Good news for local students
History was made for North Carolina education during a special reception at Isothermal Community College (ICC) on Wednesday when the college entered into two articulation agreements with Western Carolina University (WCU). According to officials, these agreements will provide numerous opportunities for local students.
During the reception held at The Foundation, ICC President Walter Dalton and Kim Gold, vice president of academic and student services and institutional assessment, signed a Business Administration Agreement and a Nursing Agreement with WCU Chancellor David Belcher and Provost Allison Morrison- Shelter.
"We are committed at Western Carolina University to partnering with all of the community colleges in our area to provide students who have the desire to go on for a four-year degree that opportunity," Belcher said. "It's inspiring for us to see the kind of work that's going on here at Isothermal Community College and we are thrilled with the opportunity this represents."
The new Business Administration Agreement creates 56 pathways from which an Isothermal graduate with an associate of applied sciences in business administration can transfer certain credits to the bachelor of science in business administration program at WCU. These majors include accounting, business administration and law, computer information systems, entrepreneurship, finance, management, marketing and sports management.
"The main beneficiary of what we are doing today are the students in North Carolina," Frank Lockwood, associate professor of entrepreneurship and director of the master of entrepreneurship program at WCU, said. "We have made it easier for them to get their two-year degree at Isothermal and then move to Western Carolina and get a four-year degree and that's a big step forward."
According to Dalton, Lockwood and Kim Alexander, dean of business sciences at ICC, were instrumental in making this articulation agreement a reality.
"It's a great relationship because of their leadership and what they've done in putting this together. This is a natural fit for us. We have a lot of people who graduated here (ICC) who went to Western," Dalton said. "This agreement occurred because of the quality of our instructors and their credentials."
This agreement is the first of its kind in terms of scope and size between a member institution of the UNC system and a North Carolina Community College. According to Mike Gavin, director of marketing and community relations for ICC, the college was able to work out this unique agreement with WCU for three reasons; Isothermal's unique design of the business administration program being offered in different concentration referred to as "tracks," Isothermal's faculty has higher than average credentials via degrees and experience to teach transfer courses and the college's reputation with recently being named the 17th best community college in the nation by Washington Monthly.
"To me this is what I want to have as my legacy. We are trying to do something to benefit the students in this state and help create businesses and jobs," Lockwood said.
"This is innovative," Belcher said. "This is what we are being asked to do these days. We are being asked to find new ways of doing business. I want to salute the people who have made this happen."
The Nursing Agreement that was signed allows an Isothermal graduate with an associate of applied science degree in nursing to transfer certain credits to the bachelor of science degree in nursing program at WCU. According to Judy Neubrander from the school of nursing at WCU, this is all made possible through the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program. The program allows nursing students to dual enroll at WCU and the community college so they are already on the track to a bachelors degree from the beginning of their college career.
"I think it gives them a greater vision for completion and what the end result holds," Gold said. "They are working all the way through the bachelors from the beginning and I think that's an important part of having students complete a program."
Gavin said without an agreement like this, a shortage of nurses could become a problem, particularly in rural areas. And more hospitals are beginning to require nurses to have four-year degrees instead of two-year degrees.
"It's an expedient route for nurses to get associates degrees and bachelor degrees. There's a big push in nursing across the country to shift from just an associates to a bachelors," Belcher said. "It is a great thing for our students and it's a great thing for communities across the state who have a crying need for nurses. The bottom line is about increasing career opportunities for people of the region while helping to boost the quality of life for everybody."