College to include campus

June 6, 2004

Bulletin Staff Writer

A proposed college in South Central Virginia will have some form of campus, with offices and classrooms as well as a "powerful online presence," according to the executive director of The Harvest Foundation.

"There will be human beings in the Martinsville area and they will be working out of offices and classrooms and facilities. There won't be just an electronic server," said Harry Cerino of the foundation.

Cerino discussed ideas for the college on Friday, the day after a pre-planning report recommended creating a college that could become a model for revitalizing rural regions.

It would do that by "embracing non-traditional students and non-traditional approaches to learning," according to a release from the foundation, which commissioned the study. Non-traditional students could include adults and those needing remedial programs for college work.

While the proposed college will include a "powerful online presence," Cerino said it is too early to say what form the college will take.

"Dr. (Ronald) Carrier has said there will be an academic presence in the Martinsville region. He will do everything he can to bring the best faculty here. Sure it will have a Web presence. What that means and how it works out is way premature to say," Cerino said.

Carrier, the former president of James Madison University, was hired by the foundation to lead the initiative. He will establish an office in Martinsville soon, Cerino stated.

Carrier and the team he will assemble will define the vision and mission of the college, develop a curriculum, contact prospective faculty and work with community leaders, political leaders and academic organizations, Cerino added.

On Thursday, Carrier said he did not believe the state would fund a traditional college in Southside Virginia and that online programs could reach those not being served by higher education. Locally, he said the proposed college would have top-notch advisers who would tailor a program to a students' needs and state-of-the-art labs.

That caused some people to think the college essentially would be an online institution, Cerino said.

"We envision a college that, while housing the physical facilities required for world-class faculty and advisers, will apply the latest and most creative technological advances to enrich the academic experiences of the college's students and prepare them for productive careers," he said.

"We don't want to preclude anything. We want to be as modern and current and up-to-date as possible," he added.

Max Wingett, president of Patrick Henry Community College, said PHCC has more than 100 courses that are Web based.

"It seems to be the delivery system of the future," he said. "We've been getting into it more and more and people taking it seem to like it."

That is because it allows students to take classes anywhere, even at home, so they can work and meet other obligations without having to travel to a traditional campus for classes, Wingett said.

He added, however, that while most people now are familiar with computers and could take a class online, motivating students to keep up with a class would be important.

He said that he does not have enough information to comment on the planning for the proposed college, but he "presumes they would" involve PHCC at some point.

"We want this to go (succeed)," he said. "They made it fairly clear they didn't want to do anything we're doing at Patrick Henry."

Cerino said he is pleased that people are talking about what they envision for the college.

"The pre-planning report is intended to get the juices flowing. It is no attempt at a final document. It is not even a planning report. What we wanted to do is put out an array of options and ideas and start a public debate. There is a firestorm of possibilities," he added.


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