New Northeast Lakeview College STEM Facility Prepares Students for High-Demand Careers

New Northeast Lakeview College STEM Facility Prepares Students for High-Demand Careers

Located in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state, Northeast Lakeview College (NLC), in Universal City, TX, is one of five Alamo Colleges and was born out of need to serve a region that was welcoming a high volume of new residents and businesses. 

About six years ago, Alamo Community College District completed an environmental scan to determine the region’s current growth trends and identify what types of jobs were going to be in demand. As a result of the growing STEM field and the need for skilled workers in these areas, NLC recently built a new 80,000-square-foot college STEM education facility called Paluxy Hall. This was the first significant campus expansion since NLC—which is situated on 267 acres—opened its doors.

Investing in a College STEM Facility

Knowing that both engineers and STEM graduates as a whole are in high demand, Alamo Colleges signed an agreement with Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academy. Today, NLC is the lead college for and home to this engineering program that’s available to students across all five of the Alamo Colleges

“We knew that the facility that initially housed our engineering program wasn’t going to support the growth we were seeing in that program,” said William Fanning, Dean for Academic Success. “We needed to be able to accommodate that program along with nursing—a sector that’s experiencing a severe shortage right now,” Fanning explained. To help fill those gaps, NLC included a dedicated space in the new building to accommodate engineering program expansion and partnered with one of its sister colleges and began offering a nursing program in Paluxy Hall.  

Additionally, Cybersecurity has become a newer focus for students in STEM and is NLC’s fastest-growing program.

Northeast Lakeview College Makerspace
Northeast Lakeview College Makerspace

Getting Partners Onboard

To help design and outfit its new 80,000-square-foot facility, NLC called on space planning and design firm Alfred Williams & Co., which referred the college to MiEN to select and install made-to-move school furniture that would enhance the expansive new STEM learning space. 

The facility includes chemistry, geology, and physics labs, each of which is equipped with the newest equipment and technology. There are numerous computer labs, a large theatre-style classroom, multi-purpose event space, student collaborative and individual studying areas, and various sustainable features (e.g., solar panels and energy-efficient lighting). The building is LEED-certified and meets high standards for environmental performance. 

Some of the team’s top “must-haves” for their new facility included vibrant colors; one- and two-person pods that could be strategically placed for students needing some quiet time and with the ability to meet the needs of diverse student learning styles. An overall “industrial” look and feel was added to the mix to make the space very modern and engaging. The new facility would also have a blend of indoor and outdoor space. 

Students played an important role in the furniture selection process for Paluxy Hall. Using QR codes installed on the various pieces, students got to try out the furniture and then vote on whether they liked them or not. “The student feedback we received influenced quite a few of our furniture purchases for this building,” said NLC President Dr. Veronica Garcia.

The new facility also included a retreat space for faculty members, bulletin boards to support collaborative writing spaces and tutoring areas. Increasing flexibility and to enhance the learning experience, the building provides furniture that can easily move multiple tables together or allows students to huddle up at a single table to do their work. 

In keeping its students’ lifestyles and personal needs in mind, Paluxy Hall includes a lactation room to provide a quiet and dedicated space for nursing moms. “One of my favorite spaces,” said Ana Fasone, Project Manager, “we put a lot of time into making sure that it was a welcoming, warm, and cozy-feeling room.“

What’s Next?

Looking ahead, the team at NLC is looking forward to completing its new Veteran’s Center, a stand-alone building dedicated to providing services to active and retired military and their families will provide a “one-stop” location offering a convenient central place for them to have direct access to academic and non-academic services. The college just wrapped up the design phase and is currently negotiating the construction contract. 

“Funded by state appropriations, The Veterans Center will be our next building that will come up and we hope to start construction soon,” said Garcia. “Then, we’ll start the furniture-buying process for that new facility.”   

In fact, Garcia said the team already has some ideas about the furniture it wants in the Veteran’s Center. Some of the furniture selections will mirror the pieces already being used in Paluxy Hall. The new center will also include a mix of indoor and outdoor space, where visitors can enjoy an engaging and comfortable experience. 

“We need some covered spaces with outdoor furniture where everyone can just hang out and enjoy the outdoors, even during the hot Texas summer,” Garcia added.

Northeast Lakeview College Makerspace
Northeast Lakeview College Makerspace

Bringing Dreams to Fruition

Reflecting on Paluxy Hall’s design and construction phases, Fanning recalls meeting with the school’s project partners at least every other week. “When we were heavy into the identification process of picking all the furniture, we met even more regularly,” he said. That collaborative environment helped enhance the overall project’s success and keep everything on track in terms of timelines and expectations. 

“Working in collaboration and gathering feedback from everyone ensures that you’re never working in a vacuum, and that’s important on expansive projects like this one,” said Fanning. “The process extended over several years from start to finish, and getting to see the fruits of our labors now is really a joy.”