When Johnson County Community College’s Hospitality and Culinary Academy moved into its own new state of the art building a couple of years ago, the college was left with a 9,000 square foot space that used to house its programs.
On Friday, that space will officially open to students — and the local business community — reborn as a hub for fostering collaboration and the exchange of ideas among students, faculty and area leaders.
JCCC’s new Collaboration Center, dubbed the CoLab, features a variety of spots for student groups to meet to work on projects, from long tables to intimate circled sofas, as well as a handful of cutting-edge teaching spaces. A gaming and animation lab features high-powered computers. A music studio has not only sound-insulated spaces for recording, but a mixing board and a dozen editing stations. In the coming months, an empty closet off the main CoLab space will be transformed into a motion capture studio.
The idea, says CoLab Director Christy McWard, is to provide the setting that brings students together to work on the projects that interest them most.
“We know that the more engaged a student is, the more successful they are,” McWard said. “They get engaged when they have other people to work with.”
The CoLab also provides a natural environment for students to work with subject matter experts from the Kansas City business community and for interdisciplinary projects among different programs on the campus. For example, McWard said, professors teaching classes on science fiction literature and animation have already come up with a plan to have their students produce animated presentations based on some of their favorite science fiction works in the CoLab animation studio. A composition teacher is having her food writing students work with Jill Silva of the Kansas City Star on editing a series of food blog posts they’re producing for class. A handful of those pieces will then be published by the Star.
“So these kinds of opportunities are happening,” McWard said. “And what it’s doing is generating more ideas from faculty. We’re making connections across divisions.”
The space, which just soft launched last month, has already become a favorite spot for events, too. On Wednesday, more than a dozen students stopped by over the lunch hour to hear a panel of businesspeople talk about how to match your strengths with a profession. Today, a group of students from Roesland Elementary is meeting with JCCC Arts Education faculty and staff from the Kansas Cosmosphere to learn about the physics of flight.
“It’s already become this hub for meeting and events,” McWard said.