Pritzker returns to SIU, announces release of funding for new communications building

By Bethany Rentfro, Staff Reporter

Jared Treece/ @bisalo
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker addresses the the media on the announcement of the plans of the soon to come new Mass Communication building to help attract more students studying communication to stay in the state while going to school on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at the School of Mass Communication and Media Arts at SIU.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the release of $8.3 million in funding to SIUC for renovations to the communications building at a press conference while visiting campus Tuesday.

The communications building is currently home to multiple programs at the university, including journalism, radio/television/digital media, cinema and photography, communications studies and theatre. 

There were plans in place to renovate the communications building in 2015, but the process was stalled due to the lack of a state budget for the last two years. 

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Rana Schenke
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker holds a press conference at the SIU communications building in Carbondale on Tuesday, January 21. Pritzker spoke about plans for the new communications building, as well as his Rebuild Illinois plan.

During the press conference, Pritzker mentioned all the upgrades the new facility will have, including updated equipment, better auditorium space, media labs, digital post-production suites and a combined broadcast-print newsroom.

“Students who learn in this facility won’t just be prepared to meet the needs of the media industry of the future,” Pritzker said. “They’ll be prepared to lead it in its next phase.”

Last year, Pritzker signed a capital bill that granted five percent extra of the state budget to go towards higher education. 

SIU is set to receive $140 million in renovation construction, which will be divided amongst several departments. 

(See more: New capital bill to provide upgrades to SIU)

The communications building will get $83 million from the state for renovations. 

The money will also help provide renovations to the McLeod Theater at SIU. 

According to a press release from the SIU Board of Trustees Chair, J. Phillip Gilbert, this new addition will have economic benefits for southern Illinois. 

“Investing in our campuses and in our students is one of the best ways to begin boosting our local economies by convincing young people that Illinois is a great place to stay after high school to begin their college career,” Gilbert said. 

The press release said the initial $8.3 million capital infusion is a portion of a larger $83 million appropriation the campus received in the fiscal year 2020 capital budget.

This appropriation is specifically for “the construction of a communications building and other capital improvements on campus,” the release said.

Pritzker said he believes it is important for those in office to give students the opportunity to achieve their goals. 

“It is the duty of all of us here, especially our elected officials, to give our young people the tools they need to shape their own futures and to reach for their dreams,” Pritzker said.

Gilbert said the reconstruction plan will allow faculty to have the opportunity to teach in state of the art facilities, which will be a huge draw for students. 

Pritzker also discussed ways to improve higher education in the state. 

One way to do this is to make community colleges and universities in the state more affordable, which is an issue that was also proposed in the capital bill, Pritzker said. 

 “One of the things that has driven people out of the state is that they can’t afford college in the state they grew up in,” Pritzker said. “We’ve had so many other colleges and universities attracting those students out of state by offering them better pay.”

There has already been a 5% increase in funding for higher education facilities in Illinois Pritzker said. 

SIU Provost and Vice Chancellor Meera Komarraju said projects like this strongly impact the future of the students. 

“We are extremely excited for the future,” Komarraju said. “We expect to see a lot of Illinois high school students choosing to stay in the Land of Lincoln for college. This project has certainly given them one more reason to do so.” 

MacKenzie Rosario, a junior studying cinema and photography at SIU, also spoke at the press conference about how the new communications building will help students. 

“A lot has changed in the fields taught here since the building was renovated in 1964,” Rosario said. “Just imagine the possibilities for graduates who benefit from studying in a new, state of the art communications building.” 

Staff reporter Bethany Rentfro can be reached at [email protected]

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