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Faculty Spotlight: Merritt College’s Jason Seals

13 April 2017

Jason I Class photoAs coordinator of this year’s Black History Month activities, Jason Seals drew speakers from the Oakland community where he grew up. Many of the authors, teachers, leaders, activists, and artists who spoke to the Merritt community had either mentored him or helped shape his future in some way.

Jason credits their influence with who he is today: a newly tenured faculty member, instructor, and chair of African-American Studies Program at Merritt College. As he talks about the decisions he made early on, he knows that his life could have turned out very differently if it hadn’t been for the people who had influenced him the most—starting with the one living right there in his home growing up.

“My mother was a single parent raising me in Oakland when it was the murder capital of the world,” he says. “Most of my friends were getting into trouble and I could have walked left or walked right. But my mother always wanted me to go to college and always told me to be the best I could be, and I never forgot that. It was because of her that I went in the right direction.”

While at San Jose State University studying sociology, he got connected with Leadership Excellence, a nonprofit organization committed to empowering African-American youth for social and personal change (now called Flourish Agenda) that would jumpstart his career.

“I held every position working with kids, from basketball coach to camp director, and I also worked in the YMCA, mental health organizations, and juvenile hall while I was in college,” says Jason. “Being in those environments began to shape my love for working with youth.”

He also could empathize with many of the youth he was working with, knowing how easily his life could have turned out the same way.

“My father was incarcerated for the first 10 years of my life,” says Jason. “One of the hardest lessons to learn without a man in your life is how to become a man.” Jason says he could identify with the boys he worked with, adding, “I never looked at their case files because I didn’t want to be influenced by what they’d done. I just wanted to see the good in them.”

Through all of his experience and education, Jason also realized how much he loved to teach. So after completing a master’s program in Africana Studies on a full scholarship from CUNY, Albany, he packed up his Volkswagen, drove home, and started his career as a “freeway flyer,” teaching part-time at colleges scattered all over the Bay Area.

Jason was introduced to teaching at Merritt College in 2007 by an acquaintance named Siri Brown who asked him to teach a high-school dual-enrollment class in “Racism in America” at Skyline High School. And, after following that class with several more off- and on-campus, Jason was hooked. He became full-time at Merritt in 2013.

“I loved the students at Merritt, and I became passionate about developing my own style as a teacher to help them,” he says. “ I respect the fact that most students here have other responsibilities in addition to getting an education. They want to be here but they have ten other things on their plate. So we need to take that into account but also have high expectations for students. So it’s a balancing act. But overall I want to create a safe space for the students. Because if they don’t feel safe, how do they learn?”

In his role as department chair, Jason sees one of his strengths as working and helping the community where he grew up. “I want to address some of the disparities on this campus and in the community and create a pipeline for our young people who don’t think they can go to college,” he says. “If they can develop skills and cultivate leadership in their communities, they will be more likely to say ‘I have a future,’ instead of foregoing success for doing something they will regret.”

 

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Peralta Colleges Receive Clean Bill of Health Overall on Accreditation

8 February 2017

PCCD_AnnouncementThe Peralta Community College District has received a “clean bill of health” overall from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

The ACCJC reported that Berkeley City College has been removed from “warning” status. College of Alameda was removed from “probation” Laney College’s sanctions were reduced to one “warning,” the lowest level of ACCJC sanction. Merritt College was removed from “probation” and also reduced to one “warning” sanction.

“The accreditation teams at all of the Peralta Colleges worked hard to address the ACCJC’s recommendations,” said Chancellor Jowel C. Laguerre, Ph.D. “Accreditation work is always ongoing as continuous evaluation is central to maintaining the ACCJC Standards. I am confident that all of our Colleges will continue to meet these high standards.”

“Thousands of students graduate with community college degrees and occupational certificates every semester from the Peralta Colleges. We continue to provide affordable, quality education,” Chancellor Laguerre added.

