HCC: New buildings, new courses, new image

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click to enlarge "As far as parking goes, you just need to come early. At least 30 or 45 minutes before your class. At least for the first week, because it gets really, really packed. Some people park on the grass, up on the curbs. [The administration] lets you do that as long as there's not a cement block or cone there. The best thing to do is wait for people to come out of the class before yours, which is usually every hour and 15 minutes starting at 8 a.m. So, 9:15 is a good time and you'll get a parking place really quick. Or if you go earlier than 8 a.m., you'll be fine." -  - --Amy Williamson, 29, second-year student, Dale Mabry campus - Alex Pickett
Alex Pickett
"As far as parking goes, you just need to come early. At least 30 or 45 minutes before your class. At least for the first week, because it gets really, really packed. Some people park on the grass, up on the curbs. [The administration] lets you do that as long as there's not a cement block or cone there. The best thing to do is wait for people to come out of the class before yours, which is usually every hour and 15 minutes starting at 8 a.m. So, 9:15 is a good time and you'll get a parking place really quick. Or if you go earlier than 8 a.m., you'll be fine."

--Amy Williamson, 29, second-year student, Dale Mabry campus

Hillsborough Community College can't get any respect. For years, the college — which has five locations — has been known as the cheap and easy option for older students and high school graduates not accepted into other state schools. Last year, HCC rated second to last in graduation rates of the state's community colleges. The school has struggled with keeping facilities up-to-date, and the latest plan to revamp the Dale Mabry campus, the largest in the HCC system, has been met with doubt and lack of investment.

But the college is attempting to remarket itself. Its first dorm opened on the Dale Mabry campus earlier this year. The president of the Ybor City campus has overseen major renovations in that location, along with new arts-related courses and a popular annual film festival. The Brandon campus opened a 54,000-square-foot student services building with a cafeteria, cyber café and auditorium. And HCC's newest campus in Ruskin, set to open this month, is LEED-certified. The changes are coming just in time; college officials point to an influx of accomplished students bypassing the crowded and expensive state schools to settle into college close to home.


Top 6 survival tips

See a show (or be in one). HCC's Ybor campus houses a Fine Arts complex that includes studios, a gallery, theater and auditorium. The best bet for entertainment is to drop by the theater, where popular local companies like M.A.D. and Stageworks often present their shows. Palm Avenue and Avenue Republica de Cuba.

Catch a tennis match. The Lady Hawks tennis team mopped up the competition in the National Junior College Athletic Association, winning the NJCAA national championship title for 2008. Find the schedule for the Lady Hawks at hccfl.edu/athletics.

See Ruskin go green. HCC recently built a 55,000-square-foot "green" campus in Ruskin using recycled materials where possible, as well as utilizing solar energy and water collection for an eco-friendly design. The campus will open this month for fall classes. 551 24th St. N.E., Ruskin, 813-259-6100.

Read The Hawkeye. Get up-to-date info on campus events, news, arts and entertainment at HCC's online student paper, The Hawkeye. hawkeyenews.net.

Be a DJ. Because HCC is a commuter school, the opportunities to get involved on campus are limitless. If you an aspiring DJ and can't get a spot on WMNF, there are always openings at the Ybor campus online radio station, WXYB Hawk Radio. In the last year, HCC has outfitted the radio station with better technology and more CDs. 2115 N. 15th St., 813-253-7592, hawkradio.com.

Chill out at the gallery. Why dash off campus just to sit in the car and inhale fumes? Wait for rush hour to end at the HCC Dale Mabry's new art gallery, located in the campus library. The 4-month-old gallery's first exhibit is Bending the Artist's Straight Line, which showcases the work of Philip Uzunas, an internationally recognized, Pulitzer-prize-nominated cartoonist who currently resides in Clearwater. Open Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri., 9 a.m.-3 p.m., 4001 Tampa Bay Blvd., 813-253-7386.

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