The new classroom building at El Paso Community College's Mission del Paso campus. (Photo courtesy of El Paso Community College)

A new classroom building at El Paso Community College’s Mission del Paso campus will provide students with increased learning space and resources to accommodate the anticipated growing population of East El Paso.

The new building, which features state of the art technology such as 3D printers, tablets, virtual reality and more, doubles the size of the campus by adding an additional 60,000 square feet.

As EPCC’s farthest east location, the campus dean, Joshua Villalobos, said the building is a crucial development for the fastest growing area in El Paso. The campus is less than two miles away from the Amazon warehouse.

“There’s an abundance of high schools (and an) abundance of high school graduates,” Villalobos said. “We feel that this is going to be the area that is going to need the most higher educational opportunities for the El Paso region.”

The Mission del Paso campus, which served up to 7,000 students before the pandemic, is especially important for students who don’t have the ability to travel to the main EPCC campus, Valle Verde, Villalobos said.

“We want to be as flexible and as near to these students as possible so it’s not a big challenge to get to our campus,” he said.

He said the pandemic showed the necessity of having accessible educational infrastructure as some students rely on their schools for internet access or libraries to complete coursework.

“We get a lot of students who can’t make it to Valle Verde or don’t have the internet infrastructure in their neighborhood like high speed internet to take these online classes,” Villalobos said. ”We have an incredible need in our local communities to have a physical presence.”

The Mission del Paso campus has 22 additional classrooms in its new building. (Photo courtesy of El Paso Community College)

During the grand opening, the college’s president, William Serrata, explained more about this importance. 

“The data shows that students who are able to stay on campus are more likely to stay in school and do well in their classes. Students who do well in their classes are more likely to graduate. And we all know that you can’t reap the benefits of higher education unless you complete your degree,” Serrata said. “This building will provide opportunities for students to learn and interact with our dedicated and talented faculty and with one another.”

During previous years, Villalobos said the east campus lacked classroom space, which limited how many classes could be taught. Now with an added 22 classrooms, EPCC professors can expand their schedule and add more classes. Currently the school is only using five classrooms as they adjust to the new space, but will increase to full capacity this upcoming spring semester.

“We will be able to increase the number of biology sections, physics sections, math sections, all of our STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sections that usually need specialized classrooms or specialized equipment. This new building has all of those bells and whistles for those courses, as well as for other sections like history and English,” he said.

Due to the pandemic, EPCC is currently following a 50/50 rule that half of its classes are online and the other half are in person.

David Raley, a history professor at the Mission campus, said all of his classes are now in the new building and he has already seen benefits to how he can teach.

“The rooms are spacious and have more tables and more comfortable chairs,” Raley said. “It’s easier to interact with the students and it’s just a more comfortable environment.”

The building also allows students to congregate and have more study space. Raley said it is nice to see an increase in students mingling on campus.

“We wanted places for students to hang out, talk to each other and collaborate or study. We didn’t have a lot of that at the older facilities,” he said.

The new classroom building at the Mission del Paso campus has spaces for students to congregate and study. (Photo courtesy of El Paso Community College)

In 2012, EPCC created the “Building the Future” plan to expand construction and facilities at each of its five campuses. Students and professors were surveyed on what resources they needed.

“When we say that this building is for the students and by the students … that is the literal truth,” Villalobos said. “They wanted more options to eat, places to study, places where they can meet with their friends and a more college going atmosphere on our campus. That’s exactly what we threw inside here.”

Villalobos said the school is still expanding and has recently purchased land across the campus for more construction projects.

“We are looking at a phase three for our campus and for us to add more programs like career and tech programs which we don’t have too many here on campus,” he said. “I would love to see programs such as mortuary sciences and welding (which are) some of the programs that students have to go out of town for, that they can do here.”

Cover photo: The new classroom building at El Paso Community College’s Mission del Paso campus. (Photo courtesy of El Paso Community College)

Jewél Jackson covers higher education for El Paso Matters, through a partnership with Open Campus Media. She is a 2020 graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.