Southeast Community College Academic Excellence Center

Architecture firm: Multistudio, Design + BVH Architecture

Owner: Southeast Community College

Location: Beatrice, Neb.

Category: Merit

Project site: Not previously developed

Building program type(s): Education - college/university (campus-level)

The Academic Excellence Center for Southeast Community College in Nebraska solves one of the most paradoxical challenges facing many community colleges: creating a broader community among a nontraditional, commuter-based population. Focused on introducing equitable opportunities for study and connectivity to the rural context that drives the college’s STEM programs, the center is a differentiator that accelerates the value proposition for today’s learners.

The center is the first new facility built through a revitalization plan for the college’s Beatrice campus, south of the state’s capitol. The project is a cornerstone for an anticipated transformation of the campus, which has a student population of just over 1,000. Across its 51,700 square feet, the center supports a wide range of STEM disciplines, from physics and health sciences to music and fine arts. Its construction sets a new bar for campus development and highlights critical programming through its cutting-edge learning environments, offices, and public space.

“The center is a simple, elegant solution that remains sensitive to its context. It allows students to engage with their peers, a critical consideration for any commuter college.” - Jury comment

Envisioned by the team and college leaders as a machine for learning, the new center’s orientation, form, and fenestration optimize daylight in all learning spaces. Its primary classrooms leverage indirect daylight from adjacent open collaboration and circulation. The balance of direct and indirect daylight is further distributed along a primary circulation spine to create a dynamic experience that supports impromptu social connectivity. The team’s strategies offset most artificial lighting needs while simultaneously enhancing the learning experience and bolstering connections to the surrounding community.

Though the college did not articulate specific energy conservation goals, the team employed a purposeful approach to sustainability that nurtures user well-being and comfort while ensuring the facility’s longevity and a return on investment that correlates to the college’s overarching business plan. It meets the Architecture 2030 Challenge through a 70% energy reduction and a photovoltaic-ready infrastructure that will help move the college to a net zero master plan.

A vital gateway to the campus, the center is both a destination and landmark for the college community. It is an aesthetically contemporary solution that responds to both program and considerations while still celebrating the unpretentious rural vernacular of Nebraska.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2020

Gross conditioned floor area: 51,700 sq. ft.

Project team

Architect: Multistudio, Design

Associate Architect: BVH Architects

Engineer - Civil & Structural: Olsson

Engineer - MEP: Morrissey Engineering, Inc.

General Contractor: Hausmann Construction


Lori Cappucio, AIA (Chair), SmithGroup, Washington, DC

Omar Bailey, AIA, Shepley Finch, Phoenix

Vince Gonzales, AIA, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle

Kandis Larsen, AIA, Integrus + YGH, Spokane, Wash.

Sindu Meier, AIA, William Rawn Associates, Milton, Mass.

Image credits

Southeast Community College Academic Excellence Center-07

Michael Robinson

Southeast Community College Academic Excellence Center-03

Michael Robinson

Southeast Community College Academic Excellence Center-04

William Hess

Southeast Community College Academic Excellence Center-05

Michael Robinson

Southeast Community College Academic Excellence Center-06

Michael Robinson