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Cascade Campus community reaps rewards of new buildings, bond construction

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One year after the Student Union’s grand opening at the Cascade Campus, the building is now a fully functioning and vital fixture on this urban campus. The construction of the Student Union, Cascade Hall and academic building across the plaza, have transformed the face of the campus.

But the most important changes are taking place inside the buildings, in particular, the Student Union. It is home to four resource centers and the student government program called the Associated Students Portland Community College (ASPCC). It’s the first time in the campus’ history that all of its resource centers have been located under the same roof, and student leaders say the impact is palpable.

Luke Givens, coordinator of the Multicultural Center, said the union has helped facilitate cooperation among the students, who now frequently collaborate on projects with other resource centers.

“I’ve been to other colleges and universities where those offices are separated by a great distances and you can see that physical distance influence the interactions between the communities those centers attempt to serve,” said Givens. “Although we all do different work and serve students in vastly different ways, working in close proximity helps build better working relationships between the staff and the students.”

The cafeteria is on the Union's first floor, while directly above on the second is another dining room that students can use for studying as well as enjoying their meals. Jan. 12, 2016

The cafeteria is on the Union’s first floor, while directly above on the second is another dining room that students can use for studying as well as enjoying their meals.

Tracey Garman, international student advisor, said that co-locating these student groups in Student Union has helped students build connections on campus, everything from friendships to campus jobs.

“In the past, we would make mention of these resources to students, such as ASPCC or the Women’s Resource Center, but students had to seek them out and go to different buildings,” she said.  “I believe that being easily accessible and in close proximity to our office has made our students more comfortable in seeking them out and making a point of visiting the other departments. Many more of our students are now involved in the programming that our neighboring departments offer.”

The 36,000-square-foot Student Union also houses the cafeteria on the first floor, as well as a dining room and a spacious modern lounge on the second. The building replaced the outdated, 1970s-era Student Center, which was the oldest building on campus.

On a recent overcast January day, second-year health studies student Ricardo LaGrotta was taking advantage of the natural light flooding the lounge through the floor-to-ceiling windows to do homework. For him, the difference between the Cascade Campus before and after the new union is like night and day.

“It’s been quite interesting seeing the transformation of this campus,” he said. “In the old Student Center building, the ASPCC was in the basement. It was so constricted and so small. Now, everything’s open, and more comfortable and accessible. There’s people studying, listening to their lectures, and I’m here about to have my lunch. It’s a place for everyone to do whatever they want.”

LaGrotta praised the flexible meeting spaces in the building, and noted that the second-floor lounge is used for occasions both celebratory and sad.

“It’s been a refuge for all of us,” he said and talked about the gathering to mourn the victims of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College last fall.

Brittany Randall, a second-year business student, enjoys that the new Student Union has “a lot more space,” and is located in a more accessible part of campus.

“I feel like this is a lot more open and it’s a more inviting space,” Randall said.

She also appreciates that the second-floor dining room is available for studying as well as eating – a helpful option while the Library is closed for remodeling.

Associated Students of PCC shares its new home with Cascade's International Education Center, Women's Resource Center, Multicultural Center, and Queer Resource Center. Jan. 12, 2016

Associated Students of PCC shares its new home with Cascade’s International Education Center, Women’s Resource Center, Multicultural Center, and Queer Resource Center.

“It’s pretty quiet and there’s always a lot of people doing homework,” she added.

Deborah Jimenez , who is studying health care, likes the atmosphere of the second-floor lounge and the ability to power her electronic devices while she works there.

“I love that we have some place to sit that’s calming,” she said. “I like all the open spaces. It really does make a difference when you’re studying. It just feels new and good.”

Downstairs in the first-floor cafeteria, students are able to select from a wide and rotating selection of hot and cold foods, including made-to-order items, Asian dishes, a pasta bar, freshly made pizzas from a dedicated pizza oven, grab-and-go salads and sandwiches, pastries and custom espresso drinks.

Tony Clifford, Cascade’s supervisor of food service operations, said the kitchen’s new equipment will allow it to expand the menu even further as campus enrollment grows. The kitchen’s catering services are also more efficient now that the staff is just an elevator ride away from the Student Union’s large event spaces. Event guests have the convenience of the building’s new underground parking garage.

“It’s a fabulous facility,” he said. “I see lots of returning customers and that always makes me happy.”

PCC is investing nearly $58 million of bond money to add new buildings and make other improvements to the campus, which enrolls more than 23,500 students each year. The goal is to expand and upgrade, as well as encourage the vitality of the historic Killingsworth commercial district. The construction work is the result of the 2008 voter-approved $374 million bond measure to increase access through the addition of classrooms, updated equipment and technology.


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