In time for the fall semester, Howard Community College (HCC) celebrated the reopening of its newly renovated Academic Commons and Howard Hall with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 19.

At approximately 107,204 square feet, the two buildings now feature modern classrooms, innovative laboratories, and learning spaces specifically designed with collaboration in mind.

“What makes this project stand out is that these buildings will serve so many of our students … who cannot wait to start opening their own restaurants and event planning businesses, to those who dream of [working on] an ancient archaeological dig, or joining the Howard County Police Department, teaching children in Howard County’s elementary schools, or serving as a counselor to families in crisis,” said Kate Hetherington, HCC president. “All of these students will find their academic home here … [as well as] a vibrant student life and academic support and enrichment.”

The features of the Academic Commons include instructional support spaces for the social sciences and teacher education areas, including an anthropology undergraduate research lab, early childhood education and teacher labs, and a mock trial room for criminal justice courses.

The Nicholas B. and Mary C. Mangione/Turf Valley Resort Hospitality and Culinary Suite not only features state-of-the-art kitchen equipment, but also provides a production kitchen that will provide students with the opportunity to cook and learn hospitality skills in a future student-operated restaurant.

Structured Support

At the Nicholas B. and Mary C. Mangione/Lorien Health Systems Simulation Suite in Howard Hall, continuing education students training to become certified nursing assistants or seeking advanced patient care skills can do so in a dedicated space with modern beds, equipment and training dummies.

Additionally, Howard Hall includes the Clare E. McHugh Honors Commons that brings together all the college’s honors programs in one location and provides space for Howard P.R.I.D.E. and Silas Craft Collegians.

“We’re an academic support and mentor program for minority men of color … but we are inclusive to everybody,” said Terrell Bratcher, coordinator of the Howard P.R.I.D.E. program. “We pay particular attention to developmental math, college level math and the sciences, and plan on using this space for students to get away from the lab area and have their own space to work, study or have one-on-one interaction.”

Silas Craft Collegians assists member students looking to improve or maximize their academic potential through personal coaching and academic support, said Jarrell Anderson, the program’s director, serving approximately 75 students each year in three different cohorts.

The Academic Commons, meanwhile, feature two specialized early childhood and elementary education classrooms equipped with the same smart technology that teachers are expected to use in the Howard County Public School System.

“These were all fairly dated spaces before,” said Laura Cripps, a professor of Anthropology who oversees HCC’s Anthropology Undergraduate Research Lab where students frequently assist the Maryland Historical Society with excavations and surveys and conduct archaeological research.

Real World Classroom

HCC’s culinary and hospitality programming gets a major boost from a uniquely designed teaching environment that will also benefit people outside the program.

“In our A la Carte Production program, culinary students will learn the functions of a restaurant kitchen while we’re running a dining room class for hospitality students in the front of the house at the same time,” explained David Milburn, coordinator of HCC’s Baking and Pastry Program. “I can teach you how to make a hamburger, but it’s a thoroughly different world when you’ve got tickets coming in fast.”

The student-run operation will eventually provide a sit-down, waitered lunch option for faculty, other students and special college guests several days a week, delivering real-world experience to students while they learn.

Nearby, HCC’s new specialized Baking Kitchen is the result of five years of planning and consultations with designers and architects. Forward-thinking amenities include go-pro cameras inside large demonstration mixers to provide good widescreen views to everybody attending a lecture and four streamlined workstations providing three-person teams with dedicated pots, pans, appliances and utensils to minimize unnecessary trips across a busy teaching kitchen.

Students will have access to some of the most modern commercial equipment on the market in all areas of the kitchen.

The baking program’s unpaid support staff includes 120,000 honeybees occupying four hives on campus, which are expected to yield about 30 pounds of honey this year. According to Milburn, any leftover honey would be donated to a food pantry, with some of it being sold to help fund culinary student scholarships.


“As a former instructor here … I have seen first-hand how the programs at HCC impact the lives of its students and uplift all of Howard County for our residents,” said Boyd Rutherford, Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor, who was on hand for the ceremony. “[They] give our residents the skills to be successful in our 21st century economy and contribute to a vibrant community.”

The Academic Commons and Howard Hall project began in fiscal year 2015, with Howard County and the state of Maryland sharing the $43.4 million cost of renovation.

“It’s a testament to how community colleges are changing and evolving with the times,” noted Clarence Lam, Maryland State Senator for District 12, adding that enrollment has skyrocketed since the recession. “We’re up to almost 30,000 current students … and are looking at about 40,000 students by 2030. With the rough economic waters we’re seeing, enrollment may continue to increase.”

Moreover, he said, a growing number of older workers are interested in retooling their skills or are looking to HCC for additional programming or hobbies.

“It is clear that we are not celebrating just the physical building of these structures,” said Liz Walsh, Howard County’s District 1 Councilwoman. “We’re celebrating building our future and the next generation of scholars.”