Higher Education: Building tomorrow’s workforce today


Jeffery Webb, SWVHEC CIO and Connie Estep, community and student success director for ODU’s office of distance learning in the server room at the higher education center. Photo by Scott Robertson

Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center to offer cybersecurity certifications through ODU

By Scott Robertson

Institutions like the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center are founded on the concept of partnerships beneficial to the surrounding region. That description fits the creation of the just-announced Cisco Networking and Cybersecurity Academy at the center to a tee.

In an environment in which Virginia alone has more than 17,000 cybersecurity job openings, the center’s executive director, David Matlock, was eager to find a way to offer training in that field to Southwest Virginia students on a non-credit basis. This spring, the human networking began.

Southwest Virginia employers including Food City and First Bank & Trust, as well as entities including Washington County and The Southwest Virginia Association of Manufacturers provided letters of support as proof of a market for employees with those certifications.

Matlock contacted Deri Draper at Old Dominion University. “David called me and said, ‘There’s a tobacco grant coming up in two weeks. Do you want to work on it with me?’ So we worked on a non-credit bearing certificate program with non-ODU instructors teaching the local folks so they could earn cybersecurity and networking credentials and help revitalize the area,” Draper says.

James Shaeffer, founding dean of the College of Continuing Education at ODU immediately bought in. “For us to have an opportunity to provide education for people who will then help solve an economic development issue and a workforce development issue, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

The Tobacco Commission’s education committee approved the $190,000 grant May 3, with Executive Director Evan Feinman saying, “We remain deeply committed to developing a diverse economy in the areas we serve and this project is a perfect example of that commitment. The entire technology sector, particularly cybersecurity, is growing incredibly rapidly and positioning Southwest Virginia to take advantage of that growth is critical to the region’s future.”

Tobacco Commission Chairman, Delegate Terry Kilgore echoed Feinman’s comments, adding, “The Tobacco Commission is proud to partner with Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center and Cisco to offer this program. Along with providing great jobs itself, cybersecurity is crucial to the growth of industries that provide jobs for our region such as manufacturing, health care, IT services and more. If a business is looking to relocate or expand, we must be ready for them, and this program will ensure that.”

The tobacco commission money will go toward the purchase of equipment that will allow the teaching of several certifications. In addition, the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center is putting in another $30,000 in scholarships, Matlock says.

The cybersecurity courses that will lead to Cisco CCNA Security certification will include NDG Forensics, NDG Ethical Hacking, NISGTC Linux+, NISGTC Python Security and NISGTC Security+. In addition, the National Center for Systems Security and Information Assistance will hold cyber defense competitions for students.

These will all be stackable credentials, Matlock says. “That means this can be a key component to recruiting new business to Southwest Virginia. I told Whitney Bonham (Washington County deputy county administrator for economic development) what we were doing and she practically started doing cartwheels. This is big.”

Randy Woodward, vice chairman of the Washington County Industrial Development Authority, says the benefits will also accrue to local students who until now have had to leave the region to get this kind of training. “I’ve been involved with the Cisco Network Academy at the Washington County Career and Technical Center for the last 18 years. I’m ecstatic that we finally have the ability for our students to go from the high school through community college on into the post-secondary system with ODU. These kids have the opportunity to change their lives. Depending on their desire, they can come out of this program into the $150,000 – $200,000 salary range easily.”

The first courses are slated to begin in January 2018.

Students demonstrate skill sin communications and teamwork.
Photo courtesy VHCC

Virginia Highlands Community College enhancing education with soft skills

By Scott Robertson

When the administration at Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC) began the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on College reaffirmation process more than a year ago, it looked for a way to enhance the quality of the education the college offered in a way that would truly differentiate the school over the next five years or more.

Because VHCC has a broad range of students, some of whom just want to obtain one certificate and others who want to go on to law school, the program needed to benefit a range of students. The idea the administration settled on, says Gene Couch, VHCC president, came from the business community. “We’ve heard loudly and clearly from our businesses and industries we could have a great impact on our students if we could teach those soft skills. We call (the plan) LearningPlus, and we have operationally defined it in four major categories.”

Starting this semester, all VHCC students will have at least one graded assignment in one of four areas of soft skills in every class. At the end of the program, there will be at least one capstone experience where students will integrate that experience.

Attacking so large a set of behaviors at once is an eyebrow-raising choice, especially when one considers the need for accountability in the reporting of results. Couch says he’s aware of the challenges, but believes the college is ready to meet them.

