By Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice
“This is an exciting day,” was echoed by various Bakersfield College faculty, staff, and students at the groundbreaking ceremony of the college’s new Agricultural Sciences Building.
The ceremony was held on BC’s main campus on Nov. 30, and according to the Associate Vice President of Instruction and Dean of Agriculture at BC, Jessica Wojtysiak, the building has been a long-awaiting desire of the agricultural department.
Wojtysiak noted that several community supporters helped fulfill that desire and facilitated this approach to agriculture education.
“Our programs are on the cutting edge of science, and this facility will serve as a hub for innovative research and learning,” Wojtysiak said, “Our agriculture pathway students can choose from seven disciplines, including agriculture science, forestry, and natural resources, plant science, agriculture business, ornamental horticulture, mechanized agriculture, and food science and technology.”
The agriculture department at BC is made up of 14 fulltime faculty as well as several adjunct professors. Wojtysiak explained that the expanding program has been recognized as the fifth-largest department serving Hispanic agriculture students in the nation.
Measure J, which was passed in 2016, has played a major role in advancements at BC, supporting development through a $502 million bond.
According to Tom Burke, chancellor of the Kern Community College District, one of the top spending priorities for Measure J from the bond oversight committee was the Agricultural Sciences Building.
“When Measure J passed, we were required to form a bond oversight committee, and Mr. Steven Murray with Murray Family Farms volunteered to come onto our bond oversight committee,” Burke said. “From the first day of our bond oversight committee, every meeting, the first question to me from Steve was, ‘When are we breaking ground on the agriculture building?”
Agricultural Department Chair Heather Baltis is hopeful that the new building will improve teaching methods, curriculum delivery, and contribute to student success. Students also shared their excitement for the new facility and the opportunities it will add to their major.
“I see this new building as a greenhouse for our dreams. It is here that students just like me will nurture our passion for agriculture and watch it grow into something amazing,” plant science major Jesus Rojas said.