The Enterprise Chamber of Commerce joined forces with Enterprise State Community College to hold a “State of ESCC” luncheon on Monday, welcoming guests to enjoy a meal courtesy of PoFolks Restaurant and learn more about the community college in the process.
ESCC President Matt Rodgers opened the program, stating ESCC’s commitment to four main areas of focus: people, programs, community and facilities. He said that he and his staff are excited about the college’s future, as many new programs and facility upgrades are currently in the works at the Enterprise and Ozark campuses.
“This is not just a job to me, this is home, and I love what I do and who I get to do it with,” Rodgers said. “We have a fantastic team; these folks that I have the privilege of working with are class acts, they’re hard workers, they’re dedicated and they’re committed and we’re very lucky to have them here, not only in Enterprise but at Ozark. It takes a team to accomplish what we’re trying to do here at the college.
“We’re making some great strides. We’re working hard, and our main goal is to be a catalyst for change and prosperity in this community. We’re excited about what we’re doing here, and we look forward to the days ahead. We want to be your partner, be your family as we go through this process ahead of us.”
Dean of Students Olivier Charles took the podium next to speak about the state of facilities at ESCC and the Aviation College in Ozark. Charles said that Governor Kay Ivey gifted the school $3.5 million for improvements to the Ozark campus about a year and a half ago, and since that time, ESCC has designated a matching amount for improvements to the Enterprise campus. According to Charles, ESCC has taken on more than 20 architectural projects on both campuses and many more are in the works.
After elaborating on ESCC’s master plan for facilities, Charles closed his portion of the program with a discussion of one of the school’s newest additions, known as “Boll Weevil Central.”
“We’ve taken our library and turned it into a student space -- we’ve moved some offices there to make sure we’re covering some areas,” said Charles. “In that space, a student can go and get advised, get free tutoring -- we offer 100% free tutoring to every student in that space, and that’s a new undertaking that we’ve started for our students. They can go into that space and study, and there are conference rooms there where they can have group study sessions. That space has aided in our retention efforts, and we’re actually headed as an institution to about a 7% increase in retention from fall to fall. That space has been extremely successful in the short time that we’ve had it.”
Associate Dean of Students Kevin Ammons spoke about the benefits of choosing community college over going straight to a regular four-year institution, which he said is reflected in ESCC’s increasing enrollment numbers.
“Just in one year’s time, our enrollment has grown 5%,” Ammons said. “We’ve seen from over 1,616 students in the fall of 2017 to 1,705 in the fall of 2018. With that, we’re tracking every day how many enrollments we have in our preregistered students, and I can tell you the future is looking very bright for the fall of 2019.
“We want to be your first choice, not your last resort. We’re proud; we’ve been here since 1965. We’re a proud tradition, we’re proud to be part of this community, and always, we want to be your first choice for your higher education.”
Director of Workforce Development Ian Campbell followed Ammons, elaborating further on ESCC’s efforts to improve the workforce in its service area.
“Workforce development serves to fill the gap between skills of current/future workforce and the competencies that are required by jobs,” said Campbell. “Our challenge is not simply to increase the number of available jobs or to increase the number of those available in the workforce, though both of those are very important. Our challenge here from the college perspective is to train our available and future workforce to match the need of our current and future jobs.”
One of ESCC’s main methods for increasing workforce development is by offering new programs to students and the community. Dean of Instruction Danny Long said that the college has recently added a number of programs that help students gain the skills and training they need to be strong members of the local workforce, including a CDL program, medical assisting program, IT auditing and assurance program, mechatronics, machine tooling, Manufacturing Skills Standard Council certificates, advanced composites, and the SWIFT coding lab.
Software Systems and Grants Manager Chellye Stump concluded the informational portion of the program by discussing ESCC’s community outreach efforts.