks of school had been. Goodman South Campus Dean Valentina Ahedo said the meeting lasted hours as people marveled at the journey they are undertaking.
“One staff person was surprised at just the beauty of the building,” Ahedo told Madison365. “There was surprise at the beauty of the building and the welcoming warmth of the interior design.”
Ahedo describes the entrance of the building which was designed in such a way that a person coming in would have to walk by the service desk. There is a Welcome Circle above that service desk that says “Welcome” in 17 different languages. Making sure that people come in by the service desk where they will have interaction with faculty was intentional, Ahedo said.
“We were very intentional that when you came in the building, you had to come by the desk,” she said. “That allows us to have the opportunity to build and continue relationships with people. This building is three times bigger than the old South Campus and the concern was that we’d lose some of the intimacy with our students and staff. But at Goodman South, we’re out there and they have to see us. So we’re on all the time. So as people come by we have the opportunity to build all those relationships. And so we’re even busier because people take us up on the opportunity to connect.”
But Ahedo says it’s more than just students or their families who are coming into the building. She points out that the Truax Campus sits in the middle of endless parking lots that one has to traverse (treacherously as students who attend in winter know) in order to get inside the building.
The Goodman South building is right on the sidewalk. People can and do just walk right in.
“This campus, the way it is designed, is very different than Truax,” Ahedo told Madison365. “Here there is no parking lot we sit in the middle of. We’re right on the sidewalk, so people are crossing the street walking right in front of our front door. We’re in the neighborhood. We’re right there. And to me, that is such an awesome experience because people truly can walk in just to see the building and just to see what we offer.”
When people walk in to see the building they are experiencing enormous amounts of natural light. There is breathtaking artwork, including a mural dedicated to the powerful African-American leaders in Madison’s past and present. There’s an array of little nooks and places students can be together and sit to study or socialize. There is a cafeteria and a library, along with a student achievement center.
Madison College has partnered with entities like Badger Rock Community Center, Centro Hispano and Urban League of Greater Madison to make sure that it has programs for students from all walks of life and all levels of educational experience.
The South Campus is home to the STEM Academy, which is for high school students who are interested in science, technology and math. Students who are juniors and seniors in high school take a full load of classes at Madison College for dual credits. Ahedo says the presence of the high school-aged youth has added tremendously to the energetic vibe of the Goodman Building.
Which, to be honest, is already bustling and energetic in and of itself. In addition to the beauty of the building, Ahedo said the second thing faculty said they were surprised at is just how busy the building is.
Madison College won’t know until later in the autumn what the most accurate enrollment numbers are. But Ahedo said they estimated and planned for enrollment to be around 1,500 students, but early estimates show the campus is surpassing that number significantly.
“We won’t know what our full Fall enrollment will be until October or November, so we have an estimate right now,” Ahedo said. “When I opened my data e-mail a couple days ago, we had 1,849 students. So we surpassed our goal by 300-some students and we really won’t know how many until later in the semester. But that’s incredible when you think about what we hoped this campus would be and the response we’d get.”
For Ahedo, that is a microcosm of the South Campus in general. When she thinks about how busy and beautiful the building is, how many lives are being changed, it starts to feel like the Goodman South Building will have a massive impact on what in many ways has been a forgotten part of the city.
“For me, I’ll know that we’re successful if people are able to go out and get job,” she said. “One job to support their families instead of three jobs. So making sure we’re able to connect them with businesses and employers. I think that’s where the support of the business community is important. Because as much as they can do to support these workers, the better off our whole community is going to be and the transformational impact of this campus will be realized.”