After a day at Inver Hills Community College, I’ve noticed that one of the defining things about it might be the campus itself — something the students seem to pick up on.
The architecture first hit President Tim Wynes when he toured the college before coming on board in March 2010. He said the shaker shingles on some of the buildings — which were covered in snow at the time — “made the buildings look like they were Swiss chalets.”
And unlike a lot of community colleges in Minnesota, most buildings are grouped along a pedestrian mall. Students told me that gives Inver Hills more of a traditional campus feel instead of the “high school” feel they get at other campuses, which house almost everything in one big building.
The mall is capped by the old gymnasium at one end and the Fine Arts Building and Klas Tower in the other. Enter that and look up, and you’ll see 24 pieces of glass hung at different angles. The prisms, when they catch the sun at various times of day, will emit a wide range of colors. Pretty impressive.
The campus is a big reason why 18-year-olds Kelly Schueler of Eagan and Ryan Roucher of St. Paul come here.
Schueler told me:
“It’s kind of like going to a private college, only smaller.”
Although the campus isn’t bustling (possibly because of its layout), students said they and their friends like to hang out here even when they don’t have classes or homework.
So there seems to be a more active campus life at Inver Hills than you might find at many two-year commuter colleges.
The school boasts dozens of clubs, as well as intramurals, and the culturally diverse student body seems to live close enough to take part. (Most students I talked to seemed to live within 15 minutes or so of campus — a stark contrast to the hour-long commutes I heard about while at South Central College.)
While I was there, the school hosted a geekily funny Life Raft Debate, had a blood drive scheduled, as well as a Jeans Day campaign by its Gay-Straight Alliance. (They encouraged everyone to wear denim as a sign of unity.)
Earlier this year, the college sent a team up against MIT and Purdue in NASA’s rocket competition — the only Minnesota college to do so, and one of only two community colleges in the nation to compete this year.
Of course, without an intercollegiate sports program, you might not find too much rah-rah school spirit. But 18-year-old Joe St. Clair of South St. Paul said the school T-shirts and sweatshirts seem to sell.
He told me:
“Even people who don’t even go here have them.”
For some it seems to go beyond just hanging out.
Inver Hills seems to be a place of academic and social refuge for 20-year-old Omar Garcia of South St. Paul. Although his home is only 10 minutes away, he said he lives with fellow Inver Hills student Terrance Lee at the Granite Bluff apartments just across the street from the college during the week and travels home on the weekend.
Garcia, who was hanging out with Lee and friends in the mild weather of a late afternoon on campus, said he can concentrate more on his studies and campus activities when he’s living close to campus with Lee:
“His place is quiet, while at home it’s … wow.”
(Granite Bluff seems to be one of the few, if not the only, apartment complexes right across from the campus, which is otherwise on the outskirts of town and set back from the nearest big street.)
Students such as Garcia praised the diversity of the campus and the caring nature of the teachers.
They even connect enough to have a little rivalry. Student Paul Hamberg said a faculty-vs.-student softball game is coming up soon.
(Note: I do realize I have a time stamp on a number of my photos. I must have pushed a button somewhere by accident, but finally noticed the issue and fixed it. Some remaining photos still have it, unfortunately.)