BY LEANN DILBECK
The $5.2 million capital improvement project on-going at Rich Mountain Community College (RMCC) is now nearing the completion of Phase I according to RMCC President Phillip Wilson.
The new Learning Commons, Student Union, and Bookstore areas have been opened and students are enjoying the nearly 8,000 s.f. of remodeled space that was designed specifically for them. “We’ve created a space that encourages students to stay on campus and to stay connected…it just makes for a healthier student body,” said Wilson.
As grateful and excited about the progress being made, Wilson was most grateful and appreciative to the students for their patience, “They have just been terrific through this whole remodeling process…never a complaint. We’re so proud to see them enjoying the amenities now.”
The Learning Commons includes the library but also features meeting rooms for students for group projects or collaborations. The SSS (Student Support Services) Department has been relocated. Besides each of the staff’s offices, tutoring spaces for both large and small groups are also available as well as having all of the resources of the library readily available. SSS Director/Transfer Specialist Lisa Rackley is certainly enjoying the move and the new interactive space, “We love being down here with all the action.”
The space still features one entire floor to ceiling glass wall, giving a very spacious feel as well as that lets in a lot of natural light and frames the exquisite beauty of the outdoor space and manicured landscaping. The pale colors and grey slate wall were all selected to compliment many of the native characteristics and natural beauty of the outdoors. Architecturally designed by Joe Rogers, a former Mena resident and MHS graduate, the elements of the entire project are designed to compliment the existing structure and incorporate the natural beauty.
Another area of improvement affected in the remodel includes the Distance Learning that allows the use of today’s technology to broadcast a class live to other students in branch locations, such as Waldron, Cossatot River, Mount Ida. It is more cost effective for the college by having one instructor able to facilitate classes in multiple locations and also assists students to not have to commute. “Many times, we might only have 5-6 students here on campus, 3 in Waldron, maybe 4 in Mount Ida and separately, that’s not enough to make the class but when you combine them, it is… so it helps our students in a variety of capacities.”
The Bookstore/Student Union space certainly has the collegiate “coffee house” environment and features the “Mountain Range” food service, which is already proving to be quite popular with both students and staff. Kassi Moe was providing live lunchtime entertainment on the day of our tour.
Wilson said they couldn’t be more pleased with Nabholz and the sub-contractors. “The major part of this phase is complete but there is still plenty of finishing touches and detail work that is left to be completed… it’s great now but will be even better with all of the small details done.”
Serving as a major cornerstone in west-central Arkansas, this expansion/remodeling project, the largest capital improvement in the college’s history, is designed specifically with both its students and the local community in mind. The next phase of their project is the construction of the brand new Ouachita Center, which RMCC believes will become the crown-jewel of the communities it serves.
The new 11,000 s.f. cultural arts center will facilitate multiple community needs and events but will also position the area to host conferences and larger regional meetings, thus becoming a much needed asset in ARCO’s vision of economic development.
The entire project is scheduled to be completed by August 1, 2014.