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Community college in Carson City is growing, eyes new facilities

by Joyce Hollister, Staff Writer

It’s not your little old community college anymore.

Western Nevada Community College in Carson City is looking more and more like a classy institution, with the year-old Cedar building that soars above the main campus and plans for a 35,000-square-foot library and student union building that will be the school’s center of attraction.

Ground will be broken in the spring for the library, and it will be ready to use in the fall of 2002, says Helaine Jesse, vice president of institutional advancement.

“This will be the flagship,” Jesse said. “As you drive up College Parkway, you will see this beautiful building. It’s going to be fully loaded and take advantage of natural light and solar technology.”

Marlette Hall, an auditorium that seats 120 people, is located in the Cedar building along with nursing, criminal justice and physics classrooms and computer labs. The Aspen building, located behind the original campus main building, features an airy bookstore and cafe as well as classrooms and a science lab.

The John H. Sheldon Technology Complex is made up of four buildings, the Woody Wurster Machine Tool Technology Center, the E.L. Cord Technology Center that offers automotive classrooms and a shop, Donald W. Reynolds Center for Technology for high-tech skills education and the Welding Technology Center.

Carson City area businesses have donated cash and machinery to the technology center, and businesspeople are on a board that advises the college on the skills students need to acquire in order to succeed in the Northern Nevada workplace.

“They provide the heart beat on what’s needed out there,” Jesse said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

The seven-year-old WNCC Child Development Center offers care for children 6 weeks old to kindergarten, and there are still a few openings.

It provides drop-off child care for ages 3-6 during the day and the evening for students who are attending classes, director Andrea Bennett said.

Kindergarten readiness is emphasized for preschoolers, and child development activities are employed even for the infants, Bennett said.

Members of the community may also take advantage of these programs, she said, though WNCC students are given priority for the drop-off program.

The center provides training for students at the college who are working on their associate degree in early childhood education and for nursing students and others. For information, call 445-4262.

But what is exciting administrators, instructors and students at WNCC this year is the proposed observatory.

The project grew from a small, 600-square-foot room with a 5-meter dome to a 2,500-square-foot building with three telescopes, a climatology station and a seismotron, Jesse said.

“Students in math and science classrooms will be be able to go on the Internet and watch live sunspot research,” she said. “At night, if you have the right access code, you can steer the telescope. It’s a fabulous project.”

Named the Jack C. Davis Observatory after the first president of WNCC, the facility will allow WNCC to offer an astronomical science program, a long-held dream of Professor Robert Colliers.

Most of the buildings on campus are state-funded, but various projects are paid for though fund-raising campaigns, including the observatory.

Some $150,000 have been raised so far, Jesse said. A $100,000 grant came from the Nevada Gaming Foundation for Educational Excellence, and she hopes to raise a half million more in time for the proposed groundbreaking in the spring, with a fall 2001 opening.

One way to raise funds is fanciful: An outdoor walkway leading to the observatory will be lined with “planets.” For $25,000, you can have a planet named after you. Nevada Bell has already pledged one.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon who walked right behind Neil Armstrong, will be in Carson City April 18, 2001 for a fund-raiser.

For $250, you can meet the former astronaut at a reception before he speaks at the Carson City Community Center. General admission for his speech is $100 per person. To reserve tickets, call 445-3240.

Jesse is characteristically jubilant at the thought of a former astronaut visiting Carson City.

“The caliber of what this man has done is unbelievable,” she said. “The impact of Buzz Aldrin signifies the impact that this observatory will have.”