7 p.m. PDT September 28, 2015
Monday marked the first day of fall classes for Chemeketa Community College, along with the Oregon state schools.
Students rushed to class, eager to find their rooms, get their books and hopefully not trip or spill something on their new clothes.
But this year was different than other back-to-school days at Chemeketa. After having completed a $92 million bond construction project, a new chapter of technical education can now begin.
Building 20 on the Salem campus houses state-of-the-art technology and equipment, countless classrooms and offices, and common spaces for students to work together in.
The two-building complex combines offices and instructional space for drafting, engineering, machining and welding programs. On Monday, 45 machining students, about 40 drafting students, and 34 welding students all stepped into the new space.
For some, this is their first year in Chemeketa’s technical education programs. They entered the building just as they would any other building and went to their first class.
However, students who were in the previous space, a much smaller building for just as many classes and students, were in awe of the building. Sheldon Schnider, an instructor in the program, said they were even “giddy.”
“It’s like it is December 24 at about 8:30 p.m. and no one can fall asleep because they are too excited,” he said.
Schnider has worked for Chemeketa since 1995 and said there are aspects of the programs and building at Chemeketa that make them stand out to others in the industry.
For instance, Schnider requires his students learn to read and write code by hand. He said this is a skill that not many in the industry have and something that allows these students to get higher paying jobs in the industry sooner than others.
“I want our people to have the best jobs,” he said.
Robert Woods, 35, is in his second year of the program. He said the new building allows the programs to be more industry relative and that this training is something they can pass on and apply in the future.
Brian Steele, 35, a fellow second year, agreed and added how important it is that the new building is as big as it is.
“Space is the number one things about this space,” he said. “Before, we couldn’t even put anything on the table.” Now, students learn in a 53,000 square foot complex.
The building also offers more common spaces for students to do work together outside of class and allows for teachers to be more accessible.
Part of the thinking behind this design was so that students felt their classes connect more and could develop deeper relationships with professors.
In the new building, students can design a product on the computers in one room, physically make it in the lab across the hall, and debrief and discuss in the common spaces upstairs, for example.
Schnider said this is important because they are going to be spending a lot of time together.
“These students will spend more time with me than my wife,” he said. “We really develop friendships. It’s cool to see them grow and succeed.”
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