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Merritt College Nursing Program Named No. 1 in California

31 January 2017

Nursing award photo copyCongratulations are in order for the Nursing Program at Merritt College which was recently ranked the No. 1 RN program in the state by registerednursing.org.

The honor is based on the pass rates of the NCLEX-RN exam (National Council of Licensure Examination) which is the standardized exam that is used to license professional nurses in the state.

Merritt College, one of the four Peralta Colleges serving the East Bay, is proud to report that its Nursing Program has had an average 99% NCLEX “pass rate” for the past several years. Out of the 126 nursing schools in California, Merritt College was named No. 1 from the top 50 that were ranked.

“This is a wonderful acknowledgement for our program,” says Program Director Dawn Williams. “Our faculty is passionate about our students, the instruction we provide, and public safety. This honor is a testimony to the rigor and effectiveness of our program that our students are able to perform so well on their state board exams and will go on to successful careers contributing to the community.”

Shortly after the announcement was made, the Nursing office was flooded with congratulatory messages from all over the Merritt campus, starting from Interim President Marie-Elaine Burns and including Counselor Etna Ross who summarized everyone’s sentiments by writing, “I am daily impressed with the quality of the nursing program, the competencies of the people who are running it, and the department’s commitment to continually maintaining high standards and diversity and producing outstanding nurses.”

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Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center at Merritt College Wins Prestigious Awards

2 December 2016

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The Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center is the newest building at Merritt College in Oakland – one of the four colleges of the Peralta Community College District, which includes Berkeley City College, College of Alameda and Laney College, also in Oakland – and is now one of just two buildings named as “Outstanding Project for 2015” by the prestigious Western Council of Construction Consumers during their annual Excellence Awards ceremony that was held on October 27, 2016 at the Lafayette Hotel and Spa.

In announcing Merritt’s award, the Council said that the Barbara Lee Center was “Among the most sophisticated community college learning centers in the U.S., and the most advanced community college science center in California.” The building was also one of the few recipients during the program to receive a “Sustainability Excellence Award” for its LEED Gold Certification.

“I am very pleased that the Barbara Lee Science Center has been recognized with these awards,” said Peralta Colleges Chancellor Jowel C. Laguerre, Ph.D. “It clearly demonstrates what we can do to education our community’s students with the facilities bond funds that the public has generously entrusted to us.”

“We are planning future endeavors and I have every reason to believe those will also win recognition,” the Chancellor added.

On hand to accept the award for the Science and Allied Health Center was Derek Labrecque, Partner, and Shawn Percey, BIM Manager, from JK Architecture – the firm that designed the Center – along with Ted Foor, Larry Cabodi, Sean Burnie and Anna Kennedy from Clark/Sullivan Construction, the firm responsible for the construction of the Center. Also in attendance at the ceremony, and representing the Peralta District, were Chancellor Jowel Laguerre, Ph.D., and Dr. Saddiq Ikharo Vice Chancellor of Facilities, along with Merritt Dean Rosemary Delia and Gary Banks.

After the ceremony, architect Derek LaBrecque talked about the honor of receiving the award. “I’m excited that Merritt’s building was recognized tonight, partly because the essence of this project was built upon the vision of the college and history of the community. And also because of what will be done in this facility to prepare students with the skill sets they need to succeed in the 21st century.”

With over 110,000 square feet of dedicated space for science and technology, the Barbara Lee Health and Science building is the region’s newest epicenter for innovation in science and technology. As part of the Peralta Community College District’s commitment to provide access to the region’s student population, the building will be open all strata of students – concurrent enrollment high school students to life-long learners.

The majority of the four-story building, which was completed on time and within budget, is dedicated to programs in the Sciences and Allied Health, but includes Mathematics and Business Technology as well. The architectural design of the building, and the state-of-the-art equipment, provides something for everyone, enhancing the student learning environment, promoting the growth of the sciences and energizing the campus as a whole.

At various locations throughout the building, there are a number of public common areas for students and faculty to freely interact. These common areas have an open environment within the building to encourage active learning in an environment that is not just limited to the classroom.

