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Thursday, August 21, 2014

WCC’s Oldest Building Celebrates 40 Years of Learning

  • In the 1970s, the TI building housed vocational studies in machine tool, robotics, and fluid power.
  • In the 1970s, the TI building housed vocational studies in machine tool, robotics, and fluid power.
  • Video Production I students receive a lighting demonstration in the TI building’s new green-screen room.
  • The ceramics studio is a new addition to the TI building, and includes a glazing room for mixing and applying glazes.

As you look down the pristine halls of WCC’s Technical & Industrial building and beyond the students walking briskly to class, you can almost feel the excitement that heralded its inaugural semester 40 years ago in January 1970. Today, TI is a thriving new environment for a diverse array of disciplines and non-traditional learning programs.

One of the programs receiving a lot of attention in the new Michigan economy is digital video film production, which relocated to renovated space in TI this fall. The move expands instructional facilities to include a studio with a control room enhanced by new technical equipment. It also adds the capability of seating a small studio audience for filming. In addition, the new facilities give students the opportunity to create a seemingly endless choice of backgrounds and special effects with the help of a green-screen studio.

"The new space has opened up a world of possibilities for our students,” said Matt Zacharias, a digital video instructor. “In addition to the spaces mentioned, there's a large lab with editing stations. Now students can conceptualize and script a film in the studio, shoot special effects for it, and edit it all in adjacent spaces, which is a huge convenience. It greatly enhances and facilitates the workflow for our students."

Fall Semester also marked the nursing program’s move from the Occupational Education building to the second floor of TI, with classrooms opening into a scenic corridor overlooking the north side of campus. Adjacent to them are classroom and lab space for the pharmacy technology program, complete with a walk-up window like that found in most pharmacies.

The second floor is now home to the basic nursing assistant class, a state-approved 90-contact-hour program. WCC serves as a regional testing site for the Michigan Certified Nursing Assistant certificate. This fall you’ll also find non-credit classes in health science, such as phlebotomy and nursing refresher. Below them on the first floor tucked way on the northwest corner are lab classrooms for the physical therapist assistant program.

“The first thing you notice as a nursing student is how bright and open it is there on the second floor,” said Granville Lee, dean of Health and Applied Technology. “The new facilities were designed by faculty. It’s not necessarily more space but more customized space, and we’re still looking at enhancements. One idea is to change out the tables in a classroom to hide the computer monitors under the desktops, allowing for multipurpose and multiple scheduling options.”

TI is the new home for studies in broadcast arts, music appreciation, and ceramics, and has remained the learning center for computer and electrical/electronics studies. WCC’s student newspaper, The Washtenaw Voice, recently moved into TI. The building also is home to two non-traditional programs, the Washtenaw Technical Middle College, chartered by WCC, and the Young Adult Transition Program, which is run by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

Many of these changes were made possible by repurposing square footage and installing a second floor in what was once the largest classroom on campus, the TI Big Shop. This 14,000-square-foot, two-story open space once represented half of the original building footprint and housed vocational studies in machine tool, robotics, and fluid power. As manufacturing careers shifted focus, the programs also changed. With a new emphasis on fabrication and innovation, the industrial technology program is now housed in facilities on the west side of campus.

The reworking and refitting of TI occurred in phases over the last several years. And despite its thorough and comprehensive overhaul, the building has retained its charm.

“The signage in T&I sets a new standard for campus,” said Bill Ghrist, a facilities systems analyst who has an office on the second floor. “We used a wayfinding approach to the new signs. Ceiling signs indicate common areas such as restrooms, offices, and vending areas. We put directional maps in strategic locations like the lobby and across from the elevator. You’ll also notice the large painted wall at the end of a hall with a silver arrow pointing in either direction. That indicates which way to turn.”

While the signage and new paint on many of the old walls draw immediate attention, there are other important changes that visitors won’t notice when they walk down the building’s bright corridors. For example, new air handling systems now provide better filtration capabilities, and lighting upgrades save on energy and glare. These updates meet new green building standards and help qualify for Gold LEED certification, which TI is now likely to achieve, said Damon Flowers, associate vice president of facilities and development.

Today’s emphasis on green technology is one of the contrasts to life in 1970, when computer mainframes filled an entire room and manufacturing was the predominant industry in the greater Washtenaw County area. Forty years later, WCC’s Technical & Industrial building reflects the new direction in careers and learning that underscores life in the 21st century.

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