A great year for Riverbats: 2014 in review

With new campuses, new programs, and the promise of more to come, 2014 was a remarkable year for the Austin Community College District. Read about some of the year’s notable events.

ACC 2014 Year in Review

Voters approve bonds

ACC voters in November approved two bond propositions to fund $386 million in construction and renovation projects. Bond revenue will fund, among other things, ACC Highland Phase II, Rio Grande Campus renovations, a Leander campus, a future workforce center site, and training facilities at Hays and Elgin campuses.

While the bond propositions passed by a significant margin, a proposed increase to the college’s maintenance and operations tax rate was narrowly defeated.

New trustees elected

Voters elected two members to the Board of Trustees and will decide a third in a December 16 runoff election. For Place 1, voters elected Mark Williams. Place 3 incumbent Nan McRaven was re-elected for a third term; the public affairs consultant ran unopposed. The Place 2 runoff candidates are Jade Chang Sheppard and Gigi Edwards Bryant.

‘Something Exciting’ starts at Highland

ACC alum Dr. Sean Roden speaks with students at the Highland Campus social staircase.

About 1,200 people gathered for a spirited grand opening of ACC’s Highland Campus August 27. State and local leaders joined the community to dedicate the new campus at ACC Highland—an innovative repurposing of the former Highland Mall. Guests included ACC alumnus Dr. Sean Roden, a former NASA flight surgeon and expeditionary physician at the South Pole.

Rackspace promises student opportunities

ACC Highland will house a new public-private partnership between ACC and Rackspace Hosting, a cloud computing company. ACC trustees in September authorized plans to renovate and lease a portion of the mall to Rackspace. The partnership is expected to bring paid internships for students and other benefits, while providing Rackspace a convenient location and access to the college. The company plans to relocate about 570 employees to Highland in late 2015.

ACCelerator generates math success

Andy Kim, Mike Midgley, and Vic Villarreal joined U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the ACCelerator.

Highland Campus also is home to the ACCelerator, the nation’s largest college computer lab, with 600+ stations. The ACCelerator supports Developmental Mathematics (MATD 0421), an innovative class in which students progress at a pace suited to their abilities. Initial results of the new class are promising: In some instances, students accomplished in a few weeks what previously may have taken a full semester.

The ACCelerator also has drawn high-profile visitors, such as the U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Hays Campus opens

In January the college celebrated the opening of the Hays Campus and by fall, enrollment already was near capacity with almost 1,700 students. The campus offers core curriculum courses and career training in business, computer networking/security, and child development.

Proposed RN-to-BSN

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is seeking authority to allow community colleges to offer select bachelor’s degree programs, including nursing. If approved, ACC tentatively plans to begin offering an RN-to-BSN program in 2017 for 25-40 students. The RN-to-BSN program would provide a local, in-class option for licensed RNs needing complete their bachelor’s degree coursework.

Boost for tomorrow’s nurses: Kinnser scholarships

Austin’s Kinnser Software in April donated $1 million to the ACC Foundation for nursing scholarships. The company initiated the Kinnser Scholars Program at ACC with a $225,000 gift in 2011. The additional donation will help cover tuition, fees, and program expenses for 400 nursing students through 2027.

Expanded facilities for veterans

The 4,000-square-foot Veterans Resource Center opened this fall at Highland Campus.

Members of the U.S. military joined the ACC community and others October 30 to celebrate the opening of ACC’s new Veterans Resource Center at ACC Highland. The 4,000-square-foot center builds on ACC’s existing services by providing a central, one-stop location for military and veteran students to get assistance and connect with others who have served.

Free IT training for vets

The Texas Workforce Commission in September awarded ACC $1.1 million to provide free training and job placement assistance for up to 460 qualified veterans. Offered through the college’s Continuing Education Division, the Veterans Training Program will train veterans in 14 high-demand information technology fields, including computer-user support, network administration, information security, and mobile application development.

Veterinary Tech Program launches

The college this fall launched the Veterinary Technology program, which combines classroom and hands-on clinical training to prepare students for an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology and to take state and national certification exams. The program is based at ACC’s Elgin Campus, but students can take prerequisite courses at any campus.

Number of graduates continues to rise

More than 1,500 students marked their graduation in the spring, and more than 950 are expected to graduate this fall. The number of ACC graduates has increased significantly in recent years.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited in June.

Students share ideas with Ed Secretary

ACC in June hosted U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for a roundtable discussion with students. The group shared ideas for helping young men of color reach their full potential. The roundtable was part of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

More early college high schools

The college expanded the Early College High School Program in August with partnerships in Elgin, Bastrop, and Manor. ECHS students take high school and college courses concurrently, allowing them to potentially earn an associate degree or certificate before they graduate high school.

$2.75 million grant funds CE training

The Continuing Education Department received a two-part grant that will help train hundreds for in-demand jobs.

Workers at three Central Texas technology companies—Samsung, TNT Solutions, and Voltabox of Texas—will receive specialized training from ACC thanks to a $2.75 million grant from the Texas Workforce Commission. The training will help workers upgrade their skills or prepare for new, in-demand jobs.

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