September 24, 2006
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Bulletin Staff Writer
After more than two years of planning, organizing, adjusting and a little legislative arm twisting, a new era in education started in the area Friday as the New College Institute held its first class in Martinsville.
Ten students attended a 4 p.m. class in the renovated Shumate & Jessie building in uptown Martinsville, the first of several classes being offered this year as part of NCI's pilot program.
Students in the Friday class are seeking a master's in education degree with a concentration in curriculum and instruction through Averett University's Graduate and Professional Studies Program, with an accelerated 15-month year-round schedule. Classes on Friday are held from 4 to 8 p.m. and on every other Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Dr. Nina Huff, the class's instructor who also teaches at Averett and at the Governor's School here and is a former teacher in Henry County Schools, said she was "completely excited" about the class and the building.
"This is awesome," she said, referring to the renovated Shumate & Jessie building. "It is perfect for classes."
Dr. Leanna B. Blevins, NCI's associate director, said there were times she wasn't sure if NCI would become a reality.
"It's an emotional day for me," she said. "I've been here two years and it's exciting."
Blevins said actually seeing students in the classroom brings home the fact that the college is here. She gave credit to Dr. Barry Dorsey, NCI's executive director, for achieving that goal.
"It was his leadership and perseverance (that made NCI a reality so soon)," she said. "That's why we have students here today."
When the General Assembly approved funds for the new college in April, Dorsey said, the college was projected to begin offering classes in the fall of 2007 or whenever it was "practical," which could have meant a later date.
No one imagined that classes would be offered this soon, he said, a year of ahead of schedule.
But Dorsey said he wanted to start the pilot program as soon as possible for two reasons: to have everyone see that NCI is a reality and to give area residents an opportunity to further their educations as soon as possible.
At the beginning of NCI's first class, Dorsey thanked the students for their cooperation and ambition.
"You are making history for us," he said. " ... This is just the beginning of a great effort on the part of everybody (involved with NCI)."
Dorsey told the students that he expected between 50 and 75 students to be enrolled in all seven courses NCI will offer this year for its pilot program. "It (enrollment) should grow very rapidly after that," he said.
Dorsey said the college will play an important part in the students' future.
"We're here for our students," he told the class. "Anything we can do to help you, please let us know."
Averett plans to offer two other classes at NCI this fall â€” courses in bachelor's and master's degree programs in business administration.
Ferrum College's first course, scheduled to begin Oct. 5, is part of a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice.
A master's of education in educational administration and supervision will be offered through the University of Virginia; Longwood University will offer a liberal studies bachelor's degree with elementary education licensure and middle school endorsement in math and science; and Radford University will offer registered nursing and bachelor of science in nursing degrees.
Tuition for the courses is set by each school and varies accordingly, Dorsey said. According to previous reports, costs per credit hour will range from $160 to $405. Students interested in applying for financial aid should contact each institution.
Dorsey said an open house for NCI will be scheduled for October, but details have yet to be worked out.
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