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LeagueTLC IT Professional Column
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments with Information Technology Professionals

Building the Bricks and Clicks of Tomorrow: The Conable Technology Building

Rick Ensman, Director, Development and External Affairs, Genesee Community College, NY

In the past, college graduates were likely to follow a 30- to 40-year single profession career path. The stability and progression of their success often correlated with the growth and development of their field of study or profession. Today, we are witnessing the fastest professional career shifts ever known. Great changes in higher education and the world of work have rerouted traditional career paths and reshaped the workforce. College graduates are now expected to change jobs, if not careers, an estimated eight to ten times during their lives, and they increasingly recognize job skill development as a lifelong endeavor. These new directions call for higher education to provide new services in new ways. The recently opened Conable Technology Building at Genesee Community College (GCC) advances the workforce of the future by connecting community development, fast-paced change, and flexible technological resources. 

Field of Dreams: A Convergence of Needs and Plans

The seeds of the Conable Technology Building project were planted in 1994 when the Board of Trustees commissioned a Facilities Master Plan. At the same time, the college--anticipating the impact of technology and global competition in higher education-initiated community dialogue and corporate discussions focused on college growth and service. Evidence of the growing demand for workforce development came from annual college reports, community development surveys, service demands from area businesses, and outreach training service projects. 

The confluence of the Facilities Master Plan and the community and corporate dialogues manifested itself in 1996 when then Board, having rejected the $22 million price tag attached to the 1994 plan's 80,000 square feet of new space, commissioned a second plan and more collaborative approach. This second plan recommended (1) the construction of a technology building to ease critical space shortages at the Batavia Campus, (2) training services targeted to meet specific community workforce needs, and (3) consolidation of the college's instructional technology services.

The building project received additional support from 1998 data resources indicating that GCC directly provided skill and academic development needs to more than 1,850 employees of local businesses and over 4,000 local students employed throughout the county. That year GCC also initiated a successful laptop training program, bringing laptop computers, training programs, and instructors to more than 20 local firms a their work sites. This increase in need for services translated into a growing need for facility upgrade and development. 

Plans for facilities management also converged with growing recognition that a shift from brick and mortar to digital delivery, distance education and technological infrastructure would be critical to the design and function of additional space, and with the realization that such space did not already exist in GCC's largely rural service area. No corporate facilities could be renovated to meet college and community needs since few local corporations had onsite training space and since interactive distance learning capabilities and high-end technology resources were even more rare. Local businesses and surrounding industries looked to GCC to build a place for workforce development and training services. 

If You Build It, They Will Come: Funding the Project

Since the Conable Technology Building's inception, collaborative efforts and cooperative funding have fueled its development. The Board of Trustees accepted the revised 1996 Facilities Master Plan to centralize services and facility development. The plan was accepted by the State University of New York, and the SUNY Construction Fund offered to finance half of the $11.4 million dollar project if the Genesee County Legislature-sponsor of the college-provided the remaining half of the funding.

To demonstrate support for the new building plan, the Genesee Community College Foundation proposed a capital fund raising campaign for the project. The state legislature approved the project in 1998, and, with community support, the foundation's fund raising efforts raised $1.65 million. After the foundation's contributions and capital chargebacks--fees paid by counties across the state to support their residents' use of GCC--the net cost to the college was estimated at just $1.9 million. 

Focused on community services and development, the new 43,000 square foot structure is located on the Batavia Campus and houses multipurpose conference rooms and state-of-the-art computer laboratories for academic instruction, continuing education, and workforce development training services. The new innovations the Conable Technology Building brings to the college include:

  • A workforce development laboratory to provide computer training to employees of area businesses. The college offers Microsoft Certified Training Programs, and is a designated Microsoft Authorized Testing Center. In addition, the college now offers courses and services as a certified Cisco Regional Networking Academy. 
  • Conference rooms of varying sizes used to train managers and employees of area businesses.
  • Modern computer laboratories for academic instruction. Modern hardware gives instructors using the laboratories the ability to control student computer screens, displaying examples of work in progress or other teaching materials.
  • A 150-seat tiered lecture hall with laptop computer connections and full videoconferencing capability, enabling the college to establish audio and video links with other locations around the world.
  • A television studio and control room used to prepare instructional videos and present live television broadcasts. The Conable Technology Building is enabling the college to offer a new multimedia communications program.
  • A distance learning classroom that enables the college to bring live, interactive courses to students at multiple locations. Using hand-activated microphones and camera controls, students at all locations can see and hear each other.
  • An open computer laboratory where students can practice computer skills or complete assignments.

The full impact of the technology building is difficult to measure at this early stage in its use; however, the spirit and integration of technology, collaboration, community development, and service outreach stand as hallmarks to the best of what community colleges bring to the students and workforce of our future.

 

 

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