WilmU rings in new year with updated campus

By Joyce L. Carroll
Special to Delaware Business Times

Wilmington University concludes its 50th anniversary and rings in the new year with the opening of a brand new campus. Located on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the Wilmington area, Beaver Valley Road and Concord Pike, the $29.8 million dollar Brandywine Campus sits on 41 acres of prime real estate.

“Outside of Wilmington, this is the first university campus on the 202 corridor in Delaware, other than the Delaware Law School at Widener University,” said Dr. Erin DiMarco, senior VP and COO for Wilmington University.

The launch of the new campus comes on the heels of the end of a seven-year lease on Silverside Road in North Wilmington. DiMarco said new construction allowed the university to tailor space according to current needs and future growth.

“For 18 months, you look at drawings and blueprints. Then the walls go up, furniture is moved in, offices take shape, lab equipment comes in, and you take a deep breath, sit back and you’re amazed. Then you think, ‘Look at what we’ve accomplished and what we’re going to be able to do for students!’ We’ve been living this for three years, and honestly it doesn’t seem real until you see the physical building take form,” she said.

At 58,000 square feet, the three-story brick building is slightly smaller than the university’s other single-structure campuses. The structure comprises 21 classrooms and another half-dozen labs, including a state-of-the-art science lab for a new biology program offered exclusively at the Brandywine Campus, DiMarco
said. The Brandywine Campus can accommodate up to 1,000 students a day.

With energy efficiency in mind, Homsey Architects in Wilmington designed a building that exceeds exterior requirements stipulated by the International Energy Conservation Code by 16 percent.

“Our white roof reflects solar energy and reduces heat island effect. The roof is largely clear of equipment in the hope that the university will eventually install solar panels,” said project architect Curtis Harkin.

Likewise, lighting exceeds energy requirements by 25 percent and facilitates daylight harvesting. Abundant windows enhance use of natural lighting and offer views of the Brandywine Valley and Concord Pike’s commercial stretch. Staggered windowpanes lend contemporary appeal to the building’s exterior. While the state-of-the-art campus has an eye toward the future, the property pays homage to academia’s time-honored past. An historic schoolhouse and barn have been preserved. Wooded areas at the rear of the campus link the property to a network of walking trails.

Programs, including undergrad, graduate, and doctorate level degrees at the Brandywine Campus will mirror offerings at the University’s other locations, however the new campus will add an exclusive opportunity in the spring with the launch of the Criminal Justice Institute.

The Institute is the first of its kind in the mid-Atlantic, with the next closest facility being the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (a part of City College) in New York City. The institute is co-directed by two retired FBI special agents, Raymond Carr and Scott Duffy. Carr said early discussions with university President Dr. LaVerne Harmon and the board of directors proved favorable and the institute will be an asset for both the university and the state.

“This is the best way the university can give back to the community. Our hope is to be a resource for the police force,” Carr said, referring to the continuing-education opportunities the institute would provide. He added that the coursework and expertise would enable law enforcement in Delaware and beyond to be better equipped to handle the day-to-day problems they face.

“We’re very excited about the Criminal Justice Institute. … Initially, our focus will be on professional development, starting with non-credit one day to possibly one-week specific courses but, ultimately, the courses will be based on the needs of the law-enforcement community,” DiMarco said.

DiMarco added that the institute would potentially lead to some new business partnerships. Relationships between the university and the region’s corporate, industrial, and service-oriented businesses are one of the hallmarks of WilmU, and programs at all academic levels are built to take advantage of these.

“We performed a major demographic study that included a look at area jobs, and our data-rich analysis determined what programs to add. We looked at need, market share and market demand — very important for an institution like ours that produces career-relevant programs. We are practitioner-based, so our strength is in offering programs to students who want to excel in the workforce,” DiMarco said.

The new campus will enjoy a broad-based marketing initiative. “We plan to market the campus as well as our programs by inviting corporate, academic, and community leaders to visit the site, and we’re hoping they’ll consider the space for meetings and events,” she said.

Beyond the Brandywine Campus, Wilmington University has five additional locations throughout the state, including its main campus in New Castle. Moreover, it has partnerships with a handful of higher education institutions in New Jersey. The university has experienced a 60 percent increase in student population over the past decade. Classes at the Brandywine campus began Jan. 14.

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