HEC set to open

Since January, those attending SFUAD, Santa Fe High School or running on De Vargas Middle School’s track have watched construction at the corner of Yucca Street and Siringo Road transform a vacant lot into the 34,000 square-foot, two-story, energy-friendly structure it is today.

The grand opening of Santa Fe’s Higher Education Center is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2015.

“The area is now considered the educational hub of the city,” says Henry Mignardot, construction project manager of the city’s new Higher Education Center (HEC) located at 1950 Siringo Road, adjacent to The Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus.

Commissioned in 2009 by New Mexico’s Higher Education Department, HEC was built to accommodate the growing need for affordable higher education programs that allow locals, especially students from the Santa Fe Community College (SFCC), to complete their degrees in Santa Fe.

The intersection of Yucca St. and Siringo is the new home of Santa Fe's Higher Education Center

The intersection of Yucca Street and Siringo Road is the new home of Santa Fe’s Higher Education Center. Photo by Amanda Tyler.

“I was very reluctant to be put in a community college program,” says Santa Fe local Brenden Romero, who began his degree in business at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, but decided not to continue after his first year. Returning to Santa Fe, Romero resumed his studies at SFCC through mostly online courses. He explains, however, that as a transfer he faced some obstacles in validating his credits, so the establishment of a higher education center “made that whole process a lot easier and was very helpful,” Romero says. “It gave me that push to finish.”

Romero adds that because he is a visual learner, being in a classroom and in a physical university site is important to him. And though he believes the intersection of Yucca Street and Siringo is “going to be pretty clustered” with the addition of HEC, it’s also conveniently just down street from his home.

“Having the Center adjacent to SFUAD is a huge plus,” says SFCC President Randy W. Grissom, “and having it easily accessible to Santa Fe High students, state government workers and others in and around the St. Michael’s corridor will be beneficial as commuter students fit classes into their busy schedules.”

The site, Grissom continues, was chosen for a number of reasons, including its central Santa Fe location, and in 2011, a resolution was passed by the Legislature authorizing the state’s General Services Department to sell the parcel to the community college expressly for the purpose of building an educational facility.

The Higher Education Center teams up with Positive Energy Solar to build a efficient and eco-friendly site. Photo by Amanda Tyler

The Higher Education Center teams up with Positive Energy Solar to build a efficient and eco-friendly site. Photo by Amanda Tyler.

That facility will generate 80 percent of its power from solar energy via 20,000 feet of installed solar panels in the parking lot and roof, thanks to a partnership with Positive Energy Solar. Construction Manager Mignardot adds that 72 thermal wells beneath the center will be responsible for cooling and heating its 15 classrooms and several science/computer labs. He calls the architecture an “accomplishment from a environment, energy-efficiency perspective” and adds that the building is made to be sustainable and recyclable. “We’re very proud of that,” he says.

According to the HEC website, instructors from New Mexico Highlands University, the Institute of American Indian Arts, New Mexico State and the University of New Mexico will “join SFCC in the Santa Fe Higher Education Center to bring students an affordable, convenient way to achieve a bachelor’s or master’s degree in areas like business administration, social work, criminal justice, and early childhood education.”

Currently, 500 students are enrolled at HEC and taking temporary courses at SFCC’s Campus on Richards Avenue and it’s predicted that with the new location, another 300 students will be absorbed.

“We are very excited to be opening the Santa Fe Higher Education Center in January,” President Grissom says. “I hope the SFUAD community will plan to attend the grand opening celebration, where we will officially cut the ribbon, celebrate with entertainment and offer tours.”