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A building can tell us much about what a community values. At Tri-County Technical College, this community values its students. This commitment has been evident since the college opened its doors in 1962 in Pendleton, SC, and is the driving force for its four campuses, 70 programs, and 800 employees.


With the construction of the new Student Success Center and the renovation of Ruby Hicks Hall, however, this core value is now written in stone. Nestled into the steep terrain and opening onto an inviting plaza, the three-story 72,000 square foot Student Success Center is the first new building on the Pendleton campus in 23 years. During those decades, student enrollment increased on campus by nearly 40%. In between classes, students had taken to studying in hallways or carving out a quiet place in the library stacks. Folks were making do with the available space, but the college recognized the need for a new student-centered building as far back as 2004. The vision for the Student Success Center was to offer a space that cultivated student engagement and incentivized students to stay on campus throughout the day by providing food in addition to attractive and comfortable lounges and study spaces. As higher rates of student engagement correlates to higher rates of student retention, administrators knew that making the Student Success Center available to students could effectively boost student success which in turn translates to internships, secure job placements, higher salaries, and marketable skills.



The Student Success Center was worth the wait. The design draws from a materials palette of brick and stone to complement the existing campus buildings with a contemporary form. The orientation responds to the site’s topography while framing outdoor views and maximizing natural light deep within the space; a rotated central core breaks from the rectilinear footprint to create a monumental entry on the plaza and an anchor for the spaces within.


The plaza level houses offices for student organizations, a flexible multi-purpose room, the campus store, a servery, and dining areas which spill out onto the plaza to soften the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces. Back-of-house spaces such as a central energy plant, IT offices, a print studio, campus store storage, an industrial kitchen, and the shipping and receiving area reside on the ground floor in addition to collaborative work areas. A three-story vertical book storage unit condenses stack space for library collections and allows a flexible floor plate on all levels.


The centerpiece of the building, however, is the third-floor learning commons, which provides resources and spaces that support 21st century workforce skills development. Flanked by a variety of study spaces, an active learning classroom, and the campus tutoring center, the commons creates a central learning hub with sweeping views of the campus to the south and a forest to the north. Varied seating ranges from open and flexible furniture groupings to built-in alcoves for individual study. Floor-to-ceiling glazing fills the space with natural light and maintains a sense of campus connection even as students study individually.


The interior design team employed inventive strategies to animate the space, maximizing the use of flooring for a high-impact yet economical result. Color guides the circulation and animates the building, often breaking the boundaries between spaces or shifting between horizontal and vertical planes. Dynamic patterns and asymmetrical shapes include brightly colored hexagonal honeycomb carpet tiles which morph and shift through various zones and program areas. The innovative design won a prestigious global award from international flooring manufacturer Shaw Contract in addition to a 2018 DesignWorks Award from IIDA Carolinas. The building also looks towards wise stewardship of resources with a sustainable design, and achieved a rating of two Green Globes.


Another key element of the Student Success Center project includes the renovation of Ruby Hicks Hall. First opened in 1989, the two-story, 55,565 SF aluminum-clad structure served as the campus’s library and administration building. A major interior renovation transformed the building to house Student Services. Tri-County Technical College leadership understood that removing barriers during the admissions process was a critical step for nurturing student success Prior to the renovation, new students had to travel across campus to nine separate locations to complete the enrollment process. By relocating the library services to the new Student Success Center, however, the main floor of Ruby Hicks can now accommodate enrollment, assessment testing, career services, registrar, financial aid, and success coaches into a single location known as TC Central.


Extensive work to upgrade the building to meet current code standards and facilitate an open plan workplace environment was required. Significant building enhancements include the reinforcement of the structural frame with lateral bracing and micro pile foundations as well as the addition of a new fire protection system, new lighting, new performance glazing, and an energy efficient mechanical system that tied to the central energy plant in the Student Success Center. The existing exterior aluminum cladding was cleaned, buffed, and restored to its near original luster.


On the interior, Ruby Hicks’s light-filled, student-centric atrium features flexible and comfortable furniture, ideal for students studying or waiting for an appointment. Dual Roll mecho shades on the western façade assist with glare while preserving views of the heart of the campus. New ceiling features and wood-look floor tiling provide a sophisticated, modern aesthetic. Behind the One Stop counter, open workstations replace individual offices, enhancing collaboration across student support departments. Small conference spaces within each department allow for confidential conversations to occur between students and resource staff members. Open workplace environments also replace closed offices on the upper floor occupied by college administration, allowing natural light and views to be shared and enjoyed by all.


Ruby Hicks’ refurbished boardroom is the cynosure, however. The interior design team sought to brighten up the boardroom’s chambers while maintaining the stunning existing mahogany millwork. To do this, the team incorporated several hospitality design elements to make the space feel more inviting. A single color for the wood work and a new crown molding unifies the room. On the media wall, simple but eye-catching picture frame molding flanks either side of the screen on a grey textured wall. At the center of the room is a striking quartz table for meetings. The room also includes smaller wooden tables for meals while gleaming cork replaces the carpet. The conversion of the boardroom’s traditional look to a refined, modern aesthetic aligns with the refreshed state of Ruby Hicks.



Tri-County Technical College’s mission is “to ignite student transformation by creating a challenging, caring, and supportive learning environment where everyone embraces personal responsibility for maintaining high standards, investing in each other, engaging in open and authentic communication, and cultivating a sense of belonging.” This sense of belonging and investing in each other permeates every corner of the Student Success Center and Ruby Hicks Hall. College President Ronnie L. Booth believes that it translates directly into better opportunities for both the students and the region. “As we expect our students to develop 21st-century workplace skills, like teamwork, collaboration, communication and social skills, we need to provide spaces where they can hone these skills outside the classroom,” he explains. “It is essential for students today to learn how to work in groups and teams to problem solve in today’s workforce. The Student Success Center [project] is important to achieve our mission and fundamental to delivering a transformative student experience and an investment in our students’ success.”



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Centering the Students Tri-County Technical College Student Success Center and Ruby Hicks Hall  

At Tri-County Technical College, this community values its students. This commitment has been evident since the college opened its doors in...

Centering the Students Tri-County Technical College Student Success Center and Ruby Hicks Hall  

At Tri-County Technical College, this community values its students. This commitment has been evident since the college opened its doors in...

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