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Hitchcock Center for Environment Exploring Move to Hampshire Campus

Monday, December 19, 2011

A highly respected and rapidly growing center for environmental education for all ages has taken the first steps toward relocating to the Hampshire College campus.

The governing boards of Hampshire College and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment have signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to explore possible sites for the Center to build a state-of-the-art environmental education center on campus.

Once a specific location has been identified and agreed upon, possibly as early as spring 2012, the Hitchcock Center will begin design development and officially launch a capital campaign.

The Hitchcock Center will raise the funds to construct the new building, with a projected cost of $3.5 to $4.5 million. The Center will retain ownership of the facility, leasing the land from Hampshire through a long-term agreement with terms still to be negotiated.

"We are very happy about the possibility of the Hitchcock Center moving to campus," said Hampshire President Jonathan Lash. "The Center shares with Hampshire College a strong commitment to innovative, interdisciplinary education and sustainability. Educating environmentally-literate citizens of all ages is an important component of meeting the challenges of our rapidly changing world. The Center's presence will also open additional opportunities for our students and campus community."

Hitchcock Center programs serve approximately 6,500 people each year, including teachers, students, families and children, and adult learners.

Although the Center will maintain its autonomy, it will also seek new collaborative opportunities with Hampshire. These include possible partnerships with Hampshire's early childhood, environmental studies, sustainability, agriculture, and natural sciences programs.

"While we have long enjoyed a relationship with Hampshire, being located on the campus would broaden and deepen our bond with the College, enabling us both to develop additional unique education programming," said Julie Johnson, executive director of the Hitchcock Center.

Johnson said the Hitchcock Center is at a pivotal point in its 50-year history. Space limitations at its current location are hampering the ability to meet the rising demand for the organization's programming.

Prior to the adoption of the joint memorandum of understanding with Hampshire, the Hitchcock Center's board and staff had embarked on a two-year search for a suitable site for a new facility that would sustain and grow its award-winning environmental education programs.

Representatives of the Hitchcock Center initiated discussions with Hampshire College faculty and administration after the search began for alternative sites to the current location at the Larch Conservation Area in Amherst.

"We have developed deep connections to the land we are on now," said Johnson, noting the Center's connections to the conservation area, neighboring Bramble Hill Farm, and the Common School. "For us to consider moving away, we had to find a place that could surpass what we have now. We think Hampshire College is just that place."

"If we are able to move to the Hampshire campus, we anticipate a myriad of potential collaborative opportunities, including teaching activities, student internships, teacher training and certification programs, and many others," said Johnson. "We also hope to work in partnership with the College to make educational use of Hampshire lands beyond the proposed Center building site by developing new trails, boardwalks, field research areas, and other features for environmental education purposes."

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