AC receives nearly $5 million greenhouse grant

By JENNA GIBSON, Ranger Reporter:

Amarillo College has landed the one of the largest grants in the school’s history. This $4.9 million grant, announced Tuesday, Sept. 28, will be used to establish a new STEM-program. The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Education. AC, qualified for the grant due to its status as a Hispanic serving institution and is one of the 14 schools that has been awarded this grant in the state of Texas.

A committee from the biology department consisting of Dr. Claudie Biggers, Dr. Jacob Price, Dr. Brandon Moore and Dan Porter collaborated with the High Plains Food Bank on the application. The application and award process has taken a year to complete, Biggers said.

This five-year grant provides funding to create a 12,000 square-foot facility referred to as a conservatory, which will be a working greenhouse containing two instructional labs as well as research space and cutting-edge equipment.

“This is very exciting for the college because it has never been done before,” Biggers said. “With this program, we will be able to partner with more businesses throughout the community and provide students with hands-on research. As a department this means a lot more work, but we are so thrilled and ready for the challenge and opportunity.”

This is the first time a certificate program has been created for the biology program. This grant will provide students with workplace skills and certificates and associates degrees that include horticulture, plant sciences, bio technology, landscape specialists and natural research development. “Natural research conservation will teach students and the community how to conserve water and learn more about how to maintain and preserve the resources we have in the Texas Panhandle,” Biggers said.

“The big picture is to get students interested and acclimated in a learning environment that gets them excited to learn more and makes them motivated to complete a certificate and hopefully move on to an associate degree, and then bachelor’s,” Biggers said.

With this program, students will be given the opportunity to have a complete hands-on experience while in the process of completing their certificates or degrees. This grant will also work with other institutions in the area, so students in the program will be able to complete their bachelor’s degree online and will not be forced to relocate.

“This program will be taking a student where they’re at and giving them a stair step path, all the way to the doctorate level if they wish,” Biggers said.

College officials are in the process of determining a location for the conservatory building, which will take one year to complete. During that construction time, the curriculum for one certificate and one associate degree will be developed. It will take a five-year period to implement all four certificates and associate degrees. Enrollment will begin in the fall of 2017.

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