New Buildings Unveiled at Cypress College Grand Opening Event
by Anastasia Thrift on October 19, 2021
Cypress College today held a grand opening for the two newest buildings on campus: the Veteran's Resource Center (VRC) and Science, Engineering, and Math building (SEM). Government representatives, donors, alumni, faculty, and staff were in attendance for speeches, tours, and ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the first two projects funded by Measure J, a $574 million bond written to fund the renovation and building of facilities at Cypress College, Fullerton College, and North Orange Continuing Education.
In front of the VRC, with flags of the armed forces and the American flag in the background, Cypress College President JoAnna Schilling, PhD., opened the event by introducing the Color Guard presentation by the RSS Anaheim Marines. She acknowledged the attendance of notable community and government members including: Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva; Scott Do of Senator Josh Newman's office representing California's 29th senate district; Manuel Chavez of Supervisor Katrina Foley's office; City of Cypress Mayor Jon Peat; and from the North Orange County Community College Board of Trustees president Barbara Dunsheath, Vice President Jacqueline Rodarte, and members Jeffrey Brown, Stephen Blount, and Ryan Bent.
After hearing from Dunsheath and Cypress College Foundation Executive Director Howard Kummerman, two former students – one each from the SEM and VRC programs – spoke about their experience at Cypress and what the new buildings mean to them.
Automotive Technology, Physics, and Math major Junnior Rodriguez, who graduated with honors in 2017, and is now an automotive project engineer in Bowling Green, Kentucky, spoke first. Dr. Schilling introduced him and said he was nicknamed the "SEM Savior" by former president Bob Simpson after giving a pivotal speech to the Board of Trustees in support of the new SEM building before its construction. Today he thanked everyone who made the SEM building a reality.
"You're the promoters of progress, the advocates for change," Rodriguez said to the crowd of about 250 people. He remarked that when SEM students now study, they'll have a beautiful place to do it, and discussed some of the building's features. "We all made this happen."
Representing the VRC program, Stevan Vargas spoke next. Vargas is a Marine Corps veteran, who started at Cypress in 2015, ultimately graduating with a degree in math and science and going on to Cal State Long Beach, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 2020. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after his two tours in Afghanistan, he remarked that Veteran Coordinator Juan Garcia, PhD., helped him deal with struggles he felt at school, as did the Veteran's Club, where Vargas was elected president.
"The high point of my time at Cypress was definitely working on this new Veteran's Resource Center project that we're standing in front of right now," Vargas said. "At times, it was a bit overwhelming for me but my heart told me to keep pushing, if not for me, for the future dreams of our veterans."
The VRC will support veterans through their transition from active military duty to civilian life. It was designed to meet the needs of veterans, such as a secluded back patio, private counseling rooms, curved front exterior to reflect a return to being civilians, and the Memorial Bridge area to showcase the flags of the armed services. It contains new computers and technology equipment as well.
Some new features of the SEM building include lab rooms designed to be accessible, conducive to collaboration, and containing updated equipment; additional math rooms, allowing for new courses; a new aquarium room and greenhouse for biology; and an immersive digital classroom with a 40-foot tipped dome screen for astronomy classes and other presentations.