As Howard Community College’s fall semester begins this week, students will have access to new classrooms, research labs and a baking kitchen to further their academic careers in two completely renovated buildings on campus.

Academic Commons and Howard Hall were built in existing buildings that were completely gutted during the renovation project, according to Laura Cripps, dean of social sciences.

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In the center of Academic Commons is the Burrill Galleria, a large, open space for student events and community activities.

“The galleria is going to be a hub for student relaxation and studies,” Cripps said.

Academic Commons features a restaurant-size kitchen, a baking kitchen, an anthropology undergraduate research lab, a mock trial room, and early childhood education and teacher labs.

Within Academic Commons is the Nicholas B. and Mary C. Mangione/Turf Valley Resort Hospitality and Culinary Suite; the kitchens serve a student-operated restaurant and additional classrooms for culinary and baking classes.

Timothy Banks, the department chairman for the Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies, said he wants it “to feel like a brand-new program.”

The restaurant was transformed from a traditional classroom, which now features a coffee bar, pastries and candy case, indoor and outdoor seating, and open windows to see into the kitchen.

In time, the student-operated restaurant will open to serve staff members, students and community members. For now, the restaurant will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays by invitation.

The baking kitchen has 12 stations that fit three students in each, complete with a small refrigerator, a mixer, a convection burner, cookware and more. Each station also gets a large mixer and a deck oven.

The new facility and equipment will allow for students to be taught on the same machinery they would see in a large hotel or large bakery, said Dave Millburn, baking and pastry coordinator.

The anthropology research lab has local materials found on previous excavations, and in the mock trial room there will be furniture to resemble a courtroom, including settings for the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The renovation projects cost nearly $43.4 million in total, according to the college, and were paid for through county and state funding.

The projects were completed by architecture firm Marshall Craft Associates, engineering firm Leach Wallace and construction manager J. Vinton Schaffer.

Howard Hall houses the Nicholas B. and Mary C. Mangione/Lorien Health Systems Simulation Suite, where students take courses to become certified nursing assistants or who are studying advanced patient care skills. The Clare E. McHugh Honors Commons and offices bring all the college’s honor programs together, and the Silas Craft Collegians, an academic leadership community, also is in the hall.

The McHugh Honors Common opened last fall and students use the suite around the clock to do homework, work on class projects or just hang out with friends. Any student, regardless of if they are in an honors program or not, are able to use the commons from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and honors students have after-hours access.

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The college held a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the completion of the two buildings on Aug. 19. While Howard Hall opened in spring 2018, Academics Commons was completed in July.

In attendance were Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a Columbia resident and a former adjunct faculty member at HCC; County Executive Calvin Ball; Howard Councilwoman Liz Walsh; and other state and local elected officials.

Kathleen Hetherington, HCC president, said during the ceremony that students of a variety of majors “will find their academic home” in the new buildings.

“What makes this project stand out is that these buildings will serve so many of our students, from those aspiring to careers in the culinary, pastry arts, and hospitality fields and who cannot wait to own their own restaurant, open an event planning business, or serve as a concierge," Hetherington said, “to students who dream of going on an ancient archeological dig, or perhaps joining the Howard County Police Department, teaching children in Howard County’s elementary schools, or serving as a counselor to families in crisis.”

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