NCI offers 'blank slate' as university branch

November 4, 2010

A university that becomes aligned with the New College Institute would have essentially a “blank slate” to create a new college campus, according to the executive director of the New College 2012 Commission.

“The right university,” said Bill Leighty, executive director of the New College 2012 Commission, would be able to create “an epicenter of innovation and creativity” for exploring and testing new ideas for education because NCI is a nontraditional higher education institution.

Frankly, “not every college president has the opportunity to create a new campus with (essentially) a blank slate,” said Leighty.

On Wednesday, the 2012 commission presented a report to NCI’s board recommending that state officials allow the institute to become a branch campus of a university.

An “exploratory team” was formed to further examine the recommendation, seek possibilities to become a branch campus and evaluate them. The team consists of Eugene Trani, president emeritus of Virginia Commonwealth University, a member of the NCI board and co-chairman of the 2012 commission; Rob Spilman, chairman of the NCI board; Allyson Rothrock, executive director of Harvest; and Charles Guthridge, legislative adviser to the institute.

Spilman said the team will begin its work immediately and make reports during the NCI board’s quarterly meetings.

It is too soon to tell which universities may be interested in linking with NCI or when an affiliation might be achieved. However, NCI Executive Director Barry Dorsey said he anticipates a proposal being developed by 2012 when the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia makes its recommendation for NCI’s future to the General Assembly.

Copies of the commission’s report will be sent to university presidents “so we can get some feel” as to which schools are interested, Trani said.

Details of negotiations with specific universities will not be discussed publicly.

That would be “the most destructive thing we can do,” Leighty said, due to the complex “politics” sometimes involved in negotiations between higher education institutions.

Negotiations on NCI’s future could include The Harvest Foundation’s $50 million grant, issued six years ago to challenge the state to establish a university in the Martinsville area. Harvest currently matches state funding to NCI.

“I’ve been stunned to witness the deep commitment” Harvest has shown toward helping NCI grow, Trani said.

Harvest’s contributions to NCI have not exceeded $10 million of the $50 million it committed, Rothrock said Wednesday evening. Reached at home, she did not have more specific details available.

Whether Harvest’s commitment would continue if NCI became aligned with a university would be among the details negotiated, she added.


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