Aera to help Bakersfield College develop science center
Sep 16, 2014

Rendering provided by BC and Darden Architects.

By Lauren Foreman. Original story appeared in The Bakersfield Californian.

Aera Energy will donate $500,000 to help Bakersfield College transform a maintenance building into a center for students pursuing science and technology careers, officials plan to announce Wednesday.

The contribution is a little more than half the $900,000 cost to turn a 3,000-square-foot maintenance and operations building, located at Red and White Way and Mount Vernon Avenue, into a home base for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.

The renovated center will bring STEM counseling, tutoring and university transfer resources currently located across the campus together in one building.

It will be named the Aera STEM Success Center.

The oil and gas producer is funneling its $500,000 donation through the Kern Community Foundation. Federal and state funding will cover the rest of the cost.

Gaurdie Banister, Aera president and CEO, said the company wants to create a bigger pool of qualified job applicants it can tap into for employees.

"What this does is it helps create a better educated local workforce," he said.

Liz Rozell, BC dean of STEM education and industrial technology, called the center a "one-stop shop" for students including more than 100 enrolled in a program for first-generation college students, high school students who earned low test scores and financially disadvantaged students.

The program -- Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) -- will operate out of the STEM Success Center.

A Cal State Bakersfield transfer specialist, the MESA director and a STEM counselor will all have offices in the center.

Rozell said students are more successful when they have an accountability model that uses a counselor or faculty member to check in on them.

They also do better in school if they are surrounded by like-minded students. It's especially important for students in more difficult fields like STEM, Rozell said.

"We're trying to build an area that is a community," she said.

Center construction is expected to start next summer. If all goes as planned, the facility would open in the spring semester of 2016.

The new center will incorporate modern technology, computers, printing and plotting services, quiet study areas and group study rooms.

Sonya Christian, BC president, said students will be able to interact with university and industry partners in real time using audio/video and live streaming technology. Tutors and instructors will also be on hand to answer homework questions.

"Rather than going away to home, our message to the students is 'Pick up your books; walk over to the STEM Success Center, and this is where you're going to be doing your homework,'" Christian said.

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