The Coast News Group

MiraCosta College STEM Center opens

OCEANSIDE — Last week about 80 people gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the Nordson Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Center at MiraCosta College’s Oceanside campus. Prior to the event more than 2,000 students had already taken advantage of services the center offers since it opened in August.

“The STEM center has been functioning at capacity since it opened its doors,” Kristen Huyck, college interim communications director, said. 

The center provides a wealth of learning resources specifically geared toward students studying chemistry, physics, math, biology, biotechnology, physical science and computer science. It is a key learning environment for students in the college’s recently launched biomanufacturing bachelor’s degree program.

The center offers STEM students drop-in tutoring and counseling services. It also boasts two group study rooms and two rooms designated for independent study.

Other learning tools the center provides include laptops, reference materials, anatomical models, molecular models, scientific calculators and microscopes.

“We expect many great things to come from this center,” Sunita Cooke, college president and superintendent, said.

The center serves as a one-stop shop for STEM students. It brings together math center resources housed in the library and science tutoring, which was formerly arranged by appointment in campus classrooms and instructors’ offices. It also provides a place for STEM students to meet with classmates studying the same field.

Zachary Matsen, MiraCosta College student, credits on-campus tutoring services and study resources for his admission to San Diego State University.

“I wouldn’t have been able to make it happen without them,” Matsen said.

The center is also an active recruiting hub that encourages students to pursue STEM studies and embark on careers in regional science, engineering, manufacturing and biotechnology industries. Huyck said recruiting efforts target “historically underrepresented students.”

The center opened at the same time the college began its four-year degree program in biotechnology with 23 students this fall. Courses are a reasonable $46 a unit for lower division classes and $84 a unit for upper-division classes. College officials say the program is “tremendously affordable” for students, and prepares them for high-wage earning jobs within the county.

The STEM center celebrated its grand opening Sept. 29. Its construction is hailed as a collaborative college, business and community endeavor.

The center is named in honor of the Nordson Corporation Foundation, which awarded the college a $150,000 grant to develop the center.

The foundation also footed the cost of a $16,000 CO2 laser cutter for the college’s Machinist Technology Training Program in 2014. Additionally, it donated $4,700 to support the Summer STEM Camp in 2011.

Joe Stockunas, Nordson Corporate group vice president of advanced technology systems, praised the STEM center.

“The STEM Learning Center at MiraCosta College will provide students with valuable skills that will enhance their employment possibilities and allow them to contribute to and take part in an integral part of our economy,” Stockunas said.

Other donors that gave generously to build the STEM learning center include the college’s Business Roundtable group, Ken and Maria Bertossi and Maria Grant.