Case Studies

Katherine Hunt – College of Central Florida 

Doing justice for College of Central Florida’s facilities  

The need for law enforcement education evolves, and while the College of Central Florida continues to do its part to train police and corrections officers, its means of doing so are becoming strained.  

Katherine Hunt | Director of Facilities | College of Central Florida 

Katherine Hunt | Director of Facilities | College of Central Florida

As Director of Facilities, Katherine Hunt laments that though the college’s criminal justice curriculum is highly regarded, they’ve had to turn down prospective students and experienced officers. The current facility is a former one-story 1960s-era elementary school whose linear design doesn’t enable sufficient space to operate efficiently. In a couple of years, she’s anticipating a new state-of-the-art building at the Ocala Campus, where Hunt has been a fixture for a decade, the last four years in her present role. 

At least some of the funding for the new criminal justice building is in place, with the college receiving $17.6 million in funding from the state. When Hunt spoke to Blueprint in April, she was preparing the bidding process for architectural and engineering services, as well as construction manager services.  

By late fall, she and the team at CF hope to have the contracts finalized as well as the go-ahead from CF’s District Board of Trustees. Given the complexity of the design, construction documents will probably take another eight to ten months. By late next year, she expects the shell to stand for a 32,000-square-foot multilevel building that, if necessary, can be expanded. Once the shell is standing, it will be outfitted with the latest technological and multimedia infrastructure that Hunt emphasizes is necessary for modern police and correctional officer training. 

“What we’re realizing is that criminal justice education is very technologically driven,” she says from her Ocala Campus office in April after visiting other training facilities with her department. “We’ve got a lot to figure out before we outfit this building.” 

Everything but bullets 

Her team has plenty of general ideas while noting the sensitivity and high stakes of law enforcement and corrections. Whether it’s a recruit in basic training or a veteran enhancing his or her skillset, Hunt wants a cutting-edge simulation environment, one with hallways and rooms and all the special scenario equipment that depicts crises such as robberies, mass shootings, hostage situations and whatever else is needed to test an officer’s judgment and split-second reaction under the most realistic and chaotic situations.  

Katherine Hunt | Director of Facilities | College of Central Florida 

There will be automated gunfire, doors closing and actors shouting and playing the roles of bystanders and perpetrators. The scene of the mock crime might be an apartment, bar, convenience store, restaurant or bank. When students assess their poise under such fire, Hunt has learned they may recollect differently from what the video reveals, but that’s all part of their training. 

“Such an environment is good for improving a recruit’s muscle memory and ability to adjust to situations that can be part of everyday policing,” she says. “Our goal is to be able to respond to increasing community needs, and seeing all this come to fruition will be amazing and will take time to get it right.” 

On a less dramatic note, Hunt mentions other projects that also fill a community need and are amazing in their own way. For instance, last year’s completed remodeling of the Hampton Center, which offers a one-year program in dental assisting or a two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene.  

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, as of April, the Sunshine State had just over 13,000 dental hygienists, and there’s an opportunity for around 700 more. According to Hunt, the need is especially acute in the three inland counties where the College of Central Florida has campuses. The college partnered with the Marion County Hospital District in November 2021, and a new and improved Hampton Center is already educating a new generation of dental hygienists in locations where they’re much needed.  

Another notable undertaking has been the Building 6 Allied Health Sciences project, a 24,000-square-foot remodel that accommodated three more programs—Cardiovascular Technology, Respiratory Care and Diagnostic Medical Sonography Technology—while enhancing an advanced Surgical Services curriculum. State-funded, the Allied Health Sciences building was completed under budget in February 2023, and Hunt’s role as project manager and Director of Facilities was pivotal to its success. 

Jobs await grads 

This year will also see the completion of the new two-story, 42,000-square-foot Center for Nursing in Ocala, though it won’t be ready for classes until next spring. This, too, should mitigate a nursing shortage that has hospitals in Florida and elsewhere recruiting in Third World countries that can ill-afford to lose their own healthcare professionals. 

Katherine Hunt | Director of Facilities | College of Central Florida 

“Practically all of our nurses, dental hygienists and law enforcement officers are hired as soon as they graduate,” Hunt says. “We’re trying to do our part to fill this void.” 

 For Hunt, it’s all part of a responsibility for which she seemed destined. As a girl growing up in upstate New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Florida, she recalls sketching buildings and loft spaces. Her childhood was mostly spent playing outside, while Hunt honed her imagination by making cardboard houses with her sister, complete with matchbox furniture for Barbie and other toys. 

She earned her bachelor’s degree in design and her master’s in architecture from the University of Florida and spent a semester in Italy, traveling and studying buildings and how they engage a space. Decades later, that obsession endures. 

“I’m still playing in that sandbox, so to speak,” she laughs. “I love to travel; even a simple restaurant or building envelope can be exciting.” 

It’s not all about the building process. Finance also comes into play, but she welcomes that, too. 

“I really love crunching numbers,” Hunt says. “For me, working with the design team to come up with a plan that’s beautiful, functional and within budget is so fulfilling. I love the analytic process of finding that balance between numbers and the design elements.” 

So, Hunt’s in the right place to optimize her every skill. She’s also enjoying the Florida lifestyle with her husband, son and puppy. Dinosaurs, marine life and animals in general are on the little boy’s mind, and that has the family traveling as much as possible to zoos, aquariums and fishing. 

Katherine Hunt | Director of Facilities | College of Central Florida 

However, their recreational time can sometimes be compromised, as Hunt explained how a college is essentially a community that never sleeps and how incumbent it is to push it forward. But how satisfying she says it is to have a hand in preparing the college to better meet the needs of today and tomorrow. 

“From the facilities area, we’re helping students along on their journeys that’ll benefit so many more people,” Hunt says. “My department and I are proud to be part of what this college does.”    

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