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Cecil County Life

Cecil College builds into its future

Jan 08, 2015 06:13PM ● By Kerigan Butt

Cecil College president Dr. W. Stephen Pannill, center, stands with three faculty members who will be teaching in the college's new engineering and math building, expected to be completed next August. Standing, left to right, are Dr. Kristyanna Erickson, professor of mathematics; Gail Wyant, professor of physics, engineering and geosciences; and Anand Patel, assistant professor of engineering and physics.

As part of its 2009 ten-year Campus Master Plan, Cecil College reinforced its need to construct a new engineering and math building to support the college's proximity to some of the region's high-tech industries. The construction of that building, estimated at $23.4 million, is now under way, and is expected to be completed in August 2014. Cecil County Life recently sat down with Cecil College president Dr. W. Stephen Pannill and three faculty members – Dr. Kristyanna Erickson, professor of mathematics;  Anand Patel, assistant professor of engineering and physics; and Gail Wyant, professor of physics, engineering and geosciences – to get a glimpse of what this building means to the mission of the college.

Q: For each building constructed, there is a need that it must fill. What was the need that Cecil College saw for this building, and how will the construction of this building fill that need?

Pannill: The state is a funding partner of some consequence on this project. Before we could have a building, we had extensive documentation that looks at enrollment projection, to make sure that there is an existing need for space. When this project was conceived almost eight years ago, we had a demonstrated need because of our expansion in the academic area. This was to follow our growth path in the math and science area. We've always had a strong nursing program, but that turned about 10 years ago, and our strategic plan started to speak of math and science as a growth path for us, so as to prepare students for the jobs in Cecil County that are emerging. Ten years ago, there were a handful of engineering majors. Now there are more than 100. We wanted to create a bold sense of arrival, front and center, with math and engineering as our forefront to our campus.

Q: Take the readers of Cecil County Life into some of the initiatives and approaches to learning that are expected to go on inside of the building.

Patel:  It will not only have bigger and better classrooms, but also a machine shop for students to have access to. Right now, students have to go off campus, or at home, in order to work on a project. We will also have a technician who will run the machine shop.  

Erickson: Technology is one of our initiatives, and our goal is to have smartboards in all of our classrooms. The plus of that is that when adjuncts come from Cecil County public schools, they're already familiar with it. It's an amazing piece of equipment.

Wyant: The top floor will have an outside terrace, so not only will our engineering and math students be there, but the physics and geosciences students are also coming over. We're hoping to have telescope nights on the upper level for our students in astronomy and physical science. We're also looking to have telescope nights for the general public, so that we can have lectures.  We'll have a lecture and be able to take them outside. It's a LEED-certified building, so we'll have the ability to measure all of the energy uses that the building will be able to do.

Q: How does a building of this kind complement the mission and vision of the college

Pannill: A building of this kind speaks to the economic growth and direction that we see in Cecil County. As the pharmaceutical industry moves down from the north, and the biotech industry moves up from the south, and we complement the defense industry in this area, as well as our business partners, who all call for high-tech and engineering solutions, this building and its intentions make complete sense. We're excited to be a part of the economic story in the county as well in the educational area.

Q: What's next for the academic curriculum at Cecil College?

Pannill: We're very excited about the beginning of our physical therapy assistant program, which we feel will be very complementary to a growing list of health professions in the area. We just started a medical IT opportunity. We are launching a cyber security program. We're closely following where the jobs of the future are, as well as what people are passionate about. We've used the physical plant and additions to help build out our programs. We're very upbeat about our prospects.    

Erickson: The growth that Dr. Pannill speaks of  is not just in creating programs, but it's also seen in customizing the current programs that we have. For example, in math, we offer a calculus course that feeds engineering, business, biology, and a lot of other areas. With the new growth, our department has been able to say that we have more numbers in our calculus program, that we can look at having a more custom calculus class for engineers, as well as more custom calculus classes for students in the biology and social sciences. We're able, with the growth, to get a little more focused on an individual student's degree, and we're excited about that.

Patel: Engineering students talk about how they use engineering applications in their calculus courses. It's helpful for our students to have focus on their majors when they take other courses.

Wyant: We also have an engineering software certificate program, with our eye towards the workforce. We have it at our current building, but we're hoping it will grow more in our new building.

– Richard L. Gaw

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