By Greg Bird
“We are here, we are open and we are expanding,” those are the words of Shawn Anderson, Director of the McCreary Center of Somerset Community College this week as she discussed some big news for the local college.
Students wishing to continue their education after high school, or adults seeking to improve their education, received some welcome news this week when it was announced the McCreary Center of Somerset Community College will be going back to a full, four-day a week schedule starting next January.
“We started registration for the Spring 2019 semester on October first,” Anderson continued with a grin.
Anderson said SCC Dean of Academic Support, Dr. Bruce Gover, announced that both the McCreary and Russell County centers will return to a full schedule starting in spring. Those centers will offer a wide-range of classes designed to provide students an opportunity to fulfill a two-year degree without having to travel to another campus.
In 2015 the decision was made to reduce classes at McCreary, Russell, Casey and Clinton to a two-day schedule, with McCreary and Russell operating on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and both Casey and Clinton on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Anderson said that decision was a step back for the college, and led to people thinking the facility had closed.
“I feel it was a detriment when it went to two days a week,” she said. “Some people thought we had closed our doors.”
With the arrival of Dr. Carey Castle as Somerset Community College’s new President and CEO, there has been a focus on growing the centers, with McCreary and Russell getting immediate attention.
“We are expanding our schedule, staff and student services to accommodate the students who choose to come here for their education,” Anderson said. “We would love to be the heart beat of the community when it comes to post-secondary education.”
She noted the college already provides tutoring, computer labs and a learning commons, but those services will be available every weekday. Additionally they hope to add financial aid and more starting this coming spring.
The expanded offerings should be a benefit to students who work as well as going to school by offering them a more-flexible schedule. Some McCreary students were also forced to travel to other campuses to take needed classes, and that need should also be alleviated.
“We know traveling is not advantageous for most students,” Anderson said. “We are hoping students will take advantage of that.”
Starting in January the McCreary Center will be offering several general education classes, such as health, reading, psychology, history, health, biology and computers. The class offering and schedule is subject to change, and students are encouraged to check with the Center for more information. Most of those classes will be offered with an instructor on site, while others will be taught through Interactive Television – conducted on another campus and broadcast in real-time to other campuses.
Anderson said the plan is to reduce that number every semester, adding more true face-to-face interactions between students and staff.
Dr. Bruce Gover, Dean of Academic Support told SCC’s newspaper that the college wants to transition away from using the ITV system.
“ITV is a system we have been using for a while, and it works, but it’s not the same as face to face,” Gover told the newspaper. “There are advantages of having face to face class and we are going to try and provide that.”
Anderson stated the goal for the college is to become part of the local community, and moving back to a more traditional class schedule is part of that plan.
“We feel we need to engage the community and be here for the students,” she said. “We want to open it back up to a true college experience.”
To that end Anderson and other college officials have met with community leaders to discuss what courses would be a benefit for the citizens of the county, and will continue to do so to meet the evolving needs.
She added discussions are underway to add more technological and career building courses such as electrical and welding to the curriculum.
Also, Anderson has met with McCreary County School District officials to discuss offering courses to high school students. Currently the District offers dual-credit courses through Eastern Kentucky University.
Anderson said there has already been great interest in the changes at McCreary Center, and hopes that as more people learn about the expanded offerings they will consider the college as not only a place to learn, but also a part of the community.
She said the future of the McCreary Center is strong, but it needs the people of McCreary County to embrace it as well to really succeed.
“We want to support the community, she said. “But we need the support of the community as well.