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By Molly Workman Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently visited Bellingham to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Whatcom Community College’s new Phyllis and Charles Self Learning Commons.   Students and faculty of Whatcom Community College, as well as general Whatcom County residents, poured into the college’s Heiner Theater on Wednesday, April 11 to celebrate the occasion. 

Kathi Hiyane-Brown speaking on how the new learning commons came about. // Photo by Molly Workman
The Phyllis and Charles Self Learning Commons is a space that will pool the resources the library offers with academic support services, Brian Keeley, director of facilities and operations at Whatcom, said in an email. These support services include instructional technology, individual study pods and collaborative workstations. The hope is that the one-stop-shop for all of these resources will foster group interactivity and progress with the university's commitment to support the needs of next generation students, Keeley said. Jebin Tahera, an international student at Whatcom, talked about the benefits of having compiled resources. “Right now, the library and the technology center are in two separate places, and having the compiled resources will help other international students transition,” she said. Whatcom President Kathi Hiyane-Brown opened the ceremony. “I have been here now for 11 years, as president of the college, and it has taken 11-plus years to have a day like this one,” she said. Inslee also spoke at the ceremony. “I have always been a fan of community colleges,” Inslee said. “I have really fought for community colleges, because they are so innovative and so responsive to the immediate needs of the economy and their communities.” Inslee spoke about the progressive approach Whatcom takes through their various projects, such as the new cybersecurity program. “This is a national jewel. The Whatcom County Community College Cybersecurity program is not something that just the college can be proud of, but it is a national asset,” Inslee said. Carter Johnson is a first-year student at Whatcom who studies cybersecurity. Johnson spoke about the benefits of having Inslee present for the ceremony. “For this meeting, he brought more people to be aware,” Johnson said. “I think he is a figure of leadership and him being here has to do with the way the college is growing.” Michael Henderson, a second-year student at Whatcom, reflected on the governor’s presence. “I thought it was interesting because it gave the impression that we’re not just some community college,” he said. “It gave us recognition at a state level.” Inslee was not the only public figure present at the ceremony. Members of the city council and neighborhood association were in attendance as well as presidents of surrounding colleges, including Western’s president Sabah Randhawa. Phyllis and Charles Self, who the building is named after, attended with their son and his family. Phyllis spoke at the ceremony about her connection and involvement in what it took for this building to come to fruition. She said she first became a trustee in 1996 and retired in 2006. One of the last things she did as a trustee was open Kulshan, the science building, then immediately after applied for a bid to borrow money from the state to fund the learning commons, Phyllis said. “We are very glad, Gov. [Inslee], that you and our representatives in the Senate and the House agreed that this building should take place,” she said. Brown said the learning commons is expected to open fall 2020.           


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