The $59 million Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center was built with funds from the Measure A Bonds that were voted in place by the Citizens of North Alameda County that constitute the six communities served by the Peralta Community College District – Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont. According to Vice Chancellor Ikharo, “The construction of the Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center demonstrates accountability to tax payers who voted for Measure A Bond Funds and promotes awareness to the greater community of how the bond measures is being spent. Additionally, the success of this building, by way of this prestigious award by an unbiased third party, represents confidence in possible future bond measures for the community.”

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College Notes: Merritt College to Honor Black Panthers, Other Events

19 October 2016

Don’t miss Peralta’s newspaper column for October covering some of the outstanding events at Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, and Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland.

You can read it right here: http://bit.ly/2elhyaV

Black Panther press conference in Oakland, Calif., after the shooting of one of their members 17-year old Bobby Hutton in 1968. Hutton was shot by Oakland Police when he and Panther Elridge Cleaver were envolved in a shootout with police. At microphones is  Bobby Seale, and behind his left shoulder is William Lee Brent. (Ron Riesterer/Staff Archives) Black Panther press conference in Oakland, Calif., after the shooting of one of their members 17-year old Bobby Hutton in 1968. Hutton was shot by Oakland Police when he and Panther Elridge Cleaver were envolved in a shootout with police. At microphones is Bobby Seale, and behind his left shoulder is William Lee Brent. (Ron Riesterer/Staff Archives)

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Laney College Wins Big in Tiny House Competition

18 October 2016

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On Saturday, October 15, the winners of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) “Tiny House Competition – Build Small and Win Big” contest were announced on the campus of Consumnes River College.  Teams were awarded trophies and monetary prizes.  Laney College of Oakland – one of the four colleges of the Peralta Community College District that includes Berkeley City College, College of Alameda and Merritt College, also in Oakland – won $4000 as the winner of the Architecture category for their entry “The Wedge.”  Laney students also won 4 other categories: Best Design, Best Furnishings, Best Landscaping and Best Video.

The Tiny House Competition is a new competition in the Sacramento region, challenging collegiate teams to design and build net-zero, tiny solar houses.  The event was open to all colleges and universities in California.  Participation promoted an interest in energy conservation, energy efficiency and green building and solar technologies.  SMUD’s Energy Education & Technology Center and Community Solar programs were sponsors of this event.  The categories of the competition included architectural design, livability, communication, affordability, energy efficiency and balance, appliance load, technology/electrical and mechanical systems, transportation, sustainability and documentation.  The competition had stringent requirements not only regarding student participation, but also requiring that all houses to use solar energy.  The Laney house was designed to be “zero net energy.”

The Competition
 was modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. An educator or other school administrator mentored each team.  During the two years leading up to the event, students designed and built energy-efficient houses. A stipend between $3,000 – $8,000 was provided. After the awards
were handed out, students exhibited their houses to the public and the media.

“Congratulations to the whole Laney College team members that were involved in the construction this tiny house” said Laney College President Dr. Patricia Stanley, EdD.  “It’s a fine example of a booming trend in affordable housing.”.

At Laney College, leadership in coordinating entry was handled by Cynthia Correia Department Chair of the Carpentry Department, with the help of Dean Peter Crabtree and Larry Chang.  The building of “The Wedge” was a lot of work that was completed with a lot of help from faculty who mentored the Laney students.  Ron Betts, advised in the area of Architecture; Forough Hashemi helped with the Electrical; Matt Wolpe and Karl Seelbach, both from the Laney Carpentry Department, helped with building; Theresa Halula, of the Merritt College Landscape Horticulture Department, supervised the landscaping.

To see photos of “The Wedge” please visit the website: http://thewedgeoakland.com

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Merritt College Interim President Selected

26 July 2016

Marie-Elaine_BurnsThe Chancellor of the Peralta Community College District, Jowel C. Laguerre, Ph.D., has announced that Marie-Elaine Burns has been selected as the Interim President of Merritt College. Dr. Burns, who most recently was Vice-President for Special Services at San Jose City College, begins her tenure at Merritt on August 2.

