2015 in review: Something exciting is starting here

ACC_FA15_Year-in-Review_HPbanner2015 might be considered a year of transition for Austin Community College, as several of the year’s activities set the stage for great things to come. Following are some of the highlights.

Special events

Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. Under Secretary of Education Dr. Ted Mitchell toured the Highland Campus ACCelerator in March. Biden later praised ACC’s math initiatives in a national speech promoting President Barack Obama’s free community college proposal.

Biden/Mitchell Roundtable

Second lady Jill Biden shared her passion for community colleges during a visit to the ACCelerator.

While fall 2014 commencement obviously wasn’t in 2015, the address delivered by Victor Hwang was talked about well into this year. The website GraduationWisdom.com identified Hwang’s commencement speech as one of 2014’s best, making ACC the first community college to be included on a list of speeches spanning 40 years.

November 18 was proclaimed “ACC Riverbat Day” in the City of Austin as the college and community marked the fifth birthday of ACC’s beloved mascot, RB. Students, faculty, and staff dressed in Riverbat purple while RB motored around the city to celebrate ACC and higher education. See video and photos from the day.

More accolades for the ACCelerator

In December ACC was selected as a finalist for a 2016 Bellwether award for the courses and support offered in the Highland Campus ACCelerator.  The prestigious award recognizes innovation in community college programs and practices.

Helping students jump-start their college career

ECHS Grads

The first Early College High School grads show their Riverbat spirit.

In spring ACC celebrated the first high school students to graduate with a high school diploma and an ACC associate degree. Thirteen students from Austin’s John H. Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson high schools earned the privilege to walk the stage with fellow ACC grads at the Erwin Center.

Meanwhile, ACC is helping more high school students earn college credit and become workforce-ready through new dual-credit opportunities. ACC expanded its Early College High School programs to seven schools (an eighth is planned) in the fall and added an option for independent/homeschooled students. ACC also launched the first of several planned career academies with an IT Academy enrolling Austin and Del Valle ISD students.


Advisors at the College Destination Center provide one-on-one assistance to students and families.

In June ACC opened the College Destination Center @ACC at Highland Business Center and in August held the first Destination ACC: Saturday open houses to allow students to apply and register for classes in one stop. ACC also expanded its popular ACC 1-on-1 program offering prospective or current students individual help from an ACC advisor by phone, email, or in person at the HBC center.

Also in August, ACC and several community businesses and organizations announced the Direct-to-College Achievement Plan. The groups want 70 percent of area seniors to enroll in college right after high school.

A Manor ISD partnership that launched in this fall allows high school students to take ACC Continuing Education courses in electronics, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology, mechatronics, and PC technician. Students can convert CE units to college credit upon completing appropriate certification.

Bond projects get underway


A community member purchased the Santa chair once used at Highland Mall.

The college went to work on the multiple capital improvement projects approved in 2014’s $386 million bond referendum. In April ACC and the Austin community bid a bittersweet farewell to Highland Mall, which closed so crews could begin preparing the structure for phase II of the Highland Campus. A sale of mall remnants generated more than $25,000 for the college.

Meanwhile, the existing Highland Campus continued to rack up local, state, and national awards including LEED Gold certification for sustainable building design.

In addition to hiring architect and construction teams, the college in November moved forward with the land-banking portion of the referendum by purchasing 124 acres in southeast Travis County for a future career-technical training center.

Preparing for a new era

The 24 faculty, staff, and student members of the Futures Institute began work on proposals to restructure college programs and services into guided pathways. In spring 2016 they will work with the college community to convert their recommendations into a strategic, measurable plan that will begin implementation in fall 2016.

In February, the state of Texas awarded ACC $4.9 million to develop a biotechnology research lab, known as a wet lab. The Advanced Commercialization ACCelerator, scheduled to open in late 2016 at Highland Campus, will provide much-needed resources for Central Texas’ growing biomedical industry and internship opportunities for students.

ACC-EPIC Check Presentation

A $1.7 million Texas Workforce Commission grant will enable ACC to help hundreds of EPIC Piping workers upgrade their skills.

This fall the U.S. Department of Education awarded ACC $1.7 million to develop financial literacy programs for students through a new Office of Student Money Management. The grant is one of several the college received that will provide opportunities for students and develop the local workforce.

ACC shows its giving spirit

Without a doubt, ACC is a caring community. Throughout the year, students and employees gave their energy and resources to help those in need. Following are some of this year’s charitable initiatives:

  • More than 150 participants braved inclement weather to support the first annual Fairway 5K, which raised more than $3,000 for student scholarships.
  • The Enrollment Management Office delivered four truckloads of donated supplies for San Marcos-area flood victims, while ACC’s Association of Professional and Technical Employees collected 684 pounds of items to replenish Hays County Food Bank shelves.
  • ACC Foundation’s annual Golf Scramble raised more than $30,000 for the Student Emergency Fund.
  • Donations to the State Employee Charitable Campaign in October surpassed $59,000.
  • Students, faculty, and staff spent two days in November helping agencies that assist the homeless through the first Operation Riverbats.


    Thanks to the ACC community, more than 9,900 books will be given to area children.

  • The annual book drive benefiting the Travis County Sheriff’s Department Brown Santa program collected 9,914 books for children from low-income homes, double the number collected in 2014.
  • The ACC student chapter of the American Society for Engineering Education collected donations for   Capital Area Food Bank. Last year’s holiday food drive provided approximately 3,500 meals.

Library leader in the spotlight

Dean of Library Services Dr. Julie Todaro in May became the first community college librarian to be elected president of the American Library Association. She assumes the duties in summer 2016.



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