During 60th anniversary year, San Jacinto College leader talks changing education landscapes

San Jacinto College's main campus is in Pasadena. (Courtesy San Jacinto College)
San Jacinto College's main campus is in Pasadena. (Courtesy San Jacinto College)

San Jacinto College's main campus is in Pasadena. (Courtesy San Jacinto College)

As San Jacinto College celebrates 60 years of operations, its leaders are also working to adjust to the changes in higher education landscapes brought about by the pandemic.

SJC has resumed in-person instruction with face covering recommendations and other enhanced health and safety procedures amid COVID-19, but fewer students are present on campuses for classes this fall, Chancellor Brenda Hellyer said during the college’s annual State of the College address Nov. 12. She said she is surprised by the increase in remote students, but is working to understand the changing needs of students so the college’s leaders can better serve them.

“San Jacinto College is a place where anyone can get on the path to support their dreams,” she said during the address.

The college officially hit 60 years on Sept. 18 and is celebrating the anniversary with a theme of “60 years of service,” she said.

SJC was established to help with workforce development and training across the Gulf Coast region, and the college has expanded over time to meet growing needs. The first year SJC was open, the college set an enrollment record for the state of Texas, Hellyer said.


The central campus was established in 1962, with the north campus following in 1975 and the south campus in 1979, according to materials presented during the address. The college’s fourth and fifth campuses, Maritime and Generation Park, opened in 2016 and 2020, respectively. These five campuses serve more than 142,000 students in the eastern portion of Harris County, Hellyer said.

While not as many students are on campuses this fall, facilities are being added and upgraded to suit their learning needs in particularly technical courses. SJC is wrapping up its 2015 bond project, worth $425 million, which allowed for necessary infrastructure improvements, renovations of decades-old facilities and the addition of new buildings, Hellyer said.

Bond project highlights include a new welcome center; a new cosmetology and culinary center; upgrades to the college’s tunnel system; and new and upgraded classrooms and labs. A new classroom building will also open in 2022 on the central campus—and it will break a record when it does.

The new building will be made entirely of mass timber, and will be the largest instructional building in the country to be built of this material, Hellyer said Nov. 12. Mass timber is sustainable and cost-effective, and the college was able to lock in its prices on material prior to the pandemic, Hellyer said.

Earlier this year, the Maritime campus received a federal Center of Excellence Designation for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education—one of less than 30 such centers nationwide, Hellyer said.

“This speaks to the growth, to the innovation and the opportunities that we have embraced throughout [San Jacinto College’s] history,” she said.

SJC is now made up of a total 2.5 million square feet of academic buildings, and the college offers more than 200 degrees and certificates. While SJC is known for its petrochemical and nursing programs, alumni have found success through other degrees and career paths, from audio engineering and life sciences to pastry-making, Hellyer said.

“Things may look a little different, but we’re still committed to being the region’s higher education leader.” Hellyer said of the college’s expansion process.
By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.


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