"Sugar Land is one of the fastest-growing areas in the entire country so we're delighted to be able to provide this important facility to support the community's ambitious educational objectives," said Renu Khator, chancellor of the UH System and UH president.
She joined a number of area dignitaries attending the dedication ceremony, including Sugar Land Mayor James Thompson; Sugar Land City Manager Alan Bogard; Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert; County Commissioner James Patterson; Rosenberg Mayor Joe Gurecky; FBISD Superintendent Timothy Jenney; Gene Reed, chairman of the George Foundation Board of Trustees; and the entire Sugar Land City Council. Representatives from the UH System included Board of Regents Chairman Welcome W. Wilson Sr., Regent Carroll Robertson Ray and UH-Victoria President Tim Hudson. Wharton County Junior College President Betty McCrohan and Chairman of the WCJC Board of Trustees Danny Gertson were also in attendance.
The 45,000-square-foot building, which will be known as Brazos Hall, will be shared by both UHSSL and Wharton County Junior College (WCJC). It includes 44 classrooms, including five computer labs, along with nine science labs, 73 faculty offices, an exercise facility, bookstore and the WCJC enrollment services office. A School of Nursing suite will be shared by both institutions. The new construction also features a two-level, 150-seat auditorium and large multi-purpose room.
All told, the new classrooms will provide seating for approximately 2,500 additional students.
"Brazos Hall will allow Fort Bend-area students to fulfill virtually all their lower- and upper-level educational needs at a single campus should they wish to," Khator said.
"This building is an admirable example of successfully embracing the collaborative spirit in higher education," said Betty McCrohan, WCJC president.
Construction was paid for, in part, by a "Building Futures Together" community fundraising campaign, which included a $4 million gift from the George Foundation and a $3.5 million contribution from the City of Sugar Land as a longterm lease agreement for nearby UHSSL property.
"We firmly believe that providing an opportunity for students to earn college degrees without having to leave Fort Bend County is a great way to invest in the future of this community," said Reed,chairman of the George Foundation Board of Trustees.
UHSSL is a teaching center that offers junior, senior and graduate courses leading to more than 30 bachelor's and master's degrees from the four UH System universities. UHSSL offers multiple methods of instruction including face-to-face, instructional television, online, broadcast TV and videotape purchase.
"The physical expansion of the campus provides symbolic representation of academic program expansion taking place on the UHSSL campus, said Richard "Dick" Phillips, associate vice chancellor who oversees operations at both UHSSL and the UH System at Cinco Ranch. "WCJC's presence enhances the nearly seamless transition students can make to UHSSL. High quality programs, without the commute, at a savings - that's hard to beat."
The UH System at Sugar Land teaching center was created in 1995. Two years later, legislators transferred 248 acres of Texas Department of Transportation land to provide a permanent site for the educational facility. In 2002, UH System at Sugar Land moved into the Albert and Mamie George Building, made possible through the vision and generosity of the City of Sugar Land, the George Foundation, the Texas Department of Transportation and many corporate and individual donors.
That building will continue to serve as an instructional site and as the administrative headquarters for UHSSL.
Fort Bend County has plans to build a library on the UHSSL campus. The proposed library will include an additional 5,000 square feet to meet the needs of UHSSL and Wharton County Junior College students, in addition to serving the community.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON SYSTEM
The University of Houston System is the state's only metropolitan higher education system, encompassing four universities and two multi-institution teaching centers that serve 59,000 students. The universities are the University of Houston, a nationally recognized doctoral degree-granting, comprehensive research university; the University of Houston-Downtown, a four-year undergraduate university beginning limited expansion into graduate programs; and the University of Houston-Clear Lake and the University of Houston-Victoria, both upper division and master's-level institutions. The centers are the UH System at Sugar Land in Fort Bend and the UH System at Cinco Ranch. In addition, the UH System includes KUHF-FM, Houston's National Public Radio and classical radio station, and KUHT-TV, the nation's first educational television station.
ABOUT WHARTON COUNTY JUNIOR COLLEGE
Wharton County Junior College, a public, two-year, comprehensive community college, enrolls about 11,500 students per year. The college offers a wide range of postsecondary educational programs, including an Associate of Arts degree, an Associate of Arts in Teaching degree, Associate of Applied Science degrees, certificate and certification programs, distance learning programs, continuing education programs, and workforce development programs. The college operates four campuses in Sugar Land, Richmond, Wharton and Bay City with extension centers in El Campo and Palacios.