Surry Community College (SCC) President. Dr. David Shockley spoke to the Mount Airy Rotary Club Tuesday, detailing what he called positive things happening at the school.
The college recently teamed up with Petty Garages, part of Richard Petty’s NASCAR racing program, so that students can learn racing technology. He said students will be side by side with Petty’s racing crew.
“That’s a tremendous opportunity. I want our students to see what is possible,” said Shockley.
He said students from Brazil will be going to the school to do exchange programs and students from the college will be traveling to Brazil to learn about globalization. He said Brazil has one of the “hottest economies” in the world right now.
In expansion, he said the college is working with Yadkin County to get a 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot learning facility there.
In Pilot Mountain, Phase II of the Pilot Center is under way. Phase II includes two classrooms and one large multipurpose room where various classes like welding can be taught.
Shockley said that the college is working on a web-based program that will allow students to go in and do things like check their grades and transcripts.
He said the college is working on solving the problem of students not being able to afford textbooks. He said sometimes the books are as much as $300 and some students just can’t afford them.
“Sometimes textbooks cost more than tuition,” said Shockley. “Our students cannot afford this anymore.”
He said the 58 community colleges in North Carolina are working together to be able to offer a $50 textbook program that will make the books available for all students.
“I’m proud to say that Surry Community College is leading that effort,” said Shockley.
He said that the community college is working on a data mining program that will better help the college meet the demands of businesses. He said since SCC took on designing the program, it will be the first to be able to use the system.
“We must play a major role in economic development and be able to meet those needs in the future. We have to make sure we have relevant programs in the future,” said Shockley.
He said the college is in the process of renovating buildings in which science, technology, engineering and math are taught. He said the existing buildings are 40 years old and need to be updated.
He said Surry Community College was ranked 11th of the 58 community colleges in the state two years ago. Last year it was ranked 12th in the state. He said he is eagerly waiting to see what the rating will be this year.
“We are doing it well, but we can definitely be doing it better. We have to arm ourselves so that we are competitive,” said Shockley.
He said one of the things that he has to keep in mind at SCC is that a few years ago nations were competing against each other for jobs. Then states started competing against each other. Now communities are competing against each other and that is the reason that Surry Community College has to stay strong in training the workforce, he said.
He said a good education starts in the public school system.
“We are very, very blessed to have an outstanding public school system,” said Shockley. “You cannot place a value on that coming in because that means when the students come to us, they are better prepared to continue their education.”
Rotarian Ann Webb asked Shockley what the future of viticulture is at the college.
He said the Yadkin Valley is a 10-year budding wine region. He said he has visited the 21 vineyards in the region and has talked to the owners about meeting their needs.
“This is something that we somewhat have a corner on. It is critical that the community college steps up to meet those needs. And we are looking at those,” said Shockley.
Past Rotary President Joan Inman asked him about the size of the student body and the average age.
He said there are 3,500 curriculum students. Those are students who are actively seeking a degree. The continuing education and basic skills departments serve students who are seeking to further their education without getting a degree and that basic skills helps students get a GED diploma. He said overall the college serves about 21,000 students each year.
He said the average age of students is 26.
He said that North Carolina has the third largest community college system in the nation.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.