Marie-Elaine Burns is an educational leader who is visionary, energetic, and passionate. While adaptable to change, she is a risk taker/entrepreneur; not afraid to explore an idea different from her own or to encourage others to try their ideas. She encourages and supports innovation and creativity.

Dr. Burns’ leadership style is characterized by respect, inclusiveness, transparency, collaboration, effective listening skills, and participatory governance. She is committed to equity and student success. Contributing to a positive impact on students has always been integral to the decisions she makes as a college leader.

Having worked in higher education for many years, Dr. Burns has been responsible for college access, student retention, support services, transfer and graduation success which are major components of student success. She worked at universities and colleges throughout the state which include but are not limited to the following: San Francisco State University which provided her first opportunity to teach; California State University at Long Beach where she assisted the Director in training college and university learning assistance professionals (faculty, coordinators and practitioners) from countries around the world; at Skyline College in San Bruno she was the Director of The Learning Center and the Student Support Services TRIO program and lead the establishment of the Jump Start Program for high school students that continued long after she left the college; and Foothill College in Los Altos Hills where Dr. Burns was Dean of the Middlefield Campus and established the successful Dare to EXCEL program for high school students with a grade point average of 2.0 and below.

As Vice-President of Student Affairs at San Jose City College (SJCC), Marie-Elaine Burns developed a vision and championed core values for student affairs and cultivated an effective Student Affairs management team. Under her leadership the College opened a Veterans Resource Center; the Annual African American/Latino/Pacific Islander/Native American Male Summit was established and led by her for six years; the Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHSAC) was established and is running effectively; she developed the first online student support services which assisted the College in being released from an accreditation sanction; and she co-chaired the Student Success & Equity committee as well as led the development of both the initial SSSP and Equity plans.  

Dr. Burns’ postsecondary educational accomplishments include a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Broadcast Communication Arts from San Francisco State University, cum laude; a Master’s of Science Degree in School Management & Administration, summa cum laude and a Doctorate in Institutional Management, magna cum laude, both from Pepperdine University.

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Merritt College’s Class of 2016 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

3 June 2016

Kim-PhamIntroducing Kim Pham, Valedictorian

While living in South Vietnam, the youngest of six children, Kim Pham wasn’t able to achieve her dream of furthering her education. And when she came to the United States with her husband in 2000, she needed to work to help support her family, which now includes two young sons. So five years ago, when she finally had the opportunity, she was thrilled to begin attending Laney College, which was close to her home, to take ESL classes to learn English.

She then completed her General Ed requirements and started taking classes at Merritt College with a goal of becoming a teacher and fulfilling her passion of working with children. She quickly headed to the top of the class in her studies and also worked as a preschool teacher at Headstart in Oakland. She graduated in May with a 4.0 GPA and was proud to be named valedictorian.

She will continue her studies at Cal State East Bay. “I faced many challenges with cultural differences, language barriers, and understanding a new environment,” says Kim. “However all of my hard work has paid off today, and I am so happy to say thank you to all my professors who helped me so much to be successful at pursuing my dream. I hope someday to open my own childcare center for immigrant children and those in need.”

And her teachers couldn’t be more proud of her and her accomplishments as they watch her move on to continue her studies. “Both as a college student and as a student teacher, Kim understood and embraced the role of a learner,” says Christine Olsen, chair of the Childhood Development Program and one of Kim’s instructors. “She was curious and open to new ideas and would apply them to her work with the children as a student teacher. She came to class and to the lab school well prepared and was a committed member of the student teacher team. We are so excited for her success and wish her all the best!

Tania-HorneIntroducing Tania Horne, Salutatorian

Tania Horne, born in Hobart, Tasmania, came to the United States in 2012. With over 15 years experience serving people of disadvantaged and marginalized backgrounds in the field of criminal justice in Australia, she returned to school with a goal of bringing best management practices from her home country to make positive contributions in the United States.

