Freed-Hardeman’s takeover of Dickson's Renaissance Center revitalizes, repurposes facility
The unique cultural offerings of the Renaissance Center in Dickson have long made it a community hub of activity. Now that Freed-Hardeman University has assumed ownership of the building and grounds, it will be an educational magnet for the area as well.
The transfer between the Jackson Foundation, which created the $25 million center in 1999, and the university took place in late 2013, and requires Freed-Hardeman to offer four-year undergraduate programs and graduate degrees onsite – a first for Dickson. At the same time, the university will continue the Renaissance Center’s successful community outreach by hosting classes, meetings and performances of all kinds.
Strengthening the Focus on Education
The pivot to becoming a full-time educational institution only reinforces what the Renaissance Center already does so well. It contains 110,000 square feet of classroom space, conference rooms, film and production studios and theater space, including the CyberSphere Digital Theater, and already hosts hundreds of students as part of satellite programs offered by Nashville State Community College. Freed-Hardeman ups that by offering complete, four-year degree programs.
“We are looking at our mature programs in Henderson, where the university is more than 100 years old, to see what we can replicate,” says Red McCaskill, director of Freed-Hardeman University-Dickson in the Renaissance Center. “We’d love to have everything here, but we must be realistic and start slowly. Even so, from fall 2014 through the fall 2015, we’re doubling our programs.”
Variety of Degree Programs
Subjects being added include psychology, social work, criminal justice and behavioral science. In addition, the university is building out a nursing center over the next three or four years on its way to a full nursing program. That includes chemistry and biology labs as well as a nursing simulation room, McCaskill says.
“We’re also focusing on our graduate program work, both here onsite as well as the programs that we have online,” he says. “We’re anticipating some doctoral classes here for our education program, so there really is a lot on the table.”
In addition to building out new and existing programs, there’s also the challenge of keeping the Renaissance Center’s community offerings going as well, he adds.
“There are a lot more nooks and crannies here than we realized, and it’s just an awesome environment,” McCaskill says. “Everything really is off to a wonderful start.”
The university’s dedication to what the Renaissance Center has been was music to LeAnn Polk’s ears. As Director of Events since 1999, Polk says she’s busier now than ever.
“Freed-Hardeman has been wonderful to acknowledge what our mission was, and they have made great strides to make sure that all those community activities continue,” Polk says. “They not only took the Renaissance Center as a gift, they are making sure to do everything possible to continue its mission.”