SWOCC Then and Now

SWOCC Then and Now

Umpqua Hall 1964 and 2021

After 20 years of dreaming and planning, the college’s new health and science building Umpqua Hall opens to our students and the community this fall. Faculty are installing chemistry and biology equipment in a building abuzz with excitement. The Nursing Lab patients or “SIMS” are waiting. We have begun to inspire new generations of scientists, engineers and health care professionals.

The opening aligns with our college’s 60-year anniversary. It reinforces SWOCC’s heritage of offering people of diverse backgrounds the chance to attend a locally accredited college with modern facilities.

Did you know…

Umpqua Hall was one of two original buildings on the Coos Campus. Portland Architect David A. Pugh, of the globally influential firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), designed Umpqua in a “Modern Style”.

Modernism represented a new design movement away from earlier architectural styles defined by use of key features and ornamentation, toward a simpler, cleaner overall design achieved through careful consideration of form and materials. This architectural era ran from the 1930s through the 1970s, celebrating Western society’s embrace of philosophy, art and social organization.

The original building was 11,680 square feet and built by Donald W. Thompson Construction at a cost of $264,593. Eventually, the college added a mezzanine bringing the building to 14,800 sq. ft.

Naming and use

In 1965, Southwestern began naming buildings after landmarks and former post offices. This building recalls the Umpqua City post office near the mouth of the Umpqua River from 1851-1869, with the word “Umpqua” derived from indigenous people’s name for the area.

Umpqua served as the “shops” building for 30 years, hosting classes in welding, automotive, woodworking, carpentry and industrial technology. In 1994, the college discontinued classes in Umpqua Hall and in 2005 installed computer labs in the building, eventually using the space for storage and the campus security office.


In 2018-20, the college renovated Umpqua for health labs and added the new 20,890 sq. ft. wing. It features a lecture hall, student collaboration areas and modern science labs. Designed by Opsis Architecture of Portland, the new construction reflects the original building’s Modernist character. It also showcases sustainable, engineered wood products with cross-laminated timber and glulam beams from regional mills.

At $25 million, this is the largest capital project in the college’s history and a triumph of teamwork. We owe a hearty THANK YOU to the hundreds of donors – ­individuals, families, alumni, educators ­retired and working, along with Southwestern students and staff, businesses, service groups, private and public grantors, and health care providers who turned a 20-year ­vision into reality.

SWOCC Then and Now

We can’t wait: New health and science labs open fall 2021!

Fall term 2021, COVID-willing, Southwestern’s science, nursing and paramedicine instructors will welcome students into their new labs.

Imagine working on a team of inventors in a highly advanced physics and engineering lab.

You (or maybe your daughter or son) study alongside a trained NASA scientist. You experiment with solar power systems and other forms of energy. New equipment. New technology. A new solar-powered science building blended into science curriculum.

“The best thing is we can bring more students in and accommodate more projects and experiments,” said Dr. Aaron Coyner, associate professor of Physics & Engineering.

Doc Coyner spent time at NASA’s space flight center studying the ­universe. It’s big out there, and that makes teaching at a community college in Coos Bay appealing to a guy like him. Coyner loves his small classes. He loves involving students in NASA projects, teaching them the elements of scientific research. He loves working side-by-side with tomorrow’s thinkers and tinkerers.

SWOCC is affordable

For many local students, easing into community college with personal tutoring and small classes puts them on a pathway to successfully completing school and landing a good job. It’s also affordable.

An average student taking 12 credit hours per term will spend about $5,300 in tuition and fees at Southwestern — approximately half that of a state university. Financial aid packages are available, and the college offers nearly $1 million in scholarship aid each year. This includes scholarships specifically for students pursuing physics and engineering related degrees.

“I’m studying civil engineering. I plan to build roads and bridges,” said Beausang Conley, as he and two other students got a sneak peek of the new physics lab with Doc Coyner.

Local students like Conley from Reedsport, Bandon, and towns far away, come to learn the basics of creating products, experimenting with green energy and designing advanced structures and systems. Some graduate in two years and move directly into careers. Others transfer to universities such as Oregon State and Portland State for more advanced training.


SWOCC is a professional learning destination

Dr. Robert Fields

“This is an interactive, comfortable environment, with student study areas,” said Biology Professor Bob Fields about the new building.

Bob Fields has taught at Southwestern for 22 years. Right now, he is ordering compound microscopes for the biology and microbiology labs so all students have access to equipment. “Biology is a visual science. Professional quality microscopes are essential; so is a professional setting,” Fields said.


Students can explore options


Dr. Patti Gates

“With this building and the new equipment, educationally this a great launch pad for students to pursue their training,” said Dr. Patti Gates, O.D.

Dr. Patti Gates is a local optometrist. She grew up in Myrtle Point and gives back by serving on the Southwestern Foundation. She fundraised to build these labs and for scholarships to get more students through the doors. She knows what it’s like for students to learn in high-quality labs, having studied in a brand new building with inspiring instructors when she was in college 30 years ago.

“There’s a trickle-down effect,” Dr. Gates explained. “If I have an employee whose son or daughter decides to go to Southwestern, that student will have a better learning experience. If that student becomes a paramedic, at some point you or I may be the person who benefits from that expertise.”


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