Cypress College Opens Largest Project in North Orange County Community College District’s History

Student resources at Cypress College now include a new Science, Engineering and Math building and a new Veteran’s Resource Center, described as ‘the best veterans' resource center west of the Mississippi.’

Cypress College recently celebrated the grand opening of the LPA-designed Veteran’s Resource Center (VRC) and a new three-story 106,000-square-foot Science, Engineering and Math (SEM) building, which will serve as a campus “collaboration hub.”

The facilities for the Orange County, Calif.-based college were developed through extensive engagement with students, faculty, and staff of the various programs, as well as veterans.

“We started our journey together five years ago and the last year and a half has been a testament to the working relationship we built on trust, communication and our shared goals,” LPA design director Silke Frank said at the ceremony. “These facilities are the product of your vision, your aspirations and the belief that these facilities can uplift students, educators and the community.”

The event was attended by representatives of the North Orange County Community College District, Cypress College, LPA, Sundt Construction, government officials, students and members of the community.

The projects are the first new construction completed under Measure J, a $574 million bond approved by voters in 2014.The SEM and VRC are the largest project in North Orange County Community College District’s history; the SEM is the first new instructional space built on campus since 1976.

The new VRC helps support veterans in their transition from active military duty to civilian and student life. Current student veterans played an active role in guiding LPA’s design, providing extensive feedback about the challenges they face when returning, and what resources they need for personal growth and academic success. It is the largest VRC in Southern California.

Steven Vargas, a Marine Corps veteran who started at Cypress College in 2015, spoke at the opening ceremony. “The high point of my time at Cypress was working on this new Veteran’s Resource Center project that we’re standing in front of now,” he said. Diagnosed with PTSD after two tours in Afghanistan, he credited Veteran Coordinator Juan Garcia, PhD., and the Veteran’s Club for helping him deal with the struggles he felt at college.

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The VRC, which is connected to the newly renovated Student Activities Center, features extensive indoor-outdoor space, a common room, a glass façade that connects the facility to the rest of the campus, a conference room, study lounge, computer lab and private counselors’ offices. The building’s curved front exterior and a tribute bridge connecting the center to the campus quad represents the transition from active duty to civilian life. A Veteran’s Memorial and Tribute Garden honors service members and features the U.S. flag, flags of the five branches of the military and a Prisoner of War flag.

“The Veterans, personally, left a huge impact on my life with their stories of experiences away from their home county,” Frank said. “Their dedication to this nation became the vision of the Veterans Memorial and the Resource Center.”

Garcia declared the VRC "the best Veterans' Resource Center west of the Mississippi."

The 106,000-square-foot SEM Building replaces and doubles the size of the former building. The facility includes a 96-seat immersive digital classroom, which features video projections on a domed ceiling to facilitate learning, engagement and retention across a wide variety of disciplines. The SEM building also includes teaching laboratories, a learning courtyard, mortuary science program space, interactive student resource areas, a multidisciplinary classroom, lecture spaces and conference rooms. The building is purposely designed for flexibility to accommodate future growth and new programs.

“Our STEM students now have a state-of-the-art lecture and lab facility replacing one that was designed before humans walked on the moon,” Cypress College President JoAnna Schilling, Ph.D., said. “These spaces — including the immersive digital classroom — will prepare our next generation of scientists, engineers, and chemists.”

The entire project was designed and built with sustainability at the forefront. It will perform better than the California state energy requirements and reduce water consumption by one half.