“We recognized there would be questions about how we would be able to say whether we’ve been able to move the needle. We think we have the methodology to get there. We have looked at all the literature and research. We have been working on this for 18 months. We didn’t just go huddle in the broom closet and come back and say, ‘let’s go with this.’

“We’ve been pretty thoughtful about what we’re going to do and how we’re going to measure it. We’re going to pretest, have experiences and then post-test. We’re using experiential learning as the methodology. We’re not just lecturing.”

VHCC Soft Skills for Workplace Success Communication: Maintaining open, effective, and professional communications

• Listening: Consider the viewpoints of others demonstrated through verbal and non-verbal behaviors

• Speaking: Share information and understanding verbally in a clear and coherent manner appropriate for various audiences and consistent with workplace expectations

• Self-management: Maintain composure and a positive attitude even in difficult situations

Professionalism: Demonstrating appropriate workplace demeanor and behavior

• Punctuality/Reliability: Fulfill work obligations in a reliable manner

• Attendance: Fulfill obligations in compliance with your employer’s policies and work schedule

• Appearance: Present oneself in work-appropriate dress with attention to personal hygiene

• Work Ethic/Integrity: Interact with your employer and others with honesty and personal responsibility

• Organization: Approach work and workspace efficiently and systematically

• Time Management: Effectively set goals and priorities and manage deadlines

Problem Solving: Demonstrating flexibility, desire to meet challenges, and ability to find solutions

• Problem Identification: Recognize and articulate challenges

• Adaptability: Recognize and embrace new approaches to address challenges

• Solution Development: Identify multiple possible responses to identified challenges

Teamwork: Showing the ability to develop and maintain constructive working relationships

• Interpersonal Skills: Apply verbal and non-verbal communication skills in a manner appropriate to create and maintain workplace relationships

• Enthusiasm/Attitude: Demonstrate a personal responsibility and dedication to advancing organizational goals

• Respect/Civility: Demonstrate an open-minded and flexible attitude towards perspectives and approaches that derive from diverse backgrounds

• Collaboration: Demonstrate willingness to contribute to tasks and recognize the contributions of colleagues

Dr. Greg Harrell with a specially re-engineered Walmart Jeep.
Photo by Scott Robertson

Milligan engineering program rolls into second year

By Scott Robertson

As Milligan College’s engineering program begins its second year, it is expanding on what is a very practical education. The college strives to train students to be productive from day one, says Dr. Greg Harrell, the program’s director.

It seems to be working. More than half of the first class of students wound up in engineering internships over the summer. “These weren’t jobs in the mailroom or sweeping floors,” Harrell says. “These were engineering.

That is very unusual for rising college sophomores, but Harrell says it’s happening by design. “We started this program because Eastman asked us to, but once we got started, other industries like Nuclear Fuel Services, NN Inc., and TPI all saw the model we built this program on is not just a great way to train engineers, but also is a great way to have experience, work-ready skills, knowledge and ability to be able to do things. So a lot of our industries around here started hiring our students very early in the game. That’s a testament to their confidence that we are training up our students to be able to accomplish things out there.

It’s the focus on the practical that employers appreciate.

  “We are teaching and training engineers to be able to do things, not just to understand the profession,” Harrell says. “One of our primary and principle actions is to move our students from merely understanding the theories, concepts and ideas of engineering to applying that understanding to the real world. In other words, we want them not only to understand those things, but to be able to do those things.”

The difference is not subtle. “You know, in the Winter Olympics you have ski jumping where a skier will zoom down a huge hill and launch out and fly as far as they can go,” Harrell says. “I understand that sport quite clearly. I don’t want to do that sport, though. I do not have the capability to do that sport.

“Well, we want our engineering students to not only understand how to do engineering, but to be able to actually do the engineering activities. So we start freshmen on projects their first day.” Those projects will help students learn theory down the road, so that once they begin learning the principles behind power transmission in a gearbox, for instance, they’ve already handled one. But more importantly, the projects have connections to real world problems.

“We want our students to be looking outside themselves to be targeting projects, ideas and problems they can solve – to solve somebody else’s problems and changes somebody else’s life,” Harrell says.

One particular project struck home for most of the freshmen last year. “Many of these students had a Walmart Jeep when they were children,” Harrell says. “They have memories of jumping into that Jeep and opening a whole new world of stepping on the accelerator and turning the steering wheel and feeling that freedom and that power and that fun.

