By Antoinette Colon

Connection Staff

Montgomery County Community College is in the midst of a mounting growth period.

College President Dr. Karen A. Stout explained the significance of the institution's recently completed West Campus expansion project on High Street in Pottstown. "The expansion fills a number of needs for the college: first, accommodating enrollment growth of 70 percent in credit courses," Stout said. "We anticipate that over the next five to 10 years growth will continue due to the demographic of the community in the Limerick and Royersford areas. That is why it was so important to secure the new site."

Dr. Stout said the college is taking a two-phase approach by adding the space and extending course offerings in credit and non-credit courses. There were many programs that students couldn't complete at the West Campus before the expansion.

Now, the college has teamed up with other four-year colleges to offer better opportunities for its students to advance.

Dean Foster, vice president and West Campus administrative officer, met weekly with a team comprised of faculty, adminstrators and architect Mark Fey to plan the new facility.

The renovated space at 16 High Street, named the University Center, has allowed for new spacious classrooms, student studio spaces, an art gallery and a comfortable common area with Internet access.

"We are excited about the new gallery space. It can help us to connect with the community through local, regional and even national artist exhibits," Stout said.

The college is forging partnerships with art organizations in the community, including the Gallery on High and Village Productions theater group.

"We are anxious to see what and how that will develop," Stout said. "I think it will create a real synergy to the downtown Pottstown area. The heart of our mission is to support community activities."

"We plan on offering practice music studios for the music degree and expand the drama production internships with Village Productions," she said.

Summer arts camps for children are another offering the new facility brings to the arts scene in downtown Pottstown.

Working in conjunction with the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, Stout said the college plans on adding courses like bird watching, canoeing and kayaking.

Another exciting addition to the West Campus is the Verizon Foundation Center for Excellence in Workforce Education and Training, which offers non-credit workforce courses complete with video conferencing-equipped classrooms to increase student's employability.

"Helping to support the revitalization in the borough is only possible with model partnerships between state legislators and the county commissioners," Stout said.

The University Center is expected to introduce more consumers to the downtown area as well. From chocolate and coffee shops to the eateries and Gallery on High, Stout feels the location will prove to be an asset to downtown improvement goals.

The next phase of development is the underpass and the parking "puzzle," Stout said. The underpass, once completed, will connect the two West Campus buildings and form a campus environment. A shuttle bus will be available at no cost.

"The best part about the expansion is watching the faces of the students when they enter the new building," Stout said. "It creates a learning environment that is supportive to learning. It exudes warmth. I see students sit down and take a break, which I didn't see with the other building. So we have learned a lesson in how to create a more inviting space for student gathering."

Contact reporter Antoinette Colon

at 610-367-6041, ext. 255 or

alcolon@berksmontnews.com.

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