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March Brings Program Changes to SCCC

Joe Denoyer - March 3, 2020 4:30 pm

By Rachel Coleman


LIBERAL, KAN. (March 3, 2020) — Seward County Community College  may soon add a new program of study — a Grain Elevator Operation certificate and applied science degree — following approval from the board of trustees. The regular monthly meeting March 2, 2020, covered a robust agenda, touching on topics from the most basic academic areas — math and English — to in-depth discussion about the next phase of construction on the Sharp Family Champions Center. The board also approved plans to relocate adult learning programs to the former Epworth Hospital building at 520 N. Washington Ave.

Grain elevator program requested by employers

SCCC Dean of Instruction Luke Dowell presented the proposal for the grain elevator study track as a “win-win, requested by a college partner, Skyland Grain.”

“Skyland approached us a year ago with a proposal to create a program to train operators for their network of grain elevators,” Dowell said. He described the resulting study pathway as a “hodgepodge of courses across four disciplines to meet their needs.” The 32-credit path yields a certificate that could be earned within one calendar year. Students would complete welding, agriculture, process technology, and other basic skills needed to work safely and successfully in the ag-related area of employment.

Another option, at Skyland’s request, is the completion of an Associate of Applied Science degree that could be completed in two years’ time.

“This would include a capstone course, to focus on putting everything together with critical thinking skills and real-life scenarios,” Dowell said. “Aside from that, we are already teaching the classes — they already exist.”

With letters of support from Skyland and the largest farmer’s elevator entities in the state — Mid Kansas Cooperative —and discussions underway with two more employers, Dowell said he’s confident that graduates will find jobs upon graduation.

“There’s a lot of potential for growth,” noted Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Joe McCann. “Having worked in locations from here to Saskatchewan (Canada), I can tell you there’s a great need for safety, training, and good employees.”

Trustee Kay Burtzloff noted that the unique nature of the program provides SCCC with an edge.

“We would be the only one in the state to offer this? We could market this way beyond our current borders,” she said.

The board voted unanimously to approve submission of the new program to the Kansas Board of Regents for review.

Colvin Adult Learning Center will move to larger building

Following the construction of the new Colvin Family Center for Allied Health on SCCC’s main campus, the former Epworth Hospital building at 520 N. Washington Ave. has been vacant. However, administration proposes that adult learning classes and offices currently housed at 930 N. Kansas Ave., be moved to Epworth. The former hospital would provide 16,183 total square feet, and 41 rooms, more than four times the space of the current adult learning center, and double the number of classrooms.

“We have conducted a number of focus groups in order to determine the best use of our facilities,” said Vice President of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander. “The original benefactors of the smaller building — the Colvin family — are comfortable with our wish to move the programs to Epworth.”

The plan, as presented by Sander, includes the intention to sell the 930 N. Kansas property. Following discussion, the trustees opted to delay a decision about the former surgical technology building, which is a stand-alone structure near the Epworth building.

“We might want to use that property space for student and instructor parking,” said Board Chair Ron Oliver.

The board voted unanimously to re-occupy the Epworth building and list the property at 930 N. Kansas for sale. SCCC administration has not yet established a timeline for the program relocation.

Modifications ahead for natural gas, corrosion, math, English

The board heard and approved various changes to several study tracks on campus. Following recommendations from its industry advisory board, the Natural Gas Compression Technology program has revised its focus slightly to teach an automated approach to the field.

Dean of Industrial Technology Chris Hickman said industry leaders “want to lessen their liability in the hands-on areas of the work, which means moving toward more automation.”

KBOR requires a summary and approval process for this type of change, and the board approved submission of the proposal.

In the math division, a combined chemistry-math instructor position has remained open for nearly a year, reported Dean of Instruction Luke Dowell, “and this has caused us to re-evaluate the needs of campus as a whole.” Dowell explained the original desire for a blended position grew from needs at the industrial tech division. Those chemistry-related tracks have been reconfigured to allow a technical chemistry class that could be taught by someone without a master’s degree. Meanwhile, “we have a growing need for more math classes,” he said. “That is why we are requesting the combined position be changed to math only.”

The board approved the change unanimously, and followed up with approval for a similar shift in the English department.

With increasing need for Blendflex delivery of English Comp 1 and 2 courses, the English instructors are “maxed out” with their teaching loads. Dowel and McCann proposed the writing lab coordinator position, currently a staff role, be modified to add 15 credit hours of instruction. The coordinator would shift to a combination of teaching and one-on-one tutoring, “which would allow us to offer more sections of Comp 1,” McCann said.

Following lengthy discussion, the board approved the addition of differential fee structures for high-wage programs, beginning with the corrosion technology program. Sander proposed an increase of $20 per credit hour for students already enrolled in the program, and $40 per credit hour for incoming students effective in fall 2020.

“This is a kind of pilot program, that will serve as a model for other programs that equip graduates to earn more as they enter the workforce,” Sander said. “The fees are not eligible for the Seward County Tuition Grant, and will enable us to grow this high-demand programs, hire additional instructors when necessary, and keep the technology up to date.”

Sander noted that many additional scholarship funds are available to industry students through Business & Industry partnerships.

The board voted to approve the fee increase.

Board approves next steps for Champions Center expansion, restrooms

With phase one of the Sharp Family Champions Center complete, “our focus shifts to phase two,” said SCCC President Trzaska. “I’m asking that the board approve my opening discussion with companies that could complete phase two of the Champions Center.”

The combination of SCCC Foundation funds of $183,000 and a bit more than $120,000 in the SCCC budget for campus improvements yields over $300,000.

“We would look to apply those dollars to a potential phase two-A that includes men’s and women’s bathrooms, per code, and a lobby entryway,” Trzaska said. “If additional dollars are secured through the Foundation to broaden our phase concept, we will utilize those funds.”

Trustee Kay Burtzloff and Vice Chair Marvin Chance Jr. voiced strong support for an accelerated approach.

“We can’t have that building sit there without bathrooms,” Burtzloff said. “It takes away from the intent for the building” to be useful to the community.

Chance noted that the SCCC campus improvement money was borrowed, in part, “to do this kind of thing. When we obtained those extra funds, my intent was to have some left over from other deferred maintenance projects so that we could finish things like this.”

Trustee Dustin Ormiston expressed concern about parking lot maintenance and other needs on campus.

Trustee John Engel replied that “without bathrooms, the Champions Center is not usable, and we need to honor what our donors have started.”

Later in the meeting, lead donor Jo Ann Sharp addressed the board about her desire for the project to accelerate.

“I would like to have the whole footprint of the building constructed as proposed,” she said. “If not, you will not get the locker rooms and showers, and the other areas that we planned. We don’t have to build everything to the finished stage inside all at once, but I think it’s a mistake not to put in the whole complex.” Sharp said she is concerned that community members and the college’s athletes and their families “feel like nobody cares about them,” and asked the board to provide “good support” to finish the project.

The board voted to approve Trzaska’s engagement in negotiations to procure a contract to complete the next phase of construction.


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