University News

IBHE Approves Two New Undergraduate Degrees, Residence Hall Construction, Improvements

October 1, 2002

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MACOMB, IL -- The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) today (October 1) approved a Western Illinois University request to offer a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree in musical theatre and a bachelor of arts in African American Studies. The IBHE also approved the construction of a new residence hall on the former Bennett Hall site and improvements to existing residential facilities.

Western’s Board of Trustees recommended a proposal in June 2002 for the degrees in musical theatre and African American Studies. The BFA in musical theatre will be administered by the department of theatre with cooperation for course offerings between the departments of music and theatre, along with the dance program in physical education. The degree is designed to prepare students for careers as performers in the field or for placement in a master's of fine arts degree program.

The 137-semester-hour curriculum will begin Fall 2003. According to Gene Kozlowski, theatre department chair, Western will be the only public university in the state to offer a BFA in musical theatre.

"Western's departments of theatre and music, and the dance program, have been collaborating for years on musical theatre productions, courses and for 31 seasons of Summer Music Theatre," Kozlowski said. "This new BFA program will build on this success and provide a program that has been in great demand by our students and by students all over the state. This program will help us to continue to attract outstanding and talented students."

The bachelor of arts in African American Studies is designed to prepare students for employment in a number of career areas that benefit from an interdisciplinary expertise such as journalism, social work, law enforcement and international relations, as well as prepare select students for graduate and professional schools. The 120-semester-hour program will begin in Spring 2003, according to Michael Cooke, African American Studies department chair.

In addition to University general education requirements and College of Arts and Sciences curriculum requirements, students will complete 18 semester hours of such core courses as "Introduction to African American Studies," "Famous People of African Descent" and "Literature of the Black World."

"The major in African American Studies will provide students with critical thinking skills essential for lifelong learning in 21st century America," Cooke added.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education approved Western's revised proposal to construct a $7.3 million residence hall on the site of the former Bennett Hall. The project calls for the construction of a 44,420-square-foot, four-story residence hall, expanded from a previously approved 38,900 square-foot facility. The new structure will feature 60 double and 60 single rooms, four single specialty rooms (disability accessible and a resident assistant apartment) for a total of 184 beds. Shared facilities will include an entrance lobby, laundry area, lounge spaces and general storage. The hall will be part of the Lincoln-Washington halls complex.

Western's Bennett Hall was constructed in 1957 and vacated in 1993. This past summer, the University razed the building which was located southeast of the Sherman Hall circle drive. The estimated $7.3 million cost of the new facility includes the $438,000 demolition of Bennett Hall, $5.9 million for construction of the new building, $310,000 for site improvements and $632,000 for architect and engineer fees. Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2003 with an anticipated Fall 2004 opening.

The IBHE also approved $3.4 million in improvements to East Village (graduate and married student housing) and Bayliss-Henninger halls. One-bedroom apartments in East Village will be converted to 36 two-bedroom apartments to meet the increased demand for married student and family housing. Student rooms in the Bayliss-Henninger complex will be renovated, including the replacement of the original built-in furniture, dating from 1967.

Western's Board of Trustees approved in November 2001 the construction and renovation projects and the issuance of revenue bonds to fund the improvements.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing