Director Steve Hammons is considered key to revitalization of the McCreary Center
Several in the community have expressed concerns in regard to the academic and vocational opportunities offered to students at the McCreary Center. Somerset Community College (SCC) leaders point to the need for sufficient student enrollment in order to maintain financial viability. McCreary Center Director Steve Hammons is considered crucial in the revitalization of the McCreary Center and the success, enthusiasm for the campus.
According to several of the founding members of the McCreary County Education Foundation, one of the Foundation’s original goals was for the McCreary Center to offer local students maximum opportunities to receive two year preparatory degrees (Associate of Arts and Associate of Science) which would enable students to easily transfer into four year colleges for completion of their education.
Currently, students taking classes at the McCreary Center (and online) can obtain the Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees which are transferrable to four year colleges.
Qualified advisors are key to student success in transferring a two year degree to a four year degree. Director Steve Hammons feels the Center has improved the student advisory program for those who attend the Center with the intent of transferring into four year programs.
He explained the Center now offers first year professional advising on site and will soon be offering second year professional advising so students do not have to drive to the Somerset campus.
However, Hammons and Center staff continue to emphasize the importance of potential transfer students contacting transfer advisors at the main campus in Somerset no later than upon completion of their first year. Transfer advisors with direct ties to various four year colleges and universities, including Eastern KY University, Lyndsey Wilson, and Campbellsville, are housed at the main campus in Somerset and have maximum expertise in advising students on the prerequisites needed for transferring into specific four year programs at specific universities and colleges. Transfer advisors from Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky are available at the main campus at scheduled times.
TECHNICAL AND SKILL TRAINING
A second goal, equally as important to early leaders, was the intent for the Center to offer classes and certifications in McCreary County that would allow local students to graduate after two years with job specific skills and credentials enabling them to enter higher wage jobs.
To that end, SCC offers a variety of technical programs and certifications with most being offered at the Somerset and Laurel County main campuses.
As is the case with the three other SCC Centers in Russell, Clinton, and Casey Counties, several programs are offered to McCreary County students online.
Currently, the practical nursing and cosmetology programs are offered in seat at the Clinton County Center, and the Culinary Arts program is offered at the McCreary Center.
In 2010, when a second instructional building was designed and built at the McCreary Center to house the Law Enforcement Laboratory, Hospitality/ Culinary Arts Laboratory, and 2D/ 3D Art Laboratories, local citizens were optimistic about the preparation of local students for careers with the United States Federal Penitentiary McCreary or in the expanding tourism industry.
SCC President Jo Marshall felt the art program would be an automatic success. However, the program did not attract enough student interest to make it financially viable.
“You can’t afford to pay for the cost of having a class with two students enrolled,” Marshall explained. “We still want to build these classes because we’ve got a state of the art studio in the McCreary Center.”
It was basically the same scenario when criminal justice classes, once offered at McCreary, were changed to being offered 80% online. According to SCC Director of Advancement Cindy Clouse, student demand determined changes in the program and reduced the number of in-seat students.
“To me, students are making it more of a choice between taking a class online or in seat rather than making a choice of which center to attend. Online enrollment is higher than any of the enrollments for our campuses or centers.”
The McCreary Center’s Culinary Arts program, although struggling, has reaped limited success. Responding to questions regarding the proposed teaching of some of the culinary classes at the Somerset Campus this year, Marshall said it is simply a matter of “hooking” students into the program.
“We have to build interest in the program,” Marshall stated. “We want to get more students in to the program to make it successful and to increase the number of students driving to the McCreary Center for the lab classes.”
When questioned as to whether or not the Center would be willing to offer new classes on site, Clouse stated officials are always willing look at offering new programs at the McCreary Center if there is enough student interest to warrant the cost. However, she said conversations must happen to get everyone on board and ensure that enough local students are interested in targeted classes at the McCreary Center.
Strength of the
According to Marshall, Director Steve Hammons plays a crucial role in her plan to strengthen the McCreary Center. Hammons became director in January of 2013.
“Efforts are being made at every location to increase enrollment,” Marshall stated. “One reason I put Steve Hammons as director at the McCreary Center is because I have the utmost confidence in him. He is one of our strongest program men and one of our leaders on campus. He was willing and eager to come here and loves what he is doing.”
Hammons, who in addition to his McCreary Center directorship duties, is a clinical coordinator of the college’s nationally recognized physical therapy program and teaches full time. With his busy schedule, some in the community question whether or not he is able to devote adequate time to the Center.
“We relieved him of as many duties as we could in his program,” Marshall responded. “Steve has developed a loyalty and love for the McCreary Center, and I feel he is bringing as much dedication to the Center as he has to the SCC physical therapy program. That program was in ruins, but Steve and his partner turned it into an award winning program. I’ve seen him do that, and he is part of my plan for the McCreary Center. I hope McCreary will respond to his enthusiasm by showing growth.”
According to Marshall, the drops in enrollment across the board have forced all staff to pick up additional responsibilities.
“We can’t afford to hire new people without revenue.”
Clouse reinforced Marshall’s words by speaking enthusiastically of Hammons and his work at the Center.
“In my view, more things are going on at the McCreary Center than ever before. Steve is a workaholic,” she stated. “Even though he’s not at the Center all of the time, there’s more fun, interaction, and involvement than ever before.”
Marshall reiterated, “Steve gets it. This is his county, and he lives here. He wants to see the students get an education and have choices in life.”
(The next installment in our series will examine future plans and the potential for growth of the McCreary Center.)