New Construction

Our New STEM Facility Changes the Game for Students

By Dr. Veronica Garcia and William Fanning

After several years of planning, design, and construction, we proudly opened the doors to Paluxy Hall at Northeast Lakeview College in August 2022. Situated on our 267-acre campus, the 80,000-square-foot facility provides students with the resources and support that they need to achieve success in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) fields.

Northeast Lakeview College STEM Facility
Photo courtesy of MiEN

Our new 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 and several areas that combine living and learning spaces for students to study and collaborate. Paluxy Hall also includes various sustainable features (e.g., solar panels and energy-efficient lighting). The building is LEED-certified and meets high standards for environmental performance.

6 Steps to a Brand New STEM Facility
Of course, getting such a monumental project from concept to completion takes the hard work and dedication of a large number of people, donors, and service providers. Our own team played a key role in the process, but we also relied on a network of outside partners to make our dream a reality. The following are six steps that we took to enhance completion results and help us get the facility we wanted.

Northeast Lakeview College STEM Facility
Photo courtesy of MiEN

  1. Start the planning process early. About six years ago, the Alamo Community College District (of which our school is one of five institutions) completed an environmental scan to determine the region’s current growth trends and identify what types of jobs were going to be in demand. This helped us understand where the needs were and guided us down the path of building a state-of-the-art facility for our students, faculty, and staff to better serve our community
  2. Partner with area schools and/or businesses. Knowing that both engineers and STEM graduates as a whole are in high demand, we signed an agreement with Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academy. NLC is home to this engineering program that’s available to students across all five colleges. It started out with just 24 students and has since grown to about 80 students.
  3. Think beyond just one program at a time. When we started this new construction project, we knew that the building that currently housed our engineering program wasn’t going to sustain the growth we were seeing, so as we planned the new facility, we began with a dedicated space to accommodate engineering program expansion.  However, thinking beyond engineering, this was our opportunity to forecast up and coming job fields and understand the needs of other high-demand fields. Cybersecurity, for example, has become a newer focus for students in STEM and is NLC’s fastest-growing program. We also incorporated nursing, a sector that’s experiencing a severe shortage right now. To help fill those gaps, we partnered with one of our sister colleges and began offering a nursing program in Paluxy Hall.
  4. Add spaces that fit student and faculty lifestyles. The new facility also included a retreat space for faculty members and student “sticky spaces” for group study and collaboration as well as pod-like areas for quiet study. Paluxy Hall includes a lactation room to provide a quiet and dedicated space for nursing moms. One of our favorite spaces, we put a lot of time into making sure that it was a welcoming, warm, and cozy-feeling room.
  5. Don’t work in a vacuum. To help design and outfit our new 80,000-square-foot facility, we called on space planning and design firm Alfred Williams & Co., which in turn referred the college to MiEN to select and install made-to-move school furniture that would enhance the expansive new space. The group met regularly and consistently to ensure we were working in collaboration and gathering feedback from all partners to make sure all needs and concerns were addressed throughout the process.
  6. Utilize the impact of the student voice. Our 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 furniture samples and then vote on which ones they liked best. This student feedback, influenced our furniture purchasing decisions

Northeast Lakeview College STEM Facility
Photo courtesy of MiEN

Bracing for Success

Today, Paluxy Hall serves as a valuable resource for NLC students who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM and related fields. This modern, inviting space gives students, faculty, and staff the space, resources and support they need to be able to prepare for and succeed in high-demand careers.

Dr. Veronica Garcia is President and William Fanning is Dean for Academic Success at Northeast Lakeview College in Universal City, Texas.