High Ranking Texas Community College Launches Tech Space

Amarillo College, which was named one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute, has opened The Underground, an interactive learning center for collaborative education, at a cost of $2.2 million.

by David Gay, Amarillo Globe-News / November 7, 2019
The Underground is an 11,000 square foot interactive learning space in the basement of the Ware Student Commons on Amarillo College’s Washington St. campus. It consists of more than 130 computers, large and small study rooms and two classrooms. [David Gay/Amarillo Globe-News] TNS

(TNS) — According to Amarillo College President Russell Lowery-Hart, Nov. 5, 2019 will be looked back on as a seminal day in the history of the college.

On Tuesday morning, the college hosted the grand opening for The Underground, an 11,000 square foot interactive learning center space in the basement of the Ware Student Commons on Amarillo College's Washington St. campus.

But, the opening of The Underground was not the only thing the college was celebrating Tuesday morning. According to a news release, Amarillo College was named one of top 150 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute for the first time.

As a member of the top 15 percent of community colleges nationwide, Amarillo College is eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, an award which recognizes high achievement and performances among community colleges across the nation.

Lowery-Hart said spaces like The Underground is a reason why Amarillo College is a part of the top 150 colleges in the nation. The space consists of more than 130 computers, which are a mix of PC's, Apple computers and laptops. The Underground also has large and small study rooms and two classrooms.

"We are so honored to wow our students with space that's worthy of them and prepares them for success in the classroom and workspace," he said.

Lowery-Hart said he hopes this space becomes an 'academic living room' for students, giving them the space to collaborate with other students as well as work on projects. The college received a federal grant to renovate the space, costing $2.2 million.

Brylee Gray, a student at Amarillo College and a member of its Student Government Association, said she has been impressed with the technology made available because of this space. It was needed on the campus.

"We needed that push with the technology at our campus, especially with the students who are commuters, coming and going," she said. "It's a lot easier if you have the access at your school, to do your work here and then go home and do what you need to do."

The space has already promoted collaboration among the student body, Gray said. It has made Amarillo College feel more like home.

Lowery-Hart said this space helps the college's students become exceptional employees. That mission helped Amarillo College become one of top community colleges in the nation.

Five years ago, Lowery-Hart said, the college was near the bottom of the list. The growth over that time period is a testament to what the faculty and staff of Amarillo College do every day for their students.

The growth means a lot to the college as well as the community it is located in, Lowery-Hart said.

"What the growth means to the college and the community is that students are actually finishing what they start," he said. "They are finishing with a credential or a degree that helps them transfer or lets them find a job that earns a living wage."

While Amarillo College is always looking for improvements, the opening of The Underground as well as being a part of the Aspen Institute's list for the first time is affirmation of the growth and progress the college has seen, Lowery-Hart said.

"Today's a day of celebration," Lowery-Hart said, "that we are able to wow our students, give them spaces that are worthy of them and show the community why we are one of the top 150 colleges in the entire country."

©2019 Amarillo Globe-News, Texas. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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