The Learning Commons building, under construction on Sept. 26

Learning Commons nearly complete

High tech media center, makerspace are highlights of new building set to open in fall 2020.

In 2016, Whatcom Community College announced the construction of two new buildings on campus, a learning center and on-campus student housing. Now these two projects are nearing completion.

“The Phyllis and Charles Self Learning Commons is being built to provide much needed space for academic support services,” said Brian Keeley, the Senior Director of Facilities and Operations.
The commons will be a three-level facility along West Kellogg Road open to the Whatcom community.

“We’re trying to give different types of environments for different types of learning and work people are going to do,” said Ward Naf, the IT Director.
The library, writing center, math center, testing center, and student help desk will be relocated to the commons.

“Last winter and spring quarters the Campus Planning Advisory Committee accepted over 20 space planning requests interested in utilizing space vacated by the moves,” said Keeley.

“The building was designed for the first floor to be noisy, and to get quieter as you go up. So the top floor is the quiet floor,” said Naf.
An expanded writing center is located next to a new multimedia center on the first floor.

“There’s an event room that groups can rent or reserve. On-campus or off-campus groups can rent it,” said Naf about other first floor features.

The multimedia center will cover many different areas for faculty, staff, and students to utilize. 
There are two soundproof editing rooms in the media center.
Naf said they are “set up with a nice microphone and camera” so recording of any sort can be accomplished. 
One of the rooms is used as the control room for a recording studio, “which you could bring a small band in,” said Naf.
The recording studio can be utilized for more than simply recording music, due to lights and backdrops being built into the room.

Eight high-powered working stations for multiple kinds of editing, a 3D printing lab which will have “about 12 different types of 3D printers of different kinds,” said Naf, and a poster printer are part of the media center.

“Everything will be available to students, at cost. We’re not charging you any money to cover the machines, just the consumables,” said Naf.
Another new addition the commons will bring to campus is a makerspace. 

“It is a room for building or assembling projects, school projects or hobbies. We’re not going to limit it to school projects, because if you have a hobby you won’t have to buy any expensive equipment,” said Naf. Supplies for any project, from building a birdhouse to fixing a computer, two sewing machines, one vinyl printer, a laser cutter and an engraver are available in the space. 

The library, two conference rooms for faculty and staff, two classrooms, some offices and many study areas will occupy the second floor.

“This building is equipped with lots of study areas … a group room is a little conference table, with a 55-inch TV on the wall, with a computer, so you guys can sit around and collaborate,” said Naf.
In the building, there are nine group study rooms that students will be able to reserve via MyWCC.

“The third floor is lots of different things. An enhanced testing center, the math center will be there, including a STEM and non-STEM tutoring rooms, quiet reading rooms, little study quarters… and a quiet computer lab,” said Naf.

“We are hoping to do a ‘soft opening’ for the learning commons during summer quarter 2020 to help us identify any operational challenges and get them resolved prior to the grand opening,” said Keeley.

“I’m excited to see the reaction from students, faculty, and staff when they first enter the new learning commons. The building architecture is very impressive and I think it will help foster a teaching and learning environment that is second to none.”

The on-campus housing is being built to the east of the Whatcom campus.  It is a four-level building with a total of 230 beds separated into suites that can be rented by one person to five people. Every suite will come fully furnished, with a small kitchenette and a smart TV in the common area. 

A common area for the building is on the first floor, featuring a full kitchen, two smart TVs, and a fireplace.

“The whole place is saturated in wireless. Every suite has a wireless access point,” said Naf.

Laundry facilities are in the building, on the first floor, paid via students’ Orca cards.

“You have to go through locked areas in order to get where the rooms are,” said Naf.

Students “can expect safe and comfortable learning and living environments that offer a wide range of spaces and resources that will function well together. These buildings are well thought out and designed to truly serve our students in an exceptional way,” said Keeley.

Both projects are scheduled to have their grand openings the fall of 2020.


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