Anna Merrill and Amanda Barbieri sit in their interior design display at BTECH’s 50-year celebration.

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Bridgerland Technical College celebrated 50 years of education on Friday through a public event with live music, free food and several booths showcasing the college’s programs. As a throwback to the school’s founding in 1971, the event sported a ‘70s theme, complete with tie-dye and music appropriate of the era.

BTECH interior design instructor Amanda Barbieri and department head Anna Merrill showcased their skills at the event with a ‘70s-esque, color-blocking display that took nearly two weeks to complete.

For Merrill and Barbieri, their program is a no-nonsense approach to learning a craft and getting a job. Merrill said the interior design program currently boasts a 100% job placement rate and teaches students what they need to know to succeed in a relatively short amount of time.

“I think tech colleges are kind of the future of where education is going,” Merrill said. “We’ve stripped out everything we don’t care about for interior design, and we focus on just what you need to know to get a job.”

For Barbieri, who came through the interior design program before becoming an instructor, what appealed to her as a student was the brevity of the program, but also the cost. Having already completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Barbieri said paying “tens of thousands of dollars” to essentially start over at a university was not feasible.

“This was a great way to get where I wanted to go much more quickly,” Barbieri said.

Colette Pulsipher, the Associate Vice President for Instruction at BTECH, said 50 years of education is no small feat.

“It’s amazing,” Pulsipher said. “We feel like we have grown tremendously.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Pulsipher said numbers of students — including university graduates seeking technical skills — and BTECH graduates have continued to increase. But somehow the college still often flies under the radar of those seeking to further their education, Pulsipher said.

“That’s the whole purpose really of what we’re doing today, is to hopefully increase the awareness to the general public of what we have to offer,” Pulsipher said. “We feel like we’re a real hidden gem in the valley.”

Jack Draxler, a member of the board of trustees for BTECH, said many people still hold the view that the college’s offerings are narrow in scope and spoke to a nationally recognized machining program and the upcoming Health Sciences building as examples of assets provided to the community by BTECH.

“We still feel like the college is not as well known and understood as it should be,” Draxler said.

Draxler, a USU graduate himself, said BTECH exists somewhat in the shadow of the local university but also has a program for students to transfer to a university setting without having to duplicate coursework.

“We just want more people, especially young people, to understand what’s available to them here,” Draxler said.

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