As a reward for a growing program, Otterbein University has invested $1 million in a renovation of the school's Center of Health and Sports Sciences.

As a reward for a growing program, Otterbein University has invested $1 million in a renovation of the school's Center of Health and Sports Sciences.

The academic and administrative center now features "state-of-the-art" equipment, two classrooms, a computer lab, a research lab, a lounge, a reception area and faculty offices.

Students and faculty moved into the renovated space at the end of September, and Joan Rocks, department chairwoman of health and sports sciences, said it has made a huge difference in the program.

"It gives us our own dedicated space, and it's primarily for the enhancement of the student learning experience," Rocks said. "Our two teaching labs and research lab are not huge spaces, but they're difference-makers because our students are comfortable and in a top-of-the-line, technologically equipped facility. Seeing the smiles on their faces and the comfort level of coming into the space they know is their own is huge. You can't put a price on that."

But the school did put a price on that, and it wasn't a small one.

At $1 million, Otterbein invested a lot in the program, and Troy Bonte, executive director of facilities management and planning, said it makes perfect sense.

"We go into every endeavor with a good analysis of the situation, and that's one thing that Joan Rocks and her staff provided, was a good plan and a good study," Bonte said. "This will benefit us; this will benefit students, and I think as we put students out into internships in the community, I think it will benefit the community."

Rocks called the program a "proven commodity." It has grown from about 190 students 10 years ago to about 320. Rocks said she believes it could grow to 400 within three or four years.

That growth made the investment possible, she said.

"From the university standpoint, health and sports science are majors that continue to grow," Bonte said. "So there is certainly a growing applicant pool, and while higher education in Ohio is facing lots of pressures with fewer possible students available in the pool, the health and sports sciences department is growing. It's a good program, and it's a program that was limited by the space they had before we built the new center."

With the extra space and equipment, Rocks expects that growth to continue.

"We still have the capacity to grow, and our faculty is on board to do that now because now we know we have the space to do that," she said. "We were a little tentative before because we're really cognizant of the student experience. But having what we have now, we have some huge potential for growth."

It isn't just the students who are benefiting from the new space. Rocks said her team is feeling reinvigorated as well.

"It's amazing what having a facility with windows will do for you," she said with a laugh. "It's just huge. The bigger point, to the faculty side, is that they completely embrace and understand that the university put forth money and found money to reward them for the job they're doing and bringing students into their majors. So that spoke volumes."