Smith: New academic year brings enhancements to MCC

McHenry County College has had a busy summer, addressing a variety of deferred maintenance and safety issues on campus.

The college undertook four projects that were started and mostly finished for the arrival of students Aug. 19.

The first project was the reconstruction of parking lots B and D, which had not been reconstructed since first developed. The project started with the replacement of the stormwater system underneath the parking lots. The replacement occurred after a terrific thunderstorm that our stormwater system could not handle, resulting in the flooding of Building B.

The underground work took about four weeks, during which the stormwater, sanitary sewer, water and electrical systems were replaced. The paving of the parking lots and the Ring Road took about three weeks. The lots were ready by the opening day of the semester – to the relief of everyone, especially our students. I have heard many positive comments about the new lots, including the size of the spaces and the safety improvements in the configuration.

The second project involved the replacing of 25- to 30-year-old carpeting in classrooms and offices. We also painted these areas in colors that research shows increases learning and productivity. Over 44 percent of our carpeted classrooms were affected by the project. Our faculty and students are very pleased by the new look of the college.

The installation of a sophisticated air filtration system in our art ceramics lab also occurred over the summer. An air-quality report discovered the presence of miniscule particles in the air that could lodge in the lungs of people in the lab, resulting in a health hazard. The air-filtration system that was installed in the open lab and the clay mixing room removes these tiny particles before they can be breathed in by students in the classroom. Tom Vician, our ceramics instructor, is ecstatic about the room being safer.

The last project that started this summer was the replacement of the lights in parking lots A and C and the building soffit lights with energy-efficient solutions, such as LED. A state-funded Capital Development Board project, when completed, will move the college one step closer to helping sustain the environment – and provide better lighting for a safer campus.

What’s new

Building D is being remodeled so the expanded robotics and manufacturing programs will have space for their grant-funded, state-of-the-art equipment. The Building D project will be completed in time for the start of the fall, second eight-week classes. The faculty is really looking forward to having laboratories that meet students’ learning needs.

We also are beginning the addition to Building E. Because the Black Box Theater was displaced to establish the manufacturing lab, the board approved building the addition to house a new Black Box Theater, plus three sorely needed general classrooms. Scheduled to be completed by mid-December, the college will have a brand-new theater.

MCC’s biology department received a system that projects a virtual cadaver for students to dissect, identify parts and review MRI and CT scans. The Anatomage table will be an integral part of the educational process, allowing students to experience and learn in ways that surpass how we learned in the past. The only community college in the country with an Anatomage table, MCC’s biology, nursing and occupational therapy assistant faculty are clamoring to get their classes on the system.

This past spring, MCC also had the first Massive Open Online Course in the U.S. taught by non-faculty. Taught over the Internet, more than 500 students from around the world learned how their online reputation can impact the success of their career. The college now is offering a new MOOC focused on chemistry – just another way we are providing more access to higher education in an innovative way.

All of these efforts are tied to the new 2013-2018 strategic plan that was approved by the board at the August board meeting. Each of the below initiatives further the college’s mission, which is, “Our focus is learning. Student success is our goal.” They are:

• Increase student engagement, completion and success.

• Maintain the college’s financial stability and expand infrastructure and technology to establish state-of-the-art learning environments that inspire postsecondary education and career development.

• Ensure high-quality services and learning opportunities through a culture of continuous improvement, innovation and accountability.

• Engage in partnerships that enable MCC students to succeed in a global economy.

• Attract, develop and retain quality instructors who are outstanding scholars/teachers and an excellent, diverse staff who are committed to the mission of MCC.

This strategic roadmap provides direction for all sectors of the college to embrace and help the college accomplish our mission.

• Vicky Smith is president of McHenry County College.

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