Although going back to school after such a long time presented significant challenges, Tania worked hard to gain an understanding of U.S. history, political science, and justice. She graduated as the 2016 Salutatorian of Merritt College with Associate degrees in both Justice Administration and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

With a passion for restorative justice, Tania has accepted a position with the University of California, San Francisco for the next year to support the re-entry population in successfully securing gainful employment and transitioning back into the community. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, yoga, and sailing around the San Francisco Bay. She plans to resume her studies in fall of 2017 and hopes to ultimately earn a master’s degree in Criminal Justice.

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Outstanding Grads: Cyntheria Owens, Merritt College President’s Medallion Award Winner

18 May 2016

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Cyntheria Owens is Merritt College President’s Medallion Award winner for 2016. She is very proud that she was accepted to so many universities and in her own words, says, “I applied to 4 states and 3 UC’s and got accepted to 4 states and 3 UCs, the schools are Northridge, Cal Poly, San Francisco, East Bay, UC Riverside, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley.”

Here are some of her other accomplishments: My discipline(s) are African American Studies. Social Science and Behavior, and Health Science. I will do a study abroad in Accra Ghana in the summer of 2016. I am a PTK (Phi Theta Kappa honor society) member

I will attend UC Berkeley in the fall of 2016. My current G.P.A is 3.7. My major is Social Work and Ethnic Studies. I feel I can […] assist people of all walks of life with [an] emphasis in black and brown communities. Strengthen[ing] relations are apparently needed in this area.

I originally came from Redondo Beach, moved to Sacramento and [have] been a bay area [resident] since 2012, [living] in Oakland for 4 1/2 years. I have an X-ray license that I use when volunteering at the West Oakland Health Center in the Radiology Department. I participated in the Oakland Project, which is a community awareness [project concerning] the impact of Gentrification [on] black and brown people of Oakland.

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Peralta Matters – Cybersecurity at Merritt College

5 April 2016

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Check out the new Cybersecurity Program at Merritt College! This program helps students get the skills they need to enter this growing field. Computer Information Systems Department Chair Courtney Brown describes the development of this program with industry partners to train the workforce that is needed in this growing field. First Cohort Student Andy Bittner recalls the excitement of their team’s participation in the National Cyber League competition. George Papandreopoulos describes some of the human elements and risks related to cybersecurity. And Cybersecurity Club President Dashobeam Harris talks about the supportive community he found while pursuing a long term dream.

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Cuban First Secretary Speaks at Merritt College

7 March 2016

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The first secretary of the newly reestablished Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C., Miguel Fraga, will hold an important conversation with the Merritt College community on Wednesday, March 9, at noon in the Student Lounge (R Building, Room 110). The First Secretary’s talk is entitled, “Has U.S. Policy Really Changed,” and is free and open to the public. For more information, please call the Office of the President at (510) 436-2416.

 

 

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Merritt College’s New, Unique Africana Center

2 February 2016

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What better way to start Black History Month than by visiting Merritt College’s New Africana Studies Community Research Center, led by African American Studies Department Chair Siri Brown.

The Department of African American Studies at Merritt College has completed a unique Africana Studies Community Research Center that houses an originally designed curriculum to be used on ipads and/or computers.  The curriculum comprises of interactive museum-quality learning modules where students can engage through visual, touch screen and e-portfolio lessons about African American history. The modules are multilayered high impact visual installments produced by award winning filmmakers and graphic designers.

The center is fully ADA compliant for hearing and visually impaired learners and accessible in Spanish.

The Africana Center includes a Black Family Research Specialist who works with students 2 days a week to train them on genealogy processes.  Students work on their own family histories through interviewing elders, archival research and DNA testing to create portfolios to enhance academic skills and enrich families with more information about their history.

