A new student commons at National Park College will provide a key amenity requested by students, NPC president John Hogan said at the Hot Springs groundbreaking recently.
“It will be a monument to that heart of student success,” he said. A new entrance from Mountain Pine Road will make the student center a campus focal point, he said. It will house a bookstore, food services, coffee shop and other student amenities. The ground floor will have conference space, and the second floor will have classrooms and student- support staff offices.
Also, a new marine technology building will be built as part of phase one of the master plan.
The Gerald Fisher Campus Center will be converted into classrooms.
The Innovative Technologies Center and the hospitality and tourism program will relocate to the first floor of the Gerald Fisher Campus Center.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson praised the college’s progress. “As I reflected on your presentation and what’s happening here at National Park College, I am reminded that you are doing everything that we need to be done in Arkansas at our two-year colleges,” he said.
“Tourism is the number two industry in the state of Arkansas. The partnership with the two-year college, National Park, is essential and I love to see that investment in tourism,” he said.
The governor also praised the school’s efforts to reduce administration expenses, which is helping the school pay for the construction. “I like the fact that you are making student success affordable,” Hutchinson said.
He commended the college for its participation in concurrent credit programs and support of the ARFuture scholarship program. “What you are doing here is essential. The role of two-year colleges in Arkansas is very important for our success. We want to increase the number of post-secondary credentials,” the governor said.
Hutchinson said tourism is Arkansas' second-largest industry, behind agriculture and ahead of manufacturing.
He said CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs’ partnership with NPC and Henderson State University to increase the nursing workforce and enrich the nursing programs offered is a key investment in the state.
“Wherever you look at the fact that you are emphasizing a health-care industry that’s so important to our state. If we can’t get our health right, we’re not going to have our state right.
“We’re not going to have our future right. This community has invested in health care, and a partnership with a two-year college is essential,” he said.
Hutchinson said he recently visited the Iowa governor “to discuss Arkansas’ leading role in computer science and coding education.”
“When you look at your investment in technology, to be offering computer science instruction and degrees, this is critical,” he said. “We mandate that computer science or coding is offered in every high school, we don’t mandate the students to take it. And so I market it. I sell them, I say ‘This is the future for you.’”
Hutchinson said he recently visited coding classes at Poyen School District, near Malvern.
State Sen. Bill Sample, whose district includes Hot Springs Village, introduced the governor.
Oaklawn Foundation chairman Dennis Smith announced a $400,000 gift for the hospitality and tourism program. The funds will help create a 7,500-square- foot hospitality and tourism center.
State Rep. Les Warren, who also chairs the NPC Foundation board, emceed the event. We have seen many additions to the academic offerings and student life opportunities at NPC. We have more transfer agreements with Arkansas universities than ever before. We chose a mascot, the Nighthawks, and started intramural sports as well as a basketball program. All of these undertakings have the effect of offering a great experience for Garland County students so they will choose to start college here and stay in Garland County upon graduation.”
Hogan said the school shares its students’ aspirations. “Our students’ dreams are our dreams.
“What we have to do, what obstacles we have to move, what support we have to provide, what classes we have to teach, what legislation we have to pass, it is focused on those dreams.”
Hogan said NPC has reduced administrative overhead by five percent in recent years. “We want our investments to be in faculty, and student affairs, and services that touch students directly because that means they are more likely to persist, more likely to succeed and graduate,” he said. “Here, we reinvest that in student success. What we are talking about today is a facility, a master plan that to us is another one of those investments in student success.”
The ceremony was held in the atrium of the Frederick M. Dierks Center for Nursing and Health Sciences.