Odessa College Looks to Update, Improve Campus

Posted on March 1, 2020

By Ruth Campbell – rcampbell@oaoa.com

The goal of reaching 10,000 students and plans to continue revitalizing the Odessa College campus have led officials to realize the need for more infrastructure.

OC recently completed work funded by Vision 2015 funded through a $68.5 million bond passed in 2010.

Executive Vice President of Administration Ken Zartner said the completion has led to thoughts of what’s next.

For the last several years, the college has had a goal of reaching 10,000 students and part of that is putting more infrastructure in place. This time, Zartner said the college isn’t going for a bond, but is conducting a capital campaign.

“We have revitalized this campus over the last decade with Vision 2015 from new facilities and structures and upgraded technology, you name it but it’s still not enough. Our enrollment continues to grow. We continue to have more students. We continue to have more staff members. We continue to have more people walk on our campus every single day, so really 2030 was an overall thought of where do we go next in order to meet OC 10,000,” Zartner said.

Conversations have been ongoing on the topic for the past year and they have started to take a deep dive into it in the last six months or so. Projects on the list are:

  • Wilkerson Hall expansion: Expansion and renovation to double the size of Wilkerson Hall, allowing additional space for two baccalaureate programs and early college high school instruction.
  • Deaderick Hall replacement: A new flagship academic building to replace Deaderick Hall that will add classrooms along with space for musicians to practice and store instruments.
  • New affordable student housing: A new student housing facility that will allow for 150 more beds on campus to accommodate more students and campus growth.
  • A new multi-level parking garage: A new garage facility located on the south part of the campus that will accommodate more visitors, students, faculty and staff.
  • Jack Rodgers Fine Arts Building expansion: Expansion and renovation that will add additional space in order to relocate the Art Department from Sedate hall to the Jack Rodgers Fine Arts Building. This relocation will free up space for additional Career and Technical instruction in Sedate Hall.
  • Health Sciences Building renovation: OC seeks to create a more modern facility equipped with healthcare technology that will allow for a collaborative environment and interdisciplinary learning.
  • New physical plant: A new building that will provide a more modern space to accommodate all operation and maintenance of the college’s physical facilities.

“We’re still in a lot of entry planning phases. We anticipated this to be possibly a $75 million capital campaign where we’re going to go out and try to raise those funds privately. We’re going to try to allocate our budget and fund some of the stuff ourselves by being fiscally responsible,” Zartner said. “This year, we were able to put back $1.3 million through our own budget and another $350,000 through our reserve funds at the end of our year through our audit. We’re trying to put back $2 million a year ourselves over the next 10 years so we’re outsourcing through our capital campaign, through our own financial practices in order to make this happen.”

The bond issue was different. Everything was lined out and it still took almost a decade to complete, Zartner said.

“This is going to be a lot different. I don’t think we have an endgame and I think by the time we get to 2030, even if we had all this structure, we’re probably going to need to pivot and change at that point as well, as our community grows, as our facilities grow, our student population grows it’s hard to put a time frame on it,” he said.

Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Frank Rich said one of the things OC has learned over the last five or 10 years is that the community keeps the college constantly pivoting.

“It’s really hard to try and set a hard timeline because the community’s needs constantly change and that’s something that we’ve always tried to be extremely sensitive to is that ever-changing need. I haven’t been here that long and the growth that’s happened just since I’ve been here has been phenomenal and it’s a direct result of the need in the community,” Rich said.

He noted that it’s not out of line to expect the community to become bond weary as every community does. This means using OC’s own resources, corporate and community partners to achieve the goal.

“All these different pieces have come together to help make this work and that’s exactly how 2030 is going to work … is through that same type of structure,” Rich said.

Zartner said more student housing is needed because the existing units are “filled to the max” and 80 percent of the 237 beds are taken by athletes from all over the country and world.

Parking also is needed and OC is landlocked.

More space also is needed for health sciences.

“We do a really, really good job of keeping our facilities in comparison, but we do need to upgrade. We do need to modify. We do need to shift and pivot,” Zartner said.

Enrollment is about 6,850 and Rich said OC is the only community college in the state that has not stayed stagnant or lost a couple of percentage points of enrollment.

“Even when everyone told us we couldn’t push anymore, we continued to push,” Zartner said. “We continue to gain because of the structure we put in place. We now have two early college high schools on campus. That’s 800 kids running around all day long from facilities to restrooms to cafeterias (and) parent drop-offs. We are almost the size of a 3A high school. And we still have thousands of college students, as well, running around, plus the community and everybody else so from that standpoint our campus wasn’t really designed to hold all this. But we’ve made it work with the infrastructure we currently have by strategic scheduling, course mapping and blocking and using existing facilities and revamping,” Zartner said.

Rich said OC is now offering four-year degrees which means a youngster in Ector County could start off as a high school freshman in one of the early college high schools, earn an associate degree and a four-year degree without leaving the campus.

The tuition rates for the associate and bachelor’s degrees are the same, Rich said.

“We are one of the absolute best education values in the entire state, if not maybe the entire nation. And as that message gets out more and more, we may be looking at becoming a destination college at some point in the near future because we have that much to offer,” Rich said.

Zartner said he thinks OC could be a destination college now if it had affordable housing.

He said one of their signature projects and something they want to put forth first is a new health science building.

“And the reason for that is we want to create a space that is going to create quality people to go into the healthcare industry. … We want to create a simulation lab so they don’t have to burden the hospitals and the other partners that we have in the community to sit there and train. We want to build some of these things that are going to put top-notch, first-rate people ready to work in our community in the health care industry,” Zartner said.

There is a concept rendering of what the health sciences building could look like, but they haven’t started to program it.

“… But one of the key features of it is the simulation lab. Texas Tech (University Health Sciences Center) has a really nice one and we would like to mimic something similar to that. One of the problems is that let’s say you’re going through nursing school LVN, ADN, or event the PT program, whatever it may be, you have to go and do so many clinical hours. We’re maxed on clinical hours and spaces and sites that we can use. Sometimes kids are going all the way to Big Spring to Lubbock … That’s not affordable when we can do it for them here. I think can expand some of our programs as well,” Zartner said.

Zartner is confident OC is going to reach 10,000 students.

And there is also the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board goal of having 60 percent of Texans age 25 to 34 have a certificate or degree by 2030.

Depending on who you talk to, Zartner and Rich said educational attainment in the Permian Basin is anywhere between 13 and 16 percent and 27 or 28 percent have a college degree statewide.

“When (OC President) Dr. (Gregory) Williams talks about we’re saving lives with what we do,” Rich said, “that’s a very real statement because when you’re in the area that has that sort of educational deficit to make up, it impacts everything you do. Every single part of your life is impacted by that. That’s why this is so important so very important.”