Palm Beach State College celebrated the opening this year of its new Loxahatchee Groves campus where enrollment already has more than doubled.
Classes began Feb. 27 in the first building, a 50,000-square-foot, three-story facility on Southern Boulevard west of B Road. Enrollment jumped from 700 in the spring to almost 2,000 at the start of the fall term. “It’s more than what we anticipated,’’ said Dr. Maria M. Vallejo, vice president for growth and expansion and provost of the Loxahatchee Groves and Belle Glade campuses.
“It’s been well received,’’ added Dr. Roy Vargas, dean of academic affairs for the campuses.
Preserved wetlands and virgin woodlands surround the high-tech, 75-acre Dennis P. Gallon Campus, named in honor of PBSC’s longtime president who retired in 2015. It is the College’s fifth campus and the first constructed in almost 35 years. It marks one of the first major developments in the rural town of about 3,000 residents, and it provides greater access to higher education and job training in the county’s growing west-central area.
The day after classes began, the College held the official ribbon-cutting ceremony with a standing room only crowd that packed the 250-seat multipurpose lecture hall. Others watched the live stream on TV monitors in the hallways of the building.
College leaders, as well as state and local elected officials, told stories of the over decade-long process to establish the $30 million campus. They applauded Gallon, who retired after 18 years, for his vision and persistence to establish the campus and secure the initial funding and support. They also praised current PBSC president Ava L. Parker, J.D., for helping to secure the final $9 million from the Florida Legislature to complete the first building.
“I was with Dennis Gallon in 2004. He did not do this for it to be named for him. He did this because he had a vision,” said Jeff Atwater, Florida’s former chief financial officer. Atwater was in the Florida House of Representatives when the PBSC District Board of Trustees authorized Gallon that year to pursue a feasibility study and in the Florida Senate when the Board of Education in 2006 approved the College’s request to build the campus.
“This campus represents what’s important,’’ said David Browning, mayor of Loxahatchee Groves, who described how he drove Gallon around in his pickup truck to see possible sites. “The education that will be provided here will last for a long time. It will affect generation after generation of people that will be able to do things that they normally don’t realize they can do.”
“I think it is absolutely the perfect site,’’ said trustee Wendy Link, who also was recognized for her persistence in seeking state funding for the campus. “It takes a village to do anything,” she said, applauding Gallon, Parker and others. “The community wins and, most importantly, the students win.”
Gallon, who received a standing ovation, attended the event with about a dozen members of his family. He said he was humbled by the trustees’ decision to name the campus in his honor. He helped unveil a life-size portrait of himself that hangs on a lobby wall.
“Very few things of significance happen alone. All the things that happened during my tenure are no exception,’’ he said. He said he owes a debt of gratitude to all of the trustees who supported him during his tenure, and he recognized the support he received from staff and faculty.
With an initial focus on health sciences and technology, the campus features a virtual medical lab using zSpace® 3-D technology. It replaces the traditional anatomy “wet” lab with computer-simulated experiences using the technology. The campus offers general education courses that count toward the Associate in Arts degree as well as the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, Health Information Technology Associate in Science degree, Health Informatics Specialist certificate, Medical Information Coder/Biller certificate and Healthcare Documentation/Transcription technical diploma.
Another key feature will be the training hub for PBSC students and customers of the Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine. Through a memorandum of understanding, PBSC students training for health information technology careers will have access to Modernizing Medicine’s iPad-based electronic health record (EHR) system, EMA™, and Practice Management system. In exchange, Modernizing Medicine will use certain campus facilities to provide training to its customers.