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BCC’s $30M Renovation Bringing School To 21st Century

The fall semesters for most colleges and universities are just under way and in Pittsfield, the area’s community college is undergoing major changes.Completed in 1972, the main campus of Berkshire Community College is showing its age with rectangular concrete buildings and dark hallways. But the first ever major renovation of two primary classrooms buildings is bringing the West Street campus into the 21st century.

“We’re updating our labs, classrooms and technology,” said BCC President Kennedy. “We’re creating much better accessibility, improving our wayfinding and creating many more student spaces that are small and intimate or that can hold groups. There will be some that’ll be in enclosed rooms and others that are in the corridor. The students can be right outside their faculty office working at a space or on one of the white walls and the faculty can come back and forth.”

Kennedy explains the project reflects modern education strategies of creating more collaborative and social spaces infused with natural light and bright colors. Hawthorne and Melville halls will be joined for the first time with walkways and a connector space designed to serve as an amphitheater for events and gatherings. Kennedy says the renovation increases safety by eliminating some doors and reconfiguring the entranceways into small sitting areas that students were already utilizing.

“We’ve created these pocket lounges for students with whiteboard for people to come and gather,” Kennedy said. “This is both providing more smaller spaces for students to gather, but also making the building safer.”

Perhaps the biggest leap forward can be discovered in Hawthorne’s medical classrooms. Rooms are designed to look and feel like hospitals, physical therapy spaces and massage areas. The college’s Director of Nursing Tochi Ubani says computerized simulation mannequins can mimic hospital patients.

“It can do anything you and I can do except maybe walk and run,” Ubani said. “They can talk. We’re able to simulate all forms of pathologies that people who are sick go through and the students will have real-life education except that its within a simulated environment.”

There’s even a pregnancy simulation.

“This is our newest addition,” Ubani pointed out. “I’m excited. This is very expensive. It’s our sim mom and we’ve had three deliveries so far with her.”

Focus has also been placed on the sights and sounds of a hospital room as adjustable vital signs will appear on monitors and alarms will sound. Simulation specialist Ken Sagendorph can use a voice synthesizer hooked up to speakers to mimic a patient’s voice, even one who has had a tracheotomy.

One hospital area also has four cameras that faculty and students can use to record their performances and watch the footage to learn. Melville Hall will house chemistry, engineering and computer information systems once it is complete in early 2017. Beyond the buildings, BCC is looking to resurface some of its dilapidated parking lots and build a community turf athletic field in the summer of 2017.

“Now the spaces are much more reflective of the 21st century and the workforce needs that we see and the needs that students have that they’re transferring on to other programs,” Kennedy said. “So we’re better prepared to provide a really great learning environment and experience. It’s a pride moment, I think, for the community to see this kind of investment in their community college and feel great pride that this investment was made, it’s almost $30 million that we’ve put into these two buildings.”

Roughly 1,700 students are taking classes at BCC’s main campus in Pittsfield.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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