“But now,” Harrell says, “think of a kid with muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease. That kid may not have the strength to push the accelerator or to turn the steering wheel. It’s out of their reach. That’s tragic.

“Our freshmen last year took on a project to convert a Walmart Jeep from steering wheel/accelerator drive to joystick control. So we made a Walmart Jeep that can go backward, forward, left and right with the effort of barely moving the fingers on one hand – almost no effort.”

Yes, it’s a feel-good project, but it is also very real mechanical and electrical engineering. “Our students took on this project with a ton of help from an organization called ‘Go Baby Go Rocky Top’ in Knoxville and a local organization called ‘Adapt to Play,’” Harrell says. “Our freshmen built a car and gave it to a little boy with spina bifida. Our students got exposed to a lot of good knowledge – but the real payoff was seeing that boy’s face when he grabbed the joystick and took off.”

So just as much as building a solar-powered HVAC system or a water purification system, the creation of a modified Walmart Jeep is a picture of Milligan engineering, Harrell says. “This is what we want to do. We are filling a need that’s real.”


Dr. James Hurley

Hurley named president of Tusculum College

Dr. James Hurley has been named the 28th president of Tusculum College. He will begin his tenure Oct. 1. Hurley was selected after a nationwide search that was initiated following the retirement announcement by current president Dr. Nancy B. Moody earlier this year.

Hurley comes to Tusculum from Lincoln Memorial University where he served as executive vice president, dean of the School of Business and professor of leadership and education. Under his guidance, LMU enrolled its largest class, added many new academic programs and the School of Business grew by more than 60 percent.

Hurley previously served as president of his alma mater, the University of Pikeville. During his tenure, UPIKE achieved its largest enrollment in history, experienced unprecedented programmatic growth and was named the 20th fastest-growing college in the U.S. by “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

“Dr. Hurley’s outstanding track record of executive leadership and administration has led to significant enrollment growth, faculty excellence, new programs and financial stability in the institutions he has served in his career,” said Dr. Greg Nelson, chairman of the Search Committee and member of the Tusculum College Board of Trustees. “His strong demonstrated capability to connect with students, faculty, staff and the greater community was evident to our entire Tusculum community during his campus visit. Not only does James bring a high energy level, knowledge, and passion for higher education in the Appalachian region, he also brings a strong network of regional and national leaders which will greatly benefit Tusculum College.”

Hurley succeeds a well-respected President Emerita. During Moody’s tenure Tusculum completed the most successful fundraising campaign in its history, raising more than $26 million, constructed two new apartment-style residence halls and a 100,000-square foot science building, and increased the endowment by more than $6 million.

“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to lead Tennessee’s oldest college with its rich history, heritage and commitment to higher education in Appalachia. I was drawn to Tusculum because of its intentional mission of educating first-generation college students, the deliberate focus on the Civic Arts and deeply committed trustees, faculty and staff. Tusculum is a special place with a prolific history and a bright future,” Hurley said.

King University’s M.S. Nursing Administration degree ranked among top online programs

By Scott Robertson

The Best Master’s Degrees recently ranked King University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Administration degree program among the top 30 online master’s programs in the nation. “The School of Nursing is honored to receive this national ranking,” said Tracy Slemp, DNP, FNP-BC, dean of King’s School of Nursing. “We strive to provide a rigorous, quality, and affordable education to nurses who can lead our regions healthcare agencies. This ranking is proof King University is among the nation’s best at providing an affordable education within a Christian learning environment.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow by 17 percent through the year 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

King’s MSN Administration degree focuses on the application of specialized knowledge and skills in nursing administration to prepare the graduate to be successful in mid-level and upper-level management positions. Selected clinical, administrative, and research experiences provide the students with the opportunity to function as a nurse executive. Students also study concepts and theories related to financial and economic aspects of health care, health care policy, nursing delivery systems, resource management, human resources, program evaluation, and organizational leadership with an emphasis on the interpersonal and visionary attributes of the nurse leader.

The methodology utilized by The Best Masters Degrees included a review of 96 accredited colleges and universities listed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator that offered online master’s in nurse administration or closely related degree programs. TBMD retained those institutions with national or regional rankings from major publications like Forbes magazine or U.S. News and World Report and listed the 30 most affordable. The most recent in-state graduate tuition rates were obtained from NCES College Navigator.

