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Program to expand at NCI

Thursday, May 16, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The New College Institute announced its Academy for Engineering and Technology will expand in the coming year.

The engineering/technology program began this year, and 29 students currently are enrolled in the academy, Dr. Leanna Blevins, associate director and chief academic officer for NCI, told the board of directors Wednesday.

The number of students is anticipated to increase to 180 students from Martinsville and Henry County in the coming year, according to Blevins.

“This was our pilot year” for the dual enrollment program made possible because of NCI’s partnership with Virginia State University, she said.

Students enrolled in the program can earn a total of 12 credits, she said.

A total of 33 students — juniors and seniors from the three local high schools — enrolled in the program last fall, she said.

“We will finish up the year with 29” students because four students who had enrolled were unable to complete the math requirements, Blevins said.

The 12 to 14 high school seniors who participated in the pilot program will continue their educations at a college of their choice, Blevins said.

Many juniors — most of whom are or have been involved in NCI’s internship program — have indicated they plan to go into the workforce after completing the program next year, she added.

One of the key lessons NCI officials learned in the pilot year is that two “tracks or options” of study are needed in the engineering and technology program, Blevins said. Each track will have a different math requirement, she added.

All students currently are required to complete calculus. Next year, however, Blevins suggested the program will have a calculus track for students more interested in engineering and a trigonometry track for those more interested in technology.

Also, students in Carlisle School can enroll in the upcoming year, according to Blevins, who added that several other school divisions contacted NCI about the program. “At least three have asked if we could do this at their schools,” she said.

There is a “good possibility” that NCI will expand the Academy for Engineering and Technology and other courses to Danville and Pittsylvania County next fall, but there is no contract or agreement on that yet, said William C. Wampler Jr., executive director of NCI.

Wampler said more female than male students are enrolled in the academy, and more minorities than non-minorities.

Initially, NCI planned to charge the same amount per credit hour for dual enrollment students as a community college, according to Wampler. However, “we did not want cost to be a factor” and prevent students from participating in the program.

As a result, funds were raised by the NCI Foundation Board to decrease those costs, he said.

Blevins noted the academy also is popular with local employers because employees with background in math and/or technology “are very much in demand.”

Also at Wednesday’s board meeting:

• Blevins said some programs will be continued to be offered at NCI in the coming year, while others will not.

For instance, a contract for bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in social work with Norfolk State University will be renewed, as will an elementary education bachelor’s degree program with Longwood University.

An early childhood program conducted by Norfolk State University will not be continued due to low enrollment, she said. The same holds true for an accounting program in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University.

However, a new agri-business program through Virginia State University is slated to begin this fall, she said.

“We are constantly exploring our options with universities” on other programs, Blevins said. Two in particular — James Madison and George Mason universities — are interested in forming partnerships, she said, and added that NCI has partnered with JMU in the past.

• A total of $32,000 will be awarded to students in the coming year to encourage them to enroll or continue their course of study, Blevins said.

• Ninety applications were received for NCI’s internship program, and 51 will be assigned to jobs throughout the community, Blevins said. Eight students will intern outside this area, she added.

Fourteen students currently are employed as interns, Blevins said. These students are assigned to positions that are focused in the logistics areas (such as how global companies are shipping overseas and others), she said.

NCI is working first to fill requests for interns from “those industries that are having a difficult time recruiting and retaining employees,” she said. In addition to their work experience, interns also will have opportunities for professional development and social activities.

• A program to provide TERP10 certification to dual enrollment high school students also was discussed. NCI is partnering with Virginia State University on that undertaking, Blevins said of the certification that is needed for a program known as SAP.

Many companies use the SAP program to manage their businesses or different aspect of it, officials said.

“When you say SAP to an industry person, they are familiar with it,” Blevins said.

Wampler said companies from General Motors and UPS, as well as local companies such as RTI and Eastman Chemicals, use SAP.

“Students who take this and pass it” and earn their certification “will have a passport to just about any employer who has SAP,” Wampler said. SAP also is a “calling card to any prospective company we bring here.”

• On construction of the NCI building in uptown Martinsville, Wampler said the current schedule suggests that steel will be delivered to the job site on June 22. He anticipates work crews will begin installing that during the first week of July.

“Once the steel is fully erected, it will be like hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree,” he said, suggesting that progress will pick up.

As a result of the new facility, NCI plans to ask for state funds needed for two new positions — a coordinator of advanced manufacturing who will be on site five or six days each week and a facilities manager, he said.

An additional estimated $300,000 also will be requested from the state for operating support, Wampler said.

• When a contract with the University of Virginia is finalized for a Next Generation Healthcare program, two other positions will be added — and paid for by a grant from the Department of Health, he said.

• The board also received a budget update through the end of April and approved a more than $2.1 million budget for fiscal 2014.


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