Aide: Allen committed to college

January 4, 2005

Bulletin Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., is keeping an eye on the development of the New College of Virginia and will work to get federal funding when the plan is "further along," said Allen's regional representative for Southside, Tucker Watkins.

Watkins was in Martinsville on Monday to help area residents who need assistance with federal agencies and to hear their concerns.

In August, Allen came to Martinsville to meet with Dr. Ronald Carrier and his staff, who have been commissioned by The Harvest Foundation to establish the college in Martinsville and Henry County.

The senator endorsed Carrier's plans for the college and said he would help secure federal funds for it.

On Monday, Watkins reiterated Allen's commitment to help with the college after the plan has gotten "further along."

Watkins likened the project and subsequent funding to the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, a regional research and technology center.

In November, Congress approved $572,000 for the institute, with Allen's backing, to research the "development of high-value horticultural crops to bolster the agricultural economy of Southside," according to a press release.

It also approved $150,000 to study advanced polymer processing. Polymers are manufactured molecules that are used to strengthen materials such as fabrics and plastics.

For the New College of Virginia, Carrier has proposed a non-traditional baccalaureate model, consisting of an advanced technology curriculum of classroom, online and laboratory training. With 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday classes, degrees could be conferred in 28 months under the plan.

IALR and NCV have the combined potential to be a boon to the region, Watkins said. In developing new technologies, IALR would attract manufacturers and their suppliers to the area, and NCV would be preparing a skilled work force.

One research project at IALR that has enormous potential, not only for the region but also for national defense, is the Joint Unmanned Systems Testing, Experimentation & Research Site (JOUSTER), Watkins said.

JOUSTER is a robotics development project with a testing site at Virginia International Raceway in South Boston, according to the IALR Web site. Sponsored in part by the Department of Defense, JOUSTER is dedicated to researching and developing unmanned air, water and ground vehicles, the site adds.

"Imagine developing a robot that could locate and de-arm land mines," said Watkins.


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