Carrier plots strategy for college

July 18, 2004

Bulletin Staff Writer

Build it and they will come.

That was the approach used by actor Kevin Costner in the movie "Field of Dreams," and that is the approach Dr. Ronald Carrier, head of the newly created Institute of Integrated and Applied Studies (IIAS), intends to take as well.
"We are going to build a college here," Carrier said.

The IIAS was created to help establish an institution of higher learning in the local area.

On Thursday, Carrier, who formerly served as president of James Madison University, announced that the IIAS has leased office space in the West Piedmont Business Development Center. It expects to have five full-time staff members in place by the end of the month, he said.

Before the year is through, the IIAS will provide the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) with a model for the university -- including details regarding its mission, curriculum, size and cost.

The IIAS recommendations will coincide with SCHEV's mandate from the General Assembly to study the establishment of a university in Southside and to have the findings ready for legislative consideration in January 2005.

The IIAS plans to be "extremely proactive" in developing the concept for the university, Carrier said. The proactive approach will work better than waiting for the sometimes creaky wheels of government bureaucracy to turn in Henry County and Martinsville's favor, he said.

It also will ensure that the idea of bringing a university to Southside Virginia remains at the forefront of SCHEV's already-crowded agenda, he said.

Carrier said he also spoke recently with state Secretary of Education Belle Wheelan, whom he described as "very receptive" to the plan. Carrier also has a meeting scheduled with Gov. Mark Warner on Oct. 2 and plans to meet with Daniel J. LaVista, who will become the head of SCHEV on Aug. 7, later this year.

On Friday, Carrier teamed with an architect to discuss facility options ranging from the creation of new buildings -- perhaps on the 100 acres off U.S. 58 east offered by Bill Adkins and Earl Greene -- to renovating existing buildings or using some combination of both.

Believing that its important to have some presence in uptown Martinsville, Carrier said he also directed the architect to study the possibility of turning Martinsville into a "academic village." Although the proposed university does not own any buildings uptown, he said long-term leases, tax-credits for academic uses and other economic incentives make it attractive for property owners to permit such use.

By this time next year, Carrier said he hopes the university will have an actual presence in the area with a curriculum, some course offerings and a faculty in place.

He declined to say, however, whether the university will go forward with or without state funding. Instead, he characterized his position as "let's go ahead and build it -- and cause the state to want to be part of it."

While saying that he is definitely looking for and expecting state funding for the school, the state is not the only revenue source that will be targeted, he added. One of the staff members in the new office will be a grant writer, who immediately will begin to seek funds from philanthropic organizations such as the Carnegie and Hughes foundations, as well as from industry leaders and the federal government.

Any revenue obtained would be added to the $50 million challenge grant issued by The Harvest Foundation to the state to create a local university by 2006. The Harvest Foundation, created from proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health Systems, also provided $2 million to create the IIAS offices.

"If we only had limited funds, we wouldn't have the Christopher Newports or the James Madisons" universities, Carrier said. "There are always emerging (economic) opportunities."

He said that he believes the university will garner a cross-section of support, not only because of its revolutionary approach of integrating its mission with the economic health of the community as well as the goals of industry and government, but also because of the federal government's expressed interest in helping regions damaged by global economic and trade policies.


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