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  • Higher Education Update

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    2020 Notes, News, and Views
    Here’s the news you need to know about our area’s multiple higher education institutions to earn top marks: their latest additions, announcements, expansions, offerings, awards and more.
     
    Alabama State University:Joining Hands With Community
    On July 18, 2020, Alabama State University celebrates 153 years of providing academic excellence. From its roots as a “normal” school in Selma, Alabama, to its status as one of the River Region’s premier institutions of higher learning, ASU has a rich legacy of producing graduates who become global leaders and world changers. ASU is proud of its history, but it is also focused on “the promise of a bright future” for its graduates and the communities they serve.

    In addition to academic achievements, Alabama State University has emerged as a community leader by forging impactful partnerships and strategic relationships at the federal, state and local levels. Under the leadership of the University’s 15th President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross Jr., ASU has launched an initiative called CommUniversity, which has a mission of continuing and extending the University’s impact on Montgomery, the River Region and beyond.

    A recent example of CommUniversity in action is the establishment of the COVID-19 testing site on the campus of ASU. President Ross initiated the idea for the site and coordinated efforts with the University’s Health Center staff. The resulting partnership with the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Montgomery Housing Authority allows residents of local Housing Communities and other areas of the city to drive or walk up to be tested in a neighborhood location.

    Because of the many modern and spacious facilities on campus, the University has been able to partner with local organizations and agencies to host meetings and other activities of benefit to area residents. Most recently, through a partnership with the Alabama Department of Labor, ASU’s Dunn-Oliver Acadome served as the site to receive those seeking assistance with unemployment claims from across the state of Alabama.

    These examples illustrate the vital role that Alabama State University continues to play in serving the community, particularly during times of crisis such as the Coronavirus pandemic. This commitment to education, service, innovation and excellence earned ASU a 2019 Impact Maker award from the Chamber.
      
    Auburn University At Montgomery: Meeting Students Where They Are
    While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed — at least for the time being — the ways we live and learn, Auburn University at Montgomery’s ability to meet the needs of students remains consistent.

    Ranked among the top regional comprehensive universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report, AUM is offering an all-time high $11 million in scholarships and student assistance in 2020. The scholarships range from $1,000 Freshman Opportunity Scholarships with no ACT or SAT required to academic scholarships worth as much as $40,000 over four years. This year, incoming freshmen will receive free laptops or equivalent bookstore scholarships.

    While AUM expects to resume face-to-face classes for the fall 2020 semester, it excels at supporting its students in online environments as well. In-person services ranging from tutoring to career counseling to student healthcare are now offered remotely too. And AUM has established itself as the first choice for students in the River Region by offering small classes (17:1 student-to-faculty ratio) and a diverse (more than 40 nationalities represented) and rich campus experience (70 student organizations, NCAA Division II athletics), but it also offers flexibility. Of its more than 90 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certifications, 24 are offered fully online.

    Recent challenges facing the healthcare and business communities reinforce the value of AUM’s programs in allied healthcare, business, public administration, economics and homeland security, among others. Graduates of AUM’s nursing, medical laboratory sciences and biology programs have worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for patients, conducting tests and even guiding efforts to develop a vaccine. Undergraduate and graduate programs that include a Master of Healthcare Administration and Doctor of Nursing Practice position graduates for success in a variety of settings, ranging from state agencies to the Mayo Clinic.

    As businesses and governmental agencies seek to navigate a new normal, AUM’s Master of Business Administration, Applied Economics and master’s and doctoral programs in Public Policy and Public Administration build effective leaders by preparing graduates to plan for and manage disruptions and leverage data to make strategic decisions. Additionally, the university’s Master of Management Information Systems program and newly launched Center for Cyber Security offer opportunities for graduates to help businesses navigate the challenges and opportunities within a growing e-commerce environment within Alabama and beyond.
     
    Columbia Southern University: Pivotal Steps Now and For the Future
    As developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, CSU is remaining committed to upholding its core values and the safety of its students, faculty, staff and their families. Its online platform allows CSU to continue course instruction without disruption or downtime for its students as well as provide an alternative to those looking to transition to online education.

    As a national leading educator of first-responders and public safety professionals, CSU’s faculty members not only teach students how to be safe and healthy, but they also serve as EMTs, fire chiefs, emergency management professionals, police captains and more in their own communities across the United States.

    CSU rolled out more than six new continuing education courses in 2019, including a certificate series in the rapidly growing field of forensic investigation. CSU’s online courses are always evolving and are designed to equip students with the training they need to take the next step in their careers.

    This year, CSU continues to make enhancements to its curricula, policies, technologies and staffing to serve more students at the highest level. As more students look to online education as a path to success, CSU is prepared to support them from start to finish.
     
    Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama: How Culverhouse Approaches COVID-19
    Just a few short months ago, the possibility of a pandemic sweeping through the country seemed like the stuff of fiction for many. With the national economy possibly entering into a deep recession and tens of thousands dead due to coronavirus, the dean and team at The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business have gone through a process that has prioritized the health and safety of faculty, staff, students and business partners. University leaders quickly provided actionable guidance as the college transitioned to remote learning, teaching and operations.

    Despite so many moving pieces and so many aspects to consider, such as the availability of internet at a student’s home and the need for advising students of policy changes, Culverhouse was successfully able to close out the spring 2020 semester with a minimum of hiccups, as Culverhouse Dean Dr. Kay M. Palan explained. “It is remarkable — but also no surprise considering the excellent team in place here across campus,” she said.

    The one area most at risk of things going awry was in remote instruction, according to Palan. “Our faculty thrives on their in-person interactions with students. Our College’s mission clearly states that we will strive to provide a personal touch in all that we do,” she said. “So as a faculty member, how do you meet this objective when you have to convert classroom lessons and course materials designed for in-person instruction to remote delivery?”

    Palan noted the amount of trial and error, but also praised her staff. “I am very proud of how we were able to make the transition. Some of our faculty developed radically inventive new course materials to help students understand obtuse, technical topics,” she said. One of the newest faculty members, Dr. Kenny Wunder, who is the Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Company Endowed Professor of Actuarial Sciences and Risk Management, created an animated video featuring himself going through the details of working with spot rates. “It is a delight — which is a word not often heard in context with ‘spot rates’,” Palan said. (If you’re curious, you can find the video on the Culverhouse YouTube channel.)

    Other faculty embraced tools like Zoom to conduct classes on a large scale. Culverhouse faculty also used the coronavirus pandemic as a teachable moment. Students and faculty affiliated with the college’s STEM Path to the MBA program coalesced an all-hands-on-deck effort to develop personal protective equipment, or PPE, for healthcare providers at local hospitals. The lessons learned now serve as the basis for summer coursework to help students gain the ability to address complex