Gwinnett Technical College is set to open a gleaming new facility, and the three-story building — dedicated to computer information systems, cybersecurity and emerging technologies training — will be complemented by other renovations and improvements on campus.
Classes in the 82,000-square-foot facility are set to begin this week. The $42 million building will house the computer science and gaming departments, a cybersecurity war room, gaming technologies room, 29 classrooms and an eSports lab.
The construction of the new building set off a domino effect for other buildings on campus.
“The funding for the new building allowed us to incorporate some other really needed renovations on the campus, especially since it’s about 37 years old now,” said Gwinnett Tech President Glenn Cannon. “A bright, fresh, more collegiate look has allowed us to make a more open area connecting the buildings with some green space. The main thing is it gave us the opportunity to move our IT and CIS programs into a space that’s more up to date with what’s needed for today’s technology.”
In addition to the new building, Cannon is particularly enthused about renovations taking place in the college’s main building (Building 100) and the resurfacing of parking lots on campus.
“This has also allowed us to renovate about 40,000 square feet of the main building, where we housed organic chemistry, physical anatomy and physics labs and a couple of chemistry labs,” he said. “Those are all new and look like you would expect research labs to look now. Students will be working on the latest equipment in the most modern setting. That’s our goal for the entire campus.
“Our parking lots needed updating, so it’s a total refresh. There’s not an inch of pavement in our large parking lots that aren’t being repaved.”
According to a release from Gwinnett Tech, other improvements on campus include the construction of a new “quad” area near Building 100 and the new facility; the renovation and expansion of the One-Stop area; a new entrance for the library, with more computer stations and the creation of the Center for Teaching Excellence; and a “facelift” for the student Life Center.
Cannon added that almost all of the planning and design phases of the project were completed during the COVID pandemic.
“It’s sort of a renaissance or rebirth coming out of the pandemic,” he said. “We started it in the pandemic. As the pandemic started, we started planning on the new building. Probably 90% of the planning with the architect and design engineers on the new building and the renovations happened over zoom.
“I’ve built a lot of buildings in my career and this was a different experience. It’s worked out well ... It’s everyone sort of getting back to normal and needing a little spark, and this building came at the right time.”
While accommodating the 21st century student was a big factor in Gwinnett Tech’s renovation, being able to develop a workforce was also a part of the puzzle, said Cannon.
“We’re not only trying to bring things up to what students’ expectations are for college, but it’s also bringing up where we can deliver these programs in a setting that’s more conducive to that kind of instruction and that kind of real-life activity,” he said. “... That gives employers a good sense of what kind of programs we’re running and the kind of employees they’re going to get. But we had been doing it in makeshift spaces.”
Noting that a growing number of students are coming directly from high school (which have also upped their game in terms of facilities and resources), Cannon said that curb appeal was also a factor in attracting attendees.
“There’s an expectation, and you not only want to meet those expectations, but if we’re going to have ‘college’ at the end of our name, we need to look like a college,” he said. “People need to have that feel.”
Although Gwinnett Tech administrators have earned the right to take a breath at the conclusion of this massive re-do, Cannon is well aware that if you’re not looking ahead, you’re falling behind and spoke briefly of what the future holds for technical and two-year institutions.
“There are three areas we’re looking at for the future, two related to the new building, and we already have infrastructure ready to ramp up,” he said. “We’re looking at Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. Those are weaving together now and are coming on rapidly. The other next big thing is Electric Vehicles. You’re already seeing that in automotive programs. We’re getting ready to ramp up.
“When the need is there, we’ll be ready to meet it.”
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