MSU President's Newspaper Column

September 10, 2022

Old Main renovation project extremely important for our university, community, and state

Then-Interim Vice President for Business Affairs Steve Bensen and I met with the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) Budget and Finance Committee on May 19, 2022 to make Mayville State’s capital funding request for the 2023-25 biennium, the renovation of Old Main. The project is currently one of four top North Dakota University System projects that has received State Board of Higher Education approval and been forwarded for legislative consideration. This is the first time in at least recent history that Mayville State’s capital funding project request is ranked at that high a level.

We had the honor of hosting the North Dakota Legislative Branch Interim Higher Education Committee at Mayville State University on September 7, when I was able to show the legislators around Old Main, highlighting the proposed Old Main renovation project. The tour was followed by a lunch provided compliments of the MSU Foundation. The menu included beef and foods grown in Traill County. We are extremely proud of this area and region of North Dakota and it was our great pleasure to give our guests a taste of home.

I thank the Interim Higher Education Committee members who took their time to see our beloved Old Main. I especially thank committee chair Mark Sanford for including us as part of their meeting agenda. In North Dakota, we’re fortunate to have many leaders who understand and value what education does to lift our economy and society!

There is still much work to be done, but we are working hard to achieve the goal of securing the $50 million in state funding needed to complete the Old Main renovation project which addresses life safety needs and deferred maintenance. Though the cost of this project is high, it is a necessary cost for providing a quality university learning experience for our students, 65% of whom are from North Dakota. Of our students who graduate, 68% engage in employment in North Dakota, helping to fill important workforce needs for our state.

Old Main is the iconic face of Mayville State University. The four-story 55,000 sq. ft. building, constructed in two phases in 1890 and 1905, is the original building on the Mayville State campus. Old Main has been a prominent structure, serving the campus and community for decades. It is a multifunctional building and is home to campus administration and student services offices, faculty and classroom space for two academic divisions, the mailroom, a telecommunication room, and the historic Old Main Theatre. As 75 to 80% of the building is made up of classroom space, the facility is critical to our success in educating students.

Old Main is a valuable, structurally sound campus asset that has had very little in the way of substantive improvements in the last 50 years. The renovation will enhance functionality and preserve a very important campus asset. It will also address the most significant accumulated deferred maintenance on the Mayville State campus.

A top priority with the renovation is making life safety improvements. The project includes replacing fire alarms and adding a life safety notification system and install new automatic fire suppression system. Access and exiting for the theatre will be improved to meet current code requirements. Hazardous materials like asbestos and lead paint will be removed. Dead-end corridor safety concerns will be rectified. Video surveillance will be upgraded and door security will be added. In general, this project adds great life to the existing facility and is a sound investment for North Dakota taxpayers.

Consistent with a 120-year-old building, deferred maintenance items that would be addressed in the proposed renovation project include installation of new windows, exterior wall insulation, and attic insulation. The deteriorating and cracking foundation will be repaired and the exterior brick will be tuckpointed and re-painted. Exterior soffit and fascia will be replaced and repaired. The mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, deteriorated building plumbing system (including waste and water supply lines), and obsolete electrical power and lighting systems will be gutted and replaced.

In the area of functional operational and learning improvements new technology, data, and communication systems will be provided. Administrative, student services, and faculty offices and classrooms will be reorganized to provide improved visibility, access, and student-to-student and student-to-faculty interaction. Reconfiguration of interior circulation and stairway access will improve utilization, access, and life safety for offices and classrooms.

ADA compliance will be addressed by providing accessible restroom facilities on each floor and a passenger/freight elevator to serve all building levels. A new staircase will provide an approved egress from the theatre. New building mechanical systems and equipment will be installed.

This project is extremely important for our university, community, region, and the great state of North Dakota. Mayville State University fills an important niche in North Dakota by serving students who prefer and also thrive in the small-town environment where people care about one another and go above and beyond to help. We are doing the right things, not only for our students, but also for our stakeholders. Our students, faculty, and staff deserve to learn and work in a safe and pleasant environment. We owe the assurances of life safety to those we serve.