New Campus: Aahs and Oohs, Not Cock-a-Doodle-Doos
Sunday, May 8, 2005
Roosters roamed the parking lot. The stench of mold hung over parts of the building. Water leaked through the roof into pots.
All in all, students and faculty at the College of Southern Maryland's Broomes Island campus weren't terribly proud of their physical surroundings.
"I wouldn't take my friends to visit my campus," said Shannon Merski, 32, of Huntingtown, who has studied at the site off and on for nine years. "It didn't feel like a college. It felt deplorable."
But not anymore. Later this month, the classes, faculty offices and other operations will move to a new $18.5 million building on Williams Road west of Prince Frederick.
On a blustery Friday afternoon, more than 150 people gathered in a blue-and-white tent to dedicate the 75-acre campus and its 56,000-square-foot flagship building. The striking red brick building with soaring windows and silver accents has 15 classrooms, six computer labs and wireless Internet access.
"We've gone from hell to heaven," said Victoria Clements, a professor of English and communications.
The state-of-the-art facility represents a dramatic transformation for a program that started in 1980 offering evening classes at Calvert High School. Eventually the school, then known as the Community College at Calvert County, moved into trailers at Broomes Island.
The turning point came in 2000, when the school merged with the community colleges in Charles and St. Mary's counties to become the College of Southern Maryland. The new entity's larger size helped it more successfully lobby for state funds.
Jessie Chab, 17, a junior at Huntingtown High School, was one of several prospective students milling about the new campus last week. She said the new building makes the two-year college a more attractive choice.
"This is definitely a lot more appealing than the other campus. It's a lot nicer, and it's new," said her mother, Cindy. "The other one looked like a bunch of trailers."
College officials said enrollment already has soared in anticipation of the new campus. Almost 1,400 students are taking classes for credit at the Prince Frederick campus this spring, according to the college. That's an increase of 6.8 percent over last spring and almost 28 percent more than four years ago.
Teachers seemed almost giddy as they adjusted to the new space. Michele LaCroix, a professor of English and communications, twirled around in her ergonomically designed chair as she basked in the light streaming in from the windows of her corner office.
"Look at this place!" she gushed to colleagues. "Can you believe we're going to work here?
Of course there were some complaints already. Clements said the parking lot isn't big enough and noted that the faculty lounge could be roomier. But the biggest gripe?
"We're going to miss the roosters," said Sketkh Lynch, 20, of Lusby. "I'm hoping we can maybe bring one here as a mascot."
The college is making plans to expand its physical plant. On Tuesday, the Calvert County commissioners announced they would partner with the college to build a $9.1 million indoor aquatic and fitness center. The campus can accommodate four additional buildings.
"The concrete should never set at CSM," said Elaine Ryan, the college's president.
For many in Calvert County, the new site is an affirmation of a higher education program that has been quietly nurtured for a quarter-century in this once rural community.
"We always knew that we were good," said Charlene Cole Newkirk, dean of the Prince Frederick campus. "Now we look like we're good, too."