Students, faculty, staff and community members came together Tuesday at Texas A&M University’s Central Texas campus for a groundbreaking for the school’s third building, Heritage Hall. The $36 million building is slated to be 60,000 square feet.

Heritage Hall will include teaching laboratories, the campus’s first research laboratory, a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, reading rooms, the school’s College of Arts and Sciences, a state-of-the-art computer assisted classroom, conference and seminar rooms, a small coffee shop and student gathering spaces.

“Although Heritage Hall will be somewhat smaller than (the school’s other two halls) Founder’s Hall and Warrior Hall, it will be no less significant in allowing the university to take another dramatic step forward in the expansion of its capability,” said Texas A&M-Central Texas President Marc Nigliazzo.

“At Texas A&M, it’s always been about education and opportunity — to make baccalaureate level education available through a public institution and to make it accessible, affordable and high quality. Heritage Hall will reflect the enduring commitment of all those who have worked to build this university, and will underscore its great promise for the future.”

Funding for the building is being made possible through state legislation.

Several decades of support and efforts from local and state legislators including Sen. Troy Fraser, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, Rep. Molly White and Rep.-elect Scott Cosper contributed to these efforts, officials said.

“Twenty-one years ago today, I committed to bringing an upper-level university to this area,” Fraser said. “Over the past 20 years, 11 state representatives, both past and present, assisted in this effort and eight pieces of legislation were filed to make this university possible.”

As the only upper-level university in the area to offer both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, 5,200 students have graduated from Texas A&M-Central Texas, said Nigliazzo.

The school opened in May 2009.

Texas A&M-Central Texas Chancellor John Sharp said 60 percent of those students were the first college graduates in their families.

“When that happens, the whole structure of the family is changed,” he said. “The conversation at the dinner table goes from, ‘Are you going to go to college?’ to ‘What college are you going to go to?’”

A reception at Warrior Hall followed the groundbreaking ceremony.

Officials did not say when the new building will be completed.

Go to tamuct.edu for more information about the university.

Abbey Sinclair is a Fort Hood military spouse.

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