Odessa College has its eye on about $100 million worth of projects on its campus, but the institution is taking them one step at a time.
The first two priorities for Vision 2030 are a new health sciences building and Wilkerson 2, meant to be a twin of Wilkerson Hall, one of the oldest and most used buildings at OC.
Executive Director of Advancement Jacqui Gore said the projects are being financed through a capital campaign and setting aside OC’s own funding. There won’t be a bond, like the $68.5 million one passed in 2010.
Gore said the first project they are focused on is the health sciences building, which will be $39.7 million, four stories and enclose 83,000 square feet.
Wilkerson Hall 2 will be an estimated $20 million, stand two stories and encompass 49,000 square feet.
“Wilkerson Hall was built in 1967 it is a very well used building. Many classes take place in that building. Seventy percent of OC students take classes in liberal arts and education and those classes take place in Wilkerson Hall,” Gore said. “Then we have 800 early college high school students taking classes in that building. Then we have dedicated classrooms for the OC2UTPB Teaching in 3 program and we have our transitional learning center in that building” where English as a second language and GED classes are taught.
With OC’s growth, liberal arts and education classes are expected to grow by 17 percent by 2024. The number of early college high school students is projected to grow from 800 to 1,000 students by 2022.
“So we’re out of space,” Gore said. “That building is completely maxed out, so Wilkerson Hall 2 will provide additional space for those students. They will keep Wilkerson 1. … Those are our two priorities right now — the health sciences building and Wilkerson Hall 2; then we’ll determine what the next steps are after that.”
Along with contributions and set asides, Gore said the college will work to raise the funds through local individuals and businesses and local, state and national foundations.
The Wood family recently provided $5 million toward the health sciences building, which will be called the Wood Health Sciences Building. While fundraising for this project is still underway, OC plans to break ground on the new Health Sciences Building in late 2021, followed by 18 months of construction and an estimated opening date of fall 2023.
“… We’re working with various donors now on contribution agreements and we hope to announce additional support early in 2021,” Gore said.
Gore said fundraising in the time of COVID-19 has been a different process.
“It’s difficult to meet with people, first of all, due to COVID. Then the downturn in the economy has definitely made it a challenge for all of us in the fundraising areas community wide. So we have used this time to really plan — specifically the health sciences building and Wilkerson Hall 2 — make the plans, working with the architects and starting to have the conversations with donors letting them know how this is going to benefit the Permian Basin.
So with the health sciences building, this is going to allow us to have additional space so that we can produce additional health sciences graduates to go right to work in the Permian Basin in the hospitals and the doctors’ offices. They are so needed right now, so this is a workforce development project most definitely,” Gore said.
With Wilkerson Hall 2, Gore said, in addition to liberal arts students and early college high school students, the education and early childhood development students take classes in Wilkerson Hall. This will also increase the number of educators produced by OC, Gore said.
“That’s a big need. We have had conversations with donors about what the needs are in the Permian Basin and how many additional students we’ll be able to produce with this construction project,” Gore said.
The ultimate goal would be to complete construction by 2030.
“These projects are going to take time, especially with grassroots fundraising. That’s why we’re taking it one step at a time focusing on these two projects first and then we’ll start moving into the other ones …,” Gore said.
Vice President of Administrative Services Ken Zartner said the college will still use a competitive bid process.
Zartner said the college has land it can use for Wilkerson 2.
“If you look just to the south of Wilkerson between Wilkerson right now and the student housing area, we have this huge, open vacant lot that’s plenty enough footprint to put another facility. I think the challenge would then come do we have enough parking … Vision 2030 is a master grand plan,” Zartner said. “If we could have everything we ever wanted, what would it look like; can we get everything; not sure. Will we get there; not sure, but we’re not going to stop pursuing those dreams.”
What Zartner said they will need at some point is more parking. The idea of a parking garage has been floated or some sort of structure to support increased parking.
He noted that the early college high schools, Odessa Collegiate Academy and OCTECHS, have grown quite a bit. When a new health sciences building is built, there will be a domino effect.
“… If everything worked out the right way, if we’re able to complete and build this HSB building, then obviously we would have to demolish Travis Hall because that footprint of that facility would go right over the top of that,” Zartner said. “I would definitely need to outsource or find some portable facilities or buildings to house their dining facilities, but I think the ultimate plan would be once we pave the way and are able to move the existing HSB building into the new HSB building, then that HSB building could be a designated facility for early college high schools where we would retrofit it or outfit it to have additional food capabilities …”
The Saulsbury Campus Center nearby also has a cafeteria.
“Everything’s kind of like a domino. The first step would be to outfit the current HSB to serve early college high schools, but that’s really where Wilkerson 2 comes into play because the early college high schools are now all throughout our Wood facility. They’re partly in Wilkerson right now. They have a large footprint on campus, so when the completion of a Wilkerson 2 … would be made and the completion of the HSB now pave the way for Wilkerson 1 to become an early college high school facility and the existing HSB to become an early college high school facility that has enough room to support both of the different paths from OCA and OCTECHS,” Zartner said.
He said a lot of state funding comes from how successful OC is in its completion rates, graduation rates and its success rates.
“I know that in the past couple of years we’ve generated more revenue from the state because of the successes that we have in the classroom. We’ve been able to be responsible with our current funding and we’re always looking for ways to cut costs, save money but still have premier services,” Zartner said.
He added that OC wants to create a college-going culture and it offers a variety of ways for students to attend affordably.
He noted that there are many scholarships available.
“We’re extremely creative because we want everybody to have an opportunity to come to college and be successful in college and complete college. We know there are barriers that are hindering some of those folks. Some of that is cost …,” Zartner said.
Ruth Campbell covers education for the Odessa American. Reach her at 432-333-7765 or email@example.com