On Monday afternoon I wandered to the Circle Drive in “front” of Parkland for the New Student Services Building Groundbreaking Ceremony. It was windy and cool, but the sun was breaking out from behind the clouds. An awning had been temporarily installed, and tables laden with Food for Thought’s delicious offerings lined the walkway. People were happy, laughing. Students from several different areas of student life were gathered behind the podium, including some international students. Several representatives from government and the community were present. I have never seen so many people in suits at Parkland. As I listened to speeches—from President Ramage, Vice-President Moore, state representatives and senators, and the president of student government—I saw a photographer on the rooftop, “sniping” photos of this amazing crowd.
Why all the hoopla? Well, you’ll notice I used quotation marks on the word “front”, as in “the ‘front’ of Parkland.” That’s because there’s no official main entrance of our college. The new student services building—an idea that’s been in the works for almost 20 years—will provide a focus and a main entrance….and so much more. The architects of institutions of higher learning in the 1970s were making designs which discouraged large public meetings; they were anxious that public meeting would lead to public outrage, hostility, protests, demonstrations, and riots. This was, after all, the years of the riots related to racial tension, war protest, etc. Thus, Parkland College’s current design doesn’t allow for a large public meeting place for students, often called a Student Union. We’re no longer in the 70s, and we’ve now hopefully realized that public meeting places are essential for educational exchange of ideas, and the social element which encourages students to not just “go to college”, but to “live college.” The new building will be open and airy, filled with natural light, and be built with future sustainability in mind; it will house all the services and student-centered activities essential to an excellent student experience: Student Life, the cafeteria, Admissions and Records, Financial Aid, and so on.
It’s no wonder Monday’s event was so exciting for students and staff alike! This groundbreaking marks not only the beginning of construction of a beautiful building, but also the beginning of a profound change in Parkland’s evolution, making our way towards empowering and serving all students even more as they pursue their educational plans and dreams.