Attendees of Cochise College’s 54th commencement in May were among the last to see the Douglas Campus Student Union in all of its shabby chic glory. The college this summer is modernizing the union and the art program facilities to create more inspiring learning and living space for students.

Gone from the Student Union, first built in the 1960s and remodeled a few times since, is the track mounted accordion curtain that legions of employees and students have struggled to open and close when attending functions in a cordoned-off space in the cafeteria. Also gone are the disco balls, the decade of origin you can probably guess, though they’ve been used occasionally at various functions in recent years.

Hopefully, the environment that will be in place when students arrive for the fall semester will help them and alumni to overlook the loss of the vintage digs in which memories were made. Renovation of the Que Pas snack bar constituted Phase 1 of the complex Student Union remodel. The Que Pas no longer serves food but still is a student hangout, with tables for dining or study, billiards and ping pong tables, and access to the porch to be modernized in the future. Further into the building will be a convenience store where students can pick up snacks, toiletries and other small items, and a community room/classroom that can seat up to 80-100 people. The flow of the serving and payment area will change somewhat, and there will be new kitchen and serving equipment (and the return of a soft-serve ice cream machine!). The kitchen floor is now coated in slip-resistant Granite Grip. The dining area includes storage for tables and chairs that used to be stacked in a corner, and it will have new paint, carpet, window coverings and LED lights. The restrooms have been remodeled. Under the floors and behind the walls are new pipes and wiring. I’m pleased to report that the distinctive brick arches in the Que Pas and the two nearby fireplaces with their shiny copper hoods remain.

Though the Student Union space most recently used as an art gallery is smaller, the college has made new investments in the art instruction areas in the 1900 Building, previously a metal butler building that was still occupied though it long ago reached the end of its useful life, and the 2200 Building, which opened about 10 years ago to welding, arts and agriculture.

The north side of the 1900 Building, which some might remember as an agriculture classroom, is being demolished. The south side, most recently used as a somewhat meandering indoor/outdoor art learning space, is being reroofed and converted into an airy 3,000-square-foot outdoor kiln area that will include three electric and two gas kilns. Students will have easy access to new art classrooms just steps away in the 2200 building. An outdoor fabrication area was enclosed to create a 2D art classroom for 24, a clay room, a glaze room and two additional art classrooms with plenty of storage space. The ceramics classrooms are intended to help mitigate dust that can impact a student’s final product. The space incorporates an open design and plenty of natural light, and an outdoor area that has been prone to flooding is being regraded.

We are fortunate to have a very dedicated and knowledgeable facilities, maintenance and custodial staff to help with these projects. I can’t name them all but want to extend sincere thanks to every employee, contractor and inmate laborer who is going above and beyond to turn these projects into reality, as well as to those who will accommodate student needs until the projects are complete. You are proud of this institution and it shows.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

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