RUSKIN — Back to school time will come with an addition when students walk on to the Hillsborough Community College SouthShore campus next week: a new, state-of-the art, 36,000-square-foot science and technology building.
Completed and ready for when classes begin Monday, the building will provide space to better meet the needs of students in this area. Not only will the college be able to offer all levels of physics for the first time, it also will provide classes in organic chemistry because of new laboratory facilities.
"This campus has grown beyond anyone's expectations," SouthShore campus president Allen Witt said. "Seven years ago, the experts estimated we would start out with 400 students; we started out with 1,652. This past year, our total number of students was 6,726. This building will give us the ability to offer more biological science than any of the HCC campuses except our largest campus on Dale Mabry.
"It is the first step in supplying the much-needed lab space for students seeking degrees in nursing and other scientific-based careers."
One of the major attractions to the Ruskin campus is its easy access and ample parking, but many students also are drawn here because there is a growing desire to pursue careers in health science. This building will enhance the number of classes available in nursing, premed and emergency medical programs because of the technologically advanced anatomy and physiology labs.
Even students attending the University of South Florida who need those biological science prerequisites are choosing to attain those credits at SouthShore.
Witt also noted he has been involved in the building of eight community college buildings during his career, but this is the first one that was entirely designed by the faculty.
"Our faculty and dean, Dr. (Craig) Hardesty, visited six exemplary new science buildings throughout the state and brought back the best of each one," Witt said. "They worked with our wonderful architects on every step of the design process."
Not only has the faculty's participation provided a place for students to further their education and develop lifelong careers, but HCC also will continue to offer lifelong courses for senior citizens.
The state allows it to offer free tuition classes for senior citizens. They are invited to audit any class offered by the college as long as they meet a few requirements: they must be 60 or older and have resided in Florida for 12 consecutive months prior to the first day of class, which is Monday.
Many seniors veer toward the general education courses, such as the humanities, social sciences and foreign languages (particularly Spanish). Today, many jobs require that their employees are bilingual, and many people find it as a way to get that training.
"We have had a great response to our senior program," HCC student services manager Sheila McCants said. "People want to take classes, not from a career perspective, but because of a passion, something they've always wanted to do. This gives them the opportunity to do that for free."
HCC SouthShore, 551 24th St. NE, enrolls students from 8 a.m. to noon Monday and Tuesday.
Contact Kathy Straub at email@example.com.