MC to celebrate renovation of conference hall

Midland College (MC) and the community will celebrate the renovation of the Jack E. Brown Conference Hall with an official building dedication and ribbon cutting at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 21. The building is located on the MC main campus near the Siesta and Garfield streets entrance.

In August 2020, Midland College closed the Jack E. Brown Dining Hall after moving its on-campus dining facilities to the June and Frank Cowden, Jr. Dining Hall. When college officials decided to repurpose the building, which proudly bears the name of one of Midland’s oil and gas pioneers, it seemed fitting to have the building serve as the College’s hub for its energy industry professional development activities.

The newly renovated 10,000-square-foot Jack E. Brown Conference Hall includes offices and classrooms for MC’s Petroleum Professional Development Center (formerly located in downtown Midland) and MC’s Workforce Continuing Education Department. It is also the new home of Midland College Continuing Education Division administrative offices. Education and training space in the building includes five classrooms and one computer lab.

Recognizing the need to serve students and the West Texas community in the best ways possible, Midland College is continually looking to improve and enhance classroom and training environments to not only provide state-of-the-art equipment and technology, but also incorporate cost-savings and other efficiencies into the college’s operations.

“We are excited about the move,” Erin Van Evera Welch, director of the Midland College Petroleum Professional Development Center, said in a news release. “We will be able to provide training in updated classrooms with easier access to accommodations, and the move will also give us more opportunities to partner with credit programs, like Energy Technology and Engineering.”

The MC Workforce Continuing Education department also uses the building for office and classroom space. Through hands-on training, staff in MC’s Workforce Continuing Education department coordinate classes and programs that equip students with certifications and licenses that they can use to qualify for jobs in West Texas and provide a skilled workforce for local business and industry. Recently, there has been an increased demand for upskilling and reskilling Permian Basin residents and providing them the opportunity to get credentials.

“We have a lot of students who are wanting to change directions in their current career field or get advanced skills so that they can be promoted,” Chelsy Gann, MC director of Workforce Continuing Education, said. “We provide short, quick, quality training to get them to the next level or into another direction. Today’s workers need to have industry-based credentials so they have evidence to prove to current and potential employers that they have the skills needed to do the job.”

Victoria Santiago, dean of Midland College’s Continuing Education Division, explained that while the Jack E. Brown Conference Hall provides classroom and computer training for energy industry professionals and lecture-based continuing education courses, other skills-based industrial certification courses administered by Santiago and her team occur at the MC Advanced Technology Center, the Cogdell Learning Center and the main campus, as space permits. The Continuing Education Division also oversees customized training for regional business and industry. Customized training is often conducted at the business location or a specialized training center.

“The renovation of the Jack E. Brown Conference Hall will enable us to better centralize Midland College’s training efforts,” Dr. Damon Kennedy, Midland College President, said. “By moving successful programs like our Petroleum Professional Development Center to the main campus, we can optimize educational space, and our Continuing Education Division can better collaborate with our traditional college programs. Education is the vehicle to evolution of our community, and the Jack E. Brown Conference Hall is one of many steps we will be taking during the next few years that will allow us to continue to be an integral part of what makes Midland’s economy strong and quality of life great.”