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GMU president tours NCI site
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William Wampler (left), executive director of NCI, shows Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, the progress of NCI’s new building on the Baldwin Block uptown. GMU eventually may want to collaborate with NCI. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Friday, June 28, 2013

From Bulletin staff reports

George Mason University eventually may become involved with the New College Institute (NCI) after all.

On Thursday, university President Angel Cabrera visited Martinsville to tour the institute and discuss ideas for collaborations with NCI Executive Director William Wampler.

George Mason is based in Fairfax County and is Virginia’s largest university with about 33,000 students. It submitted a proposal two years ago to turn NCI into a branch campus but withdrew the proffer due to budget constraints.

Cabrera also visited the Baldwin Block, where NCI is erecting a three-story, roughly 50,000-square-foot building that will house new academic programs it is developing in advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship and health care technology.

Funded by the state and The Harvest Foundation, NCI provides local access to higher-level courses needed to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from various universities statewide. Instructors from the partner universities come to the institute to teach courses and are based there.

NCI is “looking for opportunities to partner with George Mason” for courses and research capabilities that will “aid us as we train the next generation of advanced manufacturing workers,” Wampler said.

Cabrera has been the university’s president for about a year. He said he is “very impressed with the vision” of NCI, particularly in terms of its use of technology in the classroom and desire to help students learn to use the latest technology.

He and Wampler declined to discuss any specific ideas right now.

“We need some more time to work through” those ideas and decide if a collaboration can occur, Wampler said.

“I can only hope that we can find the sweet spot soon,” Cabrera added.

The university still is not interested in taking over NCI anytime soon.

NCI’s “current thinking” of providing access to various universities’ degree programs and training people for modern manufacturing jobs, with its focus on meeting needs of employers in the area, is a “more interesting” concept than becoming a branch campus, Cabrera said.

“That approach is more sound” than being a branch, he said.

“Let’s make sure we’re doing” what NCI needs to do to help the area grow and prosper before it considers pursuing the branch campus concept again, Wampler added.


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