For more information, visit http://www.merritt.edu/wp/afram/

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Peralta Matters – The Barbara Lee Center for Science and Allied Health, Part 1

2 December 2015

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Our next two episodes of Peralta Matters highlight the crowning jewel of our recent facilities construction projects, the Barbara Lee Center for Science and Allied Health. Our guest host, Chancellor Jowel C Laguerre, Ph.D., speaks first to student Kayla Pelletier, a successful registered nurse assistant who came back to Merritt College to increase her skills and further her career. And Biology Professor Hank Fabian describes some of the programs housed in this state-of-the-art facility, including our cutting edge Genomics program. To give you a bigger picture, we’ve included promos of other programs that are now housed in this beautiful, newly-opened facility.

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Peralta News – Grand Opening Barbara Lee Science & Allied Health Center

23 November 2015

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The Peralta Community College District celebrated a historic groundbreaking ceremony for the new Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center at Merritt College. The new building is one of the most advanced science centers at a community college in California. A letter from President Obama acknowledging the grand opening was read as part of the ceremonies celebrating this new building.

The building includes cutting edge technology and the latest in sustainable, or green, building advances. The 107,292-square foot building will house Merritt College’s sciences, genomics, nursing and nutrition departments.

For the full speech, click here.

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Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center Grand Opening Friday at Merritt College

2 November 2015

peralta_science_2Join US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Peralta Chancellor Jowel C. Laguerre, Ph.D., and Merritt College President Norma Ambriz-Galaviz for the grand opening of the Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center this Friday at Merritt College. The Peralta Colleges will unveil the region’s newest health and allied sciences building, which will allow facility to have the tools they need to provide state of the art science/technology instruction to our students.

A letter from President Obama acknowledging the grand opening will be read as part of the ceremonies and tours of the facility by science faculty and students will be provided. Join in at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. The event is free and open to the public!

 

What: Grand Opening of the Barbara Lee Health and Allied Science Building, one the most advanced facilities in the region.

When: Friday, November 6, 2015, 11:30 AM

Where: Merritt College, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakland, CA 94619

Who: US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Peralta CDD Chancellor Jowel C. Laguerre, Ph.D., Merritt College President Norma Ambriz-Galaviz

 

Background: With over 60,000 square feet of dedicated space for science and technology, the Barbara Lee Health and Science building, located at Merritt College, will be the region’s newest epicenter for innovation in science and technology.

As part of the Peralta Community College District’s commitment to provide access to the region’s student population, in addition to the District’s student population, the health and science building will be made available to local high school students. Merritt College has developed a concurrent enrollment program with local high schools where students will be able to enroll in academic courses at the college.

The Barbara Lee Science and Allied Health Center is a new four story building, totaling approximately 110,000 square feet. The majority of the building is dedicated to programs in the Sciences and Allied Health but additionally includes Mathematics and Business Technology as well. Each department area has been designed to not only anticipate but to encourage growth within each field for the future of the Merritt Campus.

This architectural design of this building and the state of the art equipment chosen for this facility was established to essentially have something for everyone. To accomplish this the design was aimed at achieving a number of goals, in particular enhancing the student learning environment, promoting the growth of the departments and energizing the campus as a whole.

As the theme of this building is for the Sciences and Allied Heath, There is a specialized screen that goes across the south and west face of the building. The basis of this screen is derived from Mitochondria DNA. Mitochondria DNA, or mtDNA, is distinct from general human DNA, as they are the structures within human cells that convert food to energy in useful form. The twenty-eight screen panels are a graphic representations of the mtDNA sequence that is almost identical in every human being.

In theme with the building, the exposed spiral staircase in the center of the building has been designed as a double-helix staircase to mirror the graphic representation of the mtDNA screen and to show case both formats scientist look at DNA.

At various locations throughout the building, there are a number of public common areas for students and faculty to freely interact. These common areas have an open environment within the building to encourage active learning in an environment that is not limited to just the classroom, but in their day to day life interactions.

The state of the art technology and furniture included in this building was specifically chosen to again enhance the learning environment for students and faculty. This ranges from interactive projectors in each classroom and lab, top of the line equipment specifically chosen by each department, and even to the student desks and chairs with the adjustability for left and right handed students.

 

Read more about the science programs offered at Merritt College here: Barbara Lee Center Program Descriptions 10-28-15

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