The Mount Senario campus was opened in 1962 by the Servants of Mary Catholic order as a four-year private college. The college became secular in 1975, managed by a board of trustees, and after four decades serving the educational needs of the Rusk County area, closed its doors as a private college in 2002. At that time the community lost 230 full-time and part-time students and 75 employees. At its peak, the College employed as many as 200 faculty and staff and served 800 students. Rusk County Development Director Andy Albarado estimated the impact to the community at “$30 million annually when you consider (lost) retail sales, housing and employment.”
After witnessing the void that was left from the college's closure, a group of investors with local roots, led by businessmen Jeff Hause and Bill David, purchased the campus with the intent to continue serving the post-secondary educational needs of the Ladysmith area as a regional education center.
While similar higher education centers exist across the country, Mount Senario is the first such a center for this region. Economically, a center with a variety of partners is the most feasible way to meet the needs of the community, as diverse partners can each offer programs in their areas of expertise. Offering just one course program in such a rural region would not be able to attract enough students to support the school. However, offering a variety of options, both core curriculum and specialty offerings, helps to draw from a larger geographic region, so that each new partner not only attracts students to their program but also helps to draw students to the other partner-programs.
The owners of the campus believe they have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the economic development of the whole region with the establishment of this new learning center. Not only will the center create jobs in teaching and administration of the center, but it will also help community residents further their education without leaving the area and attract students from outside the region with its beautiful rural setting and wide variety of course offerings.
In addition, the vision for this center was not only to offer post-secondary education programs in areas of high demand, but also provide a hub for the advancement of art and theater as well as a regional center for the promotion of natural resources and renewable energy.
After renovation work was done to the education building and residence hall, Mount Senario Education Center was officially opened in the fall of 2009.