TCC shows off its new look
MELISSA SANTOS; The News Tribune
Construction crews have been a familiar sight on the Tacoma Community College campus the past five years. On Wednesday, the college decided to show off some of the results. The campus has seen $75 million in improvements since 2001, including a new Information Technology Building and a revamped student center and gymnasium.
TCC’s Grand Reopening ceremony Wednesday offered tours of those buildings as well as the official opening of a new Science and Engineering Building and a Japanese garden.
The improved facilities are intended not only to bring the campus up to date, but to make it more welcoming to students, said Dave Pelkey, the school’s dean for student life.
The new student Welcome Center has consolidated student services such as advising, career planning and placement testing into one building. New facilities like the Science and Engineering Building contain more common areas for students to congregate.
“The idea is there’s more to the academic experience than just sitting in a classroom,” Pelkey said. “More and more as a college, we need to find a place for those things as well.”
Nearly all of the projects have been funded through state grants.
The exception is the Japanese Friendship Garden, a $362,000 project that was designed by Japanese architects and commemorates the sister-city relationship between Tacoma and Kitakyushu, Japan. Funds for the garden were raised by the TCC Foundation in the form of private donations. The foundation has raised $9.7 million during the past five years for college programs, improvements and scholarships.
The 10,000-square-foot garden is another space for students and community members to relax and enjoy being on campus, said the project’s chief fundraiser, Babe Lehrer.
The garden is being named after Lehrer and her late husband, Herman.
“I envision kids sitting on these boulders and lying on the grass studying,” Lehrer said. “I envision artists coming here to work. It’s a quiet spot in Tacoma unlike anything else we have here.”
TCC President Pamela Transue said the completed projects – particularly the Science and Engineering Building and the Information Technology Building – support the college’s efforts to offer more courses online and keep up with the demand for high-tech jobs.
In building the new facilities, the college has added about 1,000 computers, and this year it is offering 18 percent more classes online.
“You can see how that fits with the economy and the way things are going right now,” Transue said. “Today’s students need more flexibility. This way they can come into campus two days a week instead of five.”
The $31.4 million Science and Engineering Building contains new equipment that will better prepare students for a professional working world or four-year university, said Mike Flodin, TCC’s dean for science and engineering. That’s particularly important in scientific fields where things change rapidly, he said.
“You want students to be using the same equipment when they’re taking their classes as they will when they get out in the real world,” Flodin said. “Now we will actually be having our students use up-to-date facilities and equipment like they will when they start working in a hospital or go to another school.”
The building is built with the idea of putting science on display, Flodin said. It contains a wall of fossils from different geologic eras and aquariums that double as decoration and teaching tools.
“We want to get the science out of the labs so that the students and the community can see it,” Flodin said. “If they decide to take a class, great. If not, and they just go home and Google something they found interesting, that’s great, too.”
In general, the campus facilities needed improving and updating, said Dan Small, TCC’s vice president for external relations. Most of them were built in the ’60s and ’70s and hadn’t been touched much since, he said.
Upcoming projects include a Health Careers Building that will cater to nursing and medical students, an Early Learning Center and an improved day care center that will employ new early childhood education methods. The state is funding the Health Careers Building, which is shaping up to be a $36 million project, while most of the funding for the day care center will come from student fees and private donations.
The campus is also using local funds from its partnership with the city and Tacoma Schools to revamp its entrance on 19th Street, Small said.
“It’s to get the person driving to realize they’re approaching the main entrance,” Small said. “You could drive along 19th Street before and not know where the entrance to the college was.”
Incoming student body president Nora Price said the changes being made, especially the renovated Welcome Center, help centralize TCC’s services and make it more accessible to nontraditional students.
“To me it’s saying we’re progressing,” Price said. “I like that it mixes the old with the new.”
Construction at TCC
• Science and Engineering Building, $31.4 million project
• Japanese garden, $362,000 project
• Student Welcome Center, $5.6 million renovation
• Athletics and Fitness Center, $2.6 million renovation
• Information Technology Building, $15.7 million project
• Classroom Administration Building, $3.7 million project What’s next for TCCIn Progress
• Early Learning Center (day care facility; projected cost $6.5 million)
Legislature granted $1 million to match $1 million from anonymous donor. Remainder of funds being raised through private contributions and student fees. Construction should occur between fall 2007 and summer 2008.
• Health Careers Building (projected cost $36.7 million)
Legislature granted $255,000 for predesign. Construction should occur between 2011 and 2013.
Funding requests to be made by end of 2007
• Humanities and Arts Center: If approved, construction would occur between 2013 and 2015.
• Replacement Student Learning Commons: Computer center and library would offer tutoring and other student services on site. If approved, construction would occur between 2013 and 2015.
Melissa Santos: 253-552-7058