Students first, athletes second

10/08/2015 by Paul Briand

New Student Success Center opens amid growing enrollment at Great Bay Community College

The academic side of Great Bay Community College has been around Pease International Tradeport since 2008 with the college’s arrival from its previous home in Stratham. Today, GBCC has what college officials describe as the “soft skills” side with the recent opening of the 20,000-square-foot Student Success Center.

“This is the non-academic side of the house,” said Michael Fischer, associate vice president of student affairs. “We’re really trying to build those soft skills that employers really crave.”

The Student Success Center opened officially to students on Monday, Aug. 31, just as the Pease campus started to gear up for its fall semester. Its first official event was convocation Sept. 3 featuring Sean Clancy, manager of leadership development for Legacy Supply Chain Services and chairman of the GBCC Student Development Advisory Board.

Half of the space in the new student center is devoted to the gymnasium, which will be home to the Herons — new teams of women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s and women’s basketball that will compete in the Yankee Small College Conference league.

Fischer emphasizes the student part of the student-athlete.

“They’re students first, athletes second,” he said. “With athletics, it’s not just about bouncing or hitting a ball, but about the teamwork skills you build.”The gym will also host intramural sports open to tenants within the Pease Tradeport, as well as serve as the venue for graduations and convocations.The gym could play a role as the site for future political events as candidates for president in this first-in-the-nation state look for venues to hold forums. The gym can seat about 400 in its bleachers, about 1,190 total with seating also on the floor.

According to Fischer, the Success Center will also be home to a variety of skill-building services and programs, such as mentor programs, civic engagement and community outreach, and student government and student leader programs.

With the intramural programs inside the gym open to Pease tenants, Fischer looks forward to students interacting with employees who work at Tradeport-based companies. “It’s a win-win,” said Fischer. The students will play intramural for free as part of their student fees, while the tenants will be charged a fee, helping the college defray some of the expenses associated with the center. “The center is really trying to be selfsustaining,” said Fischer.

Other features of the student center include an area outside of the gym to sell concessions during games. It is also a student information desk with “students helping students,” said Fischer.

A workout area includes cardio machines such as treadmills as well as weight machines along with locker rooms for changing and showers.

Lounge areas feature chairs, couches and high-top tables. A pool table awaits a game as do gaming consoles and a Foosball table in a rec room.

A multi-purpose room is well suited not only for meetings, but for exercises classes such as Zumba as well.

The student center — constructed by North Branch Construction with the design by JSA Architects — flows seamlessly from the academic section. There had been discussion early on as to whether make it a separate building or attach it to the existing building.

Fischer, for one, is happy to see it attached.

“It’s definitely the way to go,” he said. “It was the right call.”

The student center, according to Fischer, adds to the image of Great Bay, both visually as having a larger campus and culturally as having more to offer enrolled and potential students.

He said the new center is a contributing factor to an uptick in enrollments, particularly in the number of full-time students.

Fischer credits the school’s corporate partners with helping the Student Success Center along: Redhook Brewery (primary sponsor of a fundraising golf tournament), Seacoast Coca-Cola Bottling Company (for the gymnasium scoreboard), Martin’s Point (another golf tourney sponsor and provider of free physicals for the student athletes), and Portsmouth Physical Therapy (provider of athletic trainers to sports teams).

“Our community partners have been phenomenal,” said Fischer. 

Pease Quarterly