Steelcase is donating its multimillion-dollar, pyramid-shaped former research facility to a nonprofit that is going to be used for a STEM-focused education hub. This going to cater to students that are in preschool through graduate school, according to the officials.
Laura VanSlyke, spokesperson for Steelcase Inc., said that “We are really excited to see the building take on a different life. We think it will bring value to the state.” The concept is said to be very appealing to many, and a number of questions still remain unanswered about the group spearheading the initiative, writes Monica Scott of Michigan Live.
Chief among them are: Who are the individuals or businesses behind the Pyramid Education Hub, the nonprofit foundation charged with setting the vision and managing the facility? How are traditional schools, as well as charter and higher education institutions, going to work together? What will the cost be, and is this going to benefit the state?
The legislature is also weighing in on the educational facility’s merits. Approximately $5.5 million in a current-year supplemental spending bill for the project was approved on Thursday by the Senate. It is also scheduled to be taken up by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
State Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) said that “It is an awful lot of money to spend on a concept. I would be very disappointed if this passed without a real understanding of the project detail, where the money is going and what’s it for.”
However, Senator Mark Jansen said that he pursued the funding because he thinks it is a “rare opportunity for the state to become a global leader for STEM education and teaching.” I opposition to Senate Democrats, he also defended the proposal for funding to develop the project. Jansen said, “STEM is where everyone says Michigan’s focus should be.”
Jansen said that bolstering STEM education would be good for the economy: “I think it is a wise decision that can help the whole state. This is cutting-edge, creative thinking.”
The only publicly identified partner in the project is businessman Jerry Zandstra. Zandstra is the president of Inno-Versity, a Lowell-based firm that produces manufacturing training films. He said, “The state is in desperate need of STEM-certified students and students with a STEM background. The program will focus on STEM plus art education and our vision is not to have unrelated schools in a building, but for it to be truly a hub with the integration of STEM education at all levels and at all ranges. The educational partners we bring on will be creative, innovative and collaborate, working as a team.”
He said that in the coming weeks, he is going to introduce the foundation’s board and advisory board. State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons said, “I’m always interested in ways to make education more innovative. While I’m still learning about the specifics of the proposal, I will continue to put the needs of Michigan’s kids first.”