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Another viewpoint: Community responsible for New College success
Sunday, March 30, 2008
By DR. BARRY DORSEY -
Following a recognition ceremony at New College Institute in December, several NCI graduates remarked that they could never have completed their degrees if NCI hadn't become a reality. Although the graduates began their work in other locations, they all finished at NCI, thereby having the distinction of being NCI's first graduates.
Seeing students graduate is the ultimate goal for educators. We at NCI are proud of these first graduates. However, local residents, area legislators, the Harvest Foundation and many individuals and organizations can share the pride. The entire community deserves the credit for NCI's success to date.
From a dream only four years ago to soon completing our second academic year, NCI is really the story of a community that wouldn't give up its dream of having a bachelor's-degree college located in Martinsville"“Henry County.
The community has supported NCI throughout its initial development by helping the institution get the resources (both public and private funds) needed to operate and by enrolling in the programs offered. NCI still is in its infancy and will continue to need the community's support, especially over the next four years.
NCI passed its first critical test in 2006 - approval by the Virginia General Assembly. Although we didn't get everything we wanted in the enabling legislation, we did get approval to begin. I'll never forget the Chamber of Commerce and other local groups that were ready, if need be, to descend on the Capitol with scores of residents from the area to express their support for NCI. The General Assembly understood all of this and wanted to help the region. As a result, an institution was born.
In the two years since that time, NCI opened its doors (a year ahead of schedule) in a renovated furniture store in uptown Martinsville. From a pilot program in its first year during which 118 students enrolled to this year serving approximately 225 students, NCI continues to grow. We currently have eight four-year institutional partners (public and private institutions) and a local community college, Patrick Henry Community College, that is not only a feeder institution, but also the location for some of NCI's programs. We also enjoy the cooperation of the faculty at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, who are teaching in our earth science teacher endorsement program.
A goal at NCI is to establish pathways for students to move seamlessly (that is, without having to take additional coursework) from community colleges directly into NCI's bachelor's degree programs. To facilitate transfer, NCI is developing a transfer guide consisting of a concise list of courses students should take in their first two years in a community college in order to transfer into each of NCI's undergraduate programs without losing credits or having to take additional courses. Having a seamless transition will take time to accomplish, but we're well on our way.
NCI currently has six faculty-in-residence/program directors, a number that will continue to grow. Our two outreach educators will make more than 5,000 contacts this year promoting education at all levels and working to increase the college-going rate in the area. We continue to offer summer programs for young people, workshops and lectures and other presentations of interest to the entire community.
But wait until you see what comes next. New degree programs for 2008"“09 will be announced soon.
The continuing dream, as it was in 2004, is for NCI to become a completely stand-alone institution offering its own degrees and having its own faculty. The review of NCI's success by the State Council of Higher Education, the governor and the General Assembly is scheduled to occur in 2012. So, it is important that NCI build up its number of degree programs and student enrollment to demonstrate success to the evaluators.
The challenge gives the community an opportunity to score an even greater victory for a region of the state that deserves to have its greatness "“ and goodness "“ affirmed.
(Dr. Barry M. Dorsey is executive director of the New College Institute.)