Trident Tech opens upgraded building

Trident Technical College students Eric Johnson (from left), Jessica Manigault, Michael Benson and Donald Brewer learn how to put together a movie film camera during class.

Trident Technical College film student Brandon Mohtassem said he’s now learning on the state-of-the-art equipment he will use on the job after he graduates.

Mohtassem, 22, who eventually plans to make music videos, is thrilled with the new facilities for students in the Film, Media and Visual Arts programs, which opened Wednesday.

The $9.3 million upgrade to the school’s 950 Building also includes a wellness center and cafe. The cost covered design, construction and equipment, school officials said. Money for the upgrade came from a capital fee, which students pay.

The school acquired the building, which was a warehouse adjacent to the North Charleston campus, in 2001, said Mary Thornley, the college’s president. It has housed the bookstore and a training facility for Boeing in recent years, and the college rented the rest of the space to businesses.

The newly upgraded building will create more space to accommodate Trident Tech’s growing enrollment, Thornley said. “Everything has to do with growth.”

Trident’s enrollment has grown from 12,763 in fall 2008 to 17,224 in fall 2012.

Thornley said the film and media programs have been growing, and they require special space and equipment. The new studios give students what they need.

Mohtassem, who is in his second semester at Trident Tech, agreed. He was told when he was considering applying to the program that the upgrades were on the way. “It influenced my decision to enroll,” he said.

Baird Mallory, chairman of the school’s Area Commission, who has been connected to the school since 1974, said its film-production facilities have come a long way. “I remember when a guy named Jim used to roll around TVs on a cart. That was our media department.”

The upgraded building also includes a wellness center full of exercise equipment. Students, faculty and staff members can work out there. And the college is launching a fitness specialist certification program. Courses for that three-semester program will be taught in the wellness center.

Thornley said students and college employees have been asking for a fitness center for more than 20 years.

The college also is building a Nursing and Science Building to accommodate a growing demand from students who want to pursue careers in those fields. That building is expected to open by the end of the year.