The recent gift of $7 million from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, plans for Vision 2030+, construction plans and scholarship opportunities were among the items touched on by Odessa College President Gregory Williams during a news conference Thursday.
Speaking to the media in the lobby of the Saulsbury Campus Center, Williams said he wanted to share the successes and good news that OC has seen recently.
“We have enjoyed some tremendous success in our recent past and we are really proud of those accomplishments,” Williams said. “Still, we have much more to do for our students and for this great community.”
He added that OC is doing its part to make a difference in the community, state and nation.
“We began from a strategic vision that we call vision 2030+; everything will fit under that umbrella for the next decade or so at Odessa College. Our goal, as always, is to have more students, to prepare students more effectively, to help our students to be better resourced,” Williams said.
He noted that OC has a goal of reaching 10,000 students. They had 7,000 this fall, which was a record.
“… That’s a large number for us, but we’re getting there; we’re getting closer, as you know, we reached 7,000 last fall. The overarching goal for Odessa College, in everything that we do, is to become the best community college in our nation when it comes to effectively serving students,” Williams said.
On the donation from MacKenzie Scott, he said those funds mainly went to organizations that are helping people to recover, succeed and find success in this life.
“And also those dollars are used for colleges and organizations that have been successful in moving the needle. So we at Odessa College are really proud to be on that list and when you throw in the $7 million on top of being on the list, it makes it even better still,” he added.
It’s not certain yet what OC will do with the gift. Williams said officials have worked as an administrative team to think about how to fit the $7 million into its Vision 2030+ campaign.
“And we have a number of ideas and we will share some of those ideas with our board of trustees in the upcoming weeks. We will certainly solicit their input and their feedback,” he said.
Some of the things the college has been thinking about are scholarships and campus improvements.
He said some, but not all of the dollars, may be used for the new Wood Health Sciences Building. There will also be more scholarship opportunities for students.
Part of Vision 2030+ is construction. The shortage of healthcare workers is the main reason for building the new health sciences structure that should break ground in September.
The estimated cost of the yet-to-be-built four-story building is $40 million.
The existing health sciences building will likely be remodeled to accommodate early college high school students at OCTECHS and Odessa Collegiate Academy, Williams said.
Plans also are in the works for a building next to Wilkerson Hall. Williams said it doesn’t have a name yet, but the thought is to use it for teacher education and more space where students can take their foundational courses.
There are also discussions about scholarships for students who do the right things in class and in their communities that will lift up everyone.
Williams said scholarships will be available for at least 10 OC students who make a positive social impact and represent Odessa College.
Those students will receive a two-year scholarship with tuition and fees included.
Williams said there is a committee that is looking at student selection.
“What we’re trying to do is gather a group of student ambassadors, in effect, who will help us to generate more positivity in the world, in our state and in our community. And we’ll share that with others, so we want a group of people to not only help themselves in their studies, but to become more effective with social media; to use it for good and for positive results. And we want to see if we can generate that kind of energy around social media here and teach those skills and then share those skills with our other students,” Williams said.
Hopefully, he said, that impact will be felt at the national level.
“Because once we figure out how to do it, much like we do with everything else, we’re going to share that with other colleges and invite them to join us in this movement of positivity, of looking at what good, as opposed to focusing on what’s bad; looking at what our opportunities are and encouraging each other to reach our goals,” Williams added.
Williams also spoke about the Texas Reskilling Grant. OC has $3 million available to help students who were in college, stopped out, but can complete in the next year.
“Those people can come onto our campus and receive free tuition and fees, as well as other support here at Odessa College,” Williams said.
He said he believes funds for the Texas Reskilling grant are from the federal government through the State of Texas.
Those funds are designed to help people get back to work, he noted.