On Thursday, Kenai Peninsula College opened the doors to two knew facilities. The new Career and Technical Education Center and brand new student housing.
After more than a year of construction, the dorms and the college’s Career and Technical Education Center, or C-TEC, will be ready for students when the fall semester starts on August 26th. Suzie Kendrick, KPC’s Advance Programs Manager says the apartment-style dorms will house four students each, with 90 beds in total, plus six resident assistants.
“The apartment model is the newest approach,” Kendrick says as Resident Life Administrative Assistant Hannah Parker swipes her key card to unlock one of the bedrooms. Students will share a living room, kitchen and two bathrooms.
The dorms are pretty swanky and a far cry from the traditional dorm room, where your whole life is crammed into a 100 square foot bedroom you share with a total stranger.
Commons areas feature big flat screen TV’s and game consoles. There’s a pool table and gym and laundry on site. In the summer, the college plans to market the dorms as a kind of convention center, with plenty of rooms for visitors, a conference room and a full kitchen for catering. The goal there being to make the dorm’s financially self-sufficient.
The people overseeing those dorms, the resident assistants, they’re students, too. They live in the dorms for free, saving them about $3,200 a year, but it’s also a job. On Wednesday, they were finishing up some training classes before everyone moves in. Associate Director of Resident Life Tammie Willis is prepping the RA staff by giving them hypothetical situations to deal with, like how to handle questions from the press in the event of a gas leak.
“Your focus is not about getting your name in the paper,” Willis tells her staff.
“Your focus is about making sure the students are being kept safe. That they’re getting the support and resources they need.”
It’s a lot of responsibility. Many students will be away from home for the first time, and the RA’s are learning how to make this place as much like home as possible. Scott Sellers is one of the RA’s for next year. He says in addition to handling emergency situations, like that gas leak, they’re also focused on creating a sense of community in the dorms.
“(We will) set up things to have the students come together, get to know each other and learn how to settle differences, how to work together and how to keep an eye out for troubled situations.”
“At times, they’re going to be a disciplinarian and enforce the policies. At other times they’re going to be a mentor. Other times they’re going to be a friend, a resource, a tutor,” Willis says about the many roles RA’s will be expected to play.
Across the street from the new dorms, Kendrick and Parker lead the tour upstairs in the C-Tec. This is where a variety of the college’s technical programs will be housed. Kendrick says the instructors here have more than a century of combined experience in the oil and gas industry, which is the main focus for training. She says the new classrooms will be a lot more efficient.
“In our old facility, everything was just kind of stuck in a corner. They had to go and dig things out to show students this particular valve or this particular piece of equipment.” Now, she says everything is readily accessible.
With up-to-date working models of incredibly complex looking equipment for students to learn on, the goal of all of this is to make graduates ready to go to work on the north slope or other places the day they graduate.
KPC President Gary Turner is fond of saying that when students are in the dorms, they’re at home. But when they come to class, they’re at work. Both buildings were built to silver LEED standards, that’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, though they’re not certified. That would have added another year of construction and more than $100,000 to the price tag of $33 million. There will be an official ribbon cutting ceremony for both buildings, plus a barbeque Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.