The baccalaureate degree in nursing, master’s degree in nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs at King University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

ETSU engineering program has first students: ECU donation funds synchronous classrooms

By Scott Robertson

With classrooms in which students on the Johnson City campus can receive instruction from professors at Tennessee Tech, the much-anticipated engineering program at East Tennessee State University has welcomed its first students. Two synchronous classrooms, funded by a $250,000 donation from Eastman Credit Union, will allow the partnership between the two institutions to flourish.         

Dr. Keith Johnson, chair of the Department of Engineering, said, “ETSU is responsible for teaching 50 percent of the curriculum and Tennessee Tech the other 50 percent. When Tennessee Tech is teaching a class, we need to be able to receive live streaming so our students can interact in those classes. So these synchronous classrooms will allow interactions between the classrooms.”

The two schools have spent more than three years ironing out the details of the partnership. It was in a December 2013 article on bjournal.com that Linda Garceau, then-dean of the ETSU College of Business and Technology, first acknowledged talks with TTU.

“Tennessee Tech’s president, Phil Oldham and I sat down together,” ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland said Aug.10. “He outlined challenges they faced in the Upper Cumberland; I outlined challenges that we faced here and essentially we agreed to partner. We’re taking the Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner or DNP program to Cookeville. They’re bringing engineering here.”

The joint degree in general engineering offered by ETSU and TTU is the only one of its kind in Tennessee and one of only four such programs in the nation. Students may apply at either ETSU or TTU and will receive diplomas reflecting graduation from both schools. 

ECU announced it will fund the audio and video conferencing equipment for the two synchronous classrooms in Wilson-Wallis Hall to allow ETSU and TTU to broadcast interactive classes for students at both campuses.

“We’re honored to support this program. We have a long-standing relationship with ETSU that’s built on a common desire to help make our local economies as strong as possible. ECU is proud of that partnership,” said Olan Jones, CEO and president of ECU.

“This gift from ECU is important because it’s the first gift,” said Dr. Dennis Depew, dean of the ETSU College of Business and Technology. “We’d like to be able to say, ‘Look what Eastman Credit Union has done, it’s time for others to step forward and help us as well.’”

Northeast State cardiovascular technology programs reaccredited

By Scott Robertson

The Cardiovascular Technology (CVT) programs at Northeast State recently earned reaccreditation from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology (JRC-CVT). Northeast State is one of only two colleges in Tennessee to offer a CAAHEP-accredited program in this healthcare discipline.

Career options look bright for cardiovascular technologists, according to national labor forecasters. The U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics reports the employment opportunities for cardiovascular technologists and technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The invasive and non-invasive CVT programs prepare students for a career in the healthcare field with special emphasis in cardiovascular catheterization labs and echocardiography labs.

A peer review conducted on-site earlier this year by JRC-CVT proctors graded the programs’ compliance with nationally recognized accreditation standards. The review was conducted in February at the Regional Center for Health-Professions building on the Northeast State at Kingsport campus. The Committee notified the department of the accreditation earlier this month.

  “I was thrilled with the results of the accreditation,” said Angie Slone, director of the Cardiovascular Technology program at Northeast State. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) awarded continuing accreditation to both the Invasive and Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Technology programs at Northeast State. JRC-CVT and CAAHEP’s Board of Directors recognized the program’s substantial compliance with the nationally established accreditation standard. CAAHEP accredits programs in cardiovascular education, upon the recommendation of the JRC-CVT. Upon completion of the review, all program areas complied with JRC-CVT standards with no deficiencies noted.

  Cardiovascular Technology focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cardiac and peripheral vascular disease. Invasive Cardiovascular technologists assist in invasive cardiovascular catheterization and related procedures in laboratories of medical facilities. Non-Invasive/Echocardiography technologists assist in echocardiography and exercise stress testing in laboratories of medical facilities.

  “The two-year CVT program is ideal of Tennessee Promise students,” said Slone. “A student who wants to pursue the cardiovascular technology major can complete an associate of applied science degree debt-free and start an ever-growing career in the health care field.”

  The CAAHEP cooperates with professional societies including the American College of Cardiology, American College of Radiology, American Society of Echocardiography to establish standards of quality for educational programs in Cardiovascular Technology. The Commission provides recognition for educational programs that meet or exceed the minimum standards.

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