Motorists on Fort Worth’s Loop 820 Northwest have a good view of four impressive new buildings in various stages of construction, part of a multi-year TCC Northwest redevelopment project.
What President Zarina Blankenbaker also would like them to see is what’s going on behind the brick and mortar — a band of faculty and staff dedicated to the campus goal of demonstrating “care for students and colleagues by serving as positive role models to promote student success and valuing environments that embrace empathy, inclusiveness, compassion and respect for diversity.”
In other words, she wants them to see people like Kristi Smith.
Smith, an administrative assistant in the campus Veterans Resource Center, was at her desk recently when student Chris Shelby paid a visit. He and some classmates had found that a meeting room in the new NW05 building had not been equipped with the technology the group needed. He told Smith of his frustration but, in an email to TCC Board of Trustees President Teresa Ayala, said that he had been willing to let the matter go.
But Smith, he wrote, “was not having it. She took ownership of helping me get help. Her efforts led her away from her desk [and she] walked me to where I needed to go.”
Those efforts eventually included others, such as Vice President Jan Clayton and members of her staff and that of the library as well as those in the IT department. The upshot was that Shelby and his classmates were able to use an NW05 meeting room the next day.
When fall semester classes begin on August 21 and 22, that kind of service orientation will be on full display because of the unprecedented task of having to helping everyone — from first-semester students to veteran faculty — navigate a campus quite different from the one they left in May.
Three of the core buildings of the original campus — WSTU, WFAB, WTLO — are shuttered and about to disappear down the maw of a giant excavator, and a fourth, WCTS, will follow later in the fall. People and functions that were in those buildings have been scattered here and there among the surviving structures and one of the newcomers — NW05.
“We are approaching the fall semester with a mixture of excitement and care,” Clayton said. “Last year was an adventure in finding parking places. This year students will get to actively watch old buildings be dismantled while taking classes, receiving services, and participating in activities in what may be creative temporary locations.”
Vesta Martinez, director of student activities, is heading up the effort to get everyone where they need to be for the start of classes. The plan is to have “Ask Me” tables at multiple locations, both outdoors and inside, that will operate on the first two days of classes.
“We have lots of moving parts and pieces between now and August,” Martinez said. “And right now, we’re gathering information to determine where the tables will be. The unknown factor at this point is that buildings that were accessible are not, and the pathways have changed.”
Then, there’s the question of who will staff those tables. In late July, Martinez will ask campus departments to sponsor and staff a table with volunteers. The outreach in August will be to individuals, including faculty members and members of student groups. About 80 people will be involved. It’s the kind of team effort that animates Blankenbaker.
“We not only talk about our commitments, we strive to live these commitments,” she said. “Our walking the walk begins first with how we treat one another, and it permeates to how we show up and welcome and extend our hospitality to students. This is who we are at Northwest, and I consistently encourage and insist that we be what others should be able to see.”