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Spring semester students will be first to use newly renovated HCC buildings

January 12, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • The Fletcher Faculty Development Center in the Behavioral Sciences & Humanities Building at Hagerstown Community College.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

When the spring semester begins Monday at Hagerstown Community College, students will have access to two newly renovated buildings — the former Classroom Building and the former science building — that received more than $7.5 million in improvements, college spokeswoman Beth Stull said.

What used to be the science building now is the Learning Support Center, a place where students who require assistance for classes can find help through tutors, a professional staff and computer programs, HCC officials said.

The former Classroom Building has been renamed the Behavioral Sciences & Humanities Building, and houses the Fletcher Faculty Development Center.

“I think when parents visit our campus and they look at the quality of our facilities today, just about every instructional environment has been renovated, enhanced, replaced in the last 10 years,” HCC President Guy Altieri said.

A dedication for the two buildings, which were renovated in the past year, is expected to be held in March, Stull said.

Last year, HCC dedicated its new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) building and the newly renovated and expanded Kepler Center, whose features include a theater, music practice rooms, classrooms and a black-box theater that also serves as a dance studio.

“We frequently get parents and their children comparing us to many four-year colleges and universities. And the quality of our facilities today matches what you find out there,” Altieri said.

“People like to come to state-of-the-art facilities,” Altieri said.

While HCC experienced a 13 percent increase in student enrollment last fall for online credit offerings, Altieri said campus improvements help attract new students.

Facilities still are needed for developing skills, he said.

“It comes back to the facilities that we have built,” Altieri said. A dance studio or high-quality chemistry lab can’t be online, he said.

“So if you look at the facilities we’ve built, those facilities have been very geared toward specialty spaces,” Altieri said.


Learning Support Center

Both the former Classroom Building and science building were approximately 40 years old and had mechanical systems that were failing, Altieri said.

The science building was transformed with $3.24 million in county and state funding into a Learning Support Center, Stull said.

“Our Learning Support Center is a concept that will permit ... every student to have access to help for every course we offer,” Altieri said. “So we’ll have tutors there, we’ll have programming material, we’ll have computer programs, that tie into every offering we have.

“And for many students, we know that their home environments are not ideal study environments. They have lots of things happening in their lives, and when they leave the campus, unfortunately, they stop studying.

“We see the Learning Support Center as an environment where they can spend hours on campus. It’ll be open on weekends, we’ll have the latest computers and software there for them. And we think all of this assistance will ... reduce attrition, reduce the dropout rate and increase the completion rate.”

Studies have shown the more assistance students are given, the greater chance they have of completing their programs, he said.

Previously, HCC had smaller learning support centers spread around campus, said Dawn Schoenberger, director of developmental education and adult literacy services.

The renovation provided a large open space where students can get assistance from peer tutors and eight professional staff members. It also has privacy desks for students who want a place to do their work, a dissection lab and science models such as those needed for science classes like anatomy, Schoenberger said.

The support center is expected to accommodate 200 to 250 students, Schoenberger said. Temporary furniture was set up with computer stations last week, but new furniture is expected this month.

The college also is expanding a system in which instructors will receive an electronic class roster that shows which students received assistance at the support center, for what skill they received the assistance and for how long, Schoenberger said. That service was available only upon request before, but will be broadened by the end of the semester, she said.


Behavioral Sciences & Humanities

The one-time Classroom Building was renovated into the Behavioral Sciences & Humanities Building for $4.3 million in county and state funding, Stull said.

In addition to county and state funding for the projects, $400,000 from the HCC Foundation’s $1.6 million capital campaign will go toward providing furnishings and equipment for the two renovated buildings, said Stacey Lowman, executive director of college advancement. The rest of those capital campaign funds went toward the STEM building and theater, she said.

Lowman said the foundation is working to raise the last $300,000 of that campaign for the two renovated buildings. Other college funds are being used to buy some of the equipment for now, and some purchases will be delayed, she said.

Raising capital funds became a constant part of the foundation’s efforts in 2011 as growing enrollment leads to the need for more buildings and renovations, she said.

HCC also was awarded a $385,000 grant from the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation to create a faculty development center in the Behavioral Sciences & Humanities Building.

Before, HCC had a common area for adjunct faculty to do their work, said Teresita M. Fawcett, coordinator for the Fletcher Faculty Development Center.

Training was available for faculty on or off campus, but now, there will be more training on campus, including one-on-one, group and online training, Fawcett said.

Faculty members also can watch 15-minute to 20-minute videos showing examples of great teaching, Fawcett said. Each department identified teachers to be filmed, something the college will continue to do, she said.


Future projects

HCC’s next building project is a proposed expansion of the student center.

The current student center was designed to serve a student population of about 2,500, Altieri said. Last fall, more than 5,000 students were enrolled on campus.

The demand for food services will go up as the full-time student body and the number of students taking evening classes increases, Altieri said.

The cafeteria in the student center seats 100 to 120 students, Altieri said. HCC officials are hoping the new student center will provide seating for 350 to 360 students, he said.

An expanded student center also would continue to house the campus store and would provide more space for student activities, clubs, study groups and other student gatherings, HCC officials said.

Altieri said the student center concept could nearly double the space of the current student center, though one drawing appears to show a possible larger expansion.

HCC officials still are debating how much of an expansion at the student center the college can afford and are talking about the possibility of a connecting bridge from the student center to the Learning Support Center, Altieri said. The decision-making process involves how much private money the college can raise for the project, he said.

Washington County government’s Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2013-2022 lists $8,349,000 in state and county funds for the student center project, with the bulk of the funding being issued in fiscal years 2015 and 2016. Of that, $5.1 million is listed as a state grant.

Altieri said the hope is to get the student center designed and final financing worked out in the next couple of months so bids for construction possibly could go out in late summer.

The next major construction project slated for the campus in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan is a police, fire and emergency services training facility.

HCC has a long-standing emergency medical technician program, is starting a police academy and continues to work with volunteer fire companies to determine future programs for training firefighters on campus, Altieri said.

HCC officials have talked to leaders for all three groups in recent years about cooperating and having one facility to support all three, he said.

Altieri said HCC officials are looking at the site that was considered for a senior center as a possible site for the public service training facility.

That site is in a wooded area northeast of the amphitheater, Stull said.

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