One day after Blue Mountain Community College celebrated the grand opening of its new Facility for Agricultural Resource Management, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon) arrived Friday in Pendleton for a tour of the latest developments on campus.
Walden, who visited Boardman Foods at the Port of Morrow earlier in the morning, praised BMCC for keeping modern following the completion of three new buildings paid for by a $23 million capital construction bond in 2015 — including FARM, the Precision Irrigated Agriculture Center in Hermiston and Workforce Training Center in Boardman.
“The importance of an educational institution like this cannot be overstated,” Walden said. “Institutions like this really are where students get the technical training that we need, too, in the workforce. And it’s often an unmet need.”
The tour began at FARM, where Walden met with Preston Winn, chairman of the BMCC agriculture department. Joined by fellow instructors, the group strolled around the building, including the livestock lab which features a new, top of the line hydraulic squeeze chute.
“This is what I need in Congress,” Walden joked, drawing a laugh.
From there, Walden headed to the diesel technology lab where he met Jeff Priester, a second-year student from Twin Falls, Idaho, whom Walden helped sort out a paperwork blunder that might have prevented Priester from applying for federal student aid.
Priester, 20, now lives in Pendleton and plans to use his degree to work for either a railroad or Oregon Department of Transportation.
“It’s been great,” Priester said of attending BMCC. “The way they teach is wonderful. You learn a lot.”
The tour wrapped up with trips to the newly renovated Morrow Hall, home of the student service center, financial aid and admissions offices, as well as Pioneer Hall for a brief stop at the Betty Feves Memorial Gallery.
On the subject of affordable education, Walden said he was pleased that Congress approved the restoration of year-round Pell grants in its omnibus budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
“That has helped a lot of students, and also helped with retention,” he said. “Students that stay in over the summer seem to stay into the next year.”
Carl Melle, dean of career-technical and community education, said he hoped to show Walden how BMCC is working to improve its programs for students, and aligning with state expectations for higher education.
“We’re doing our best to serve our community’s needs, based on the funding from our bond and good stewardship of the resources we have,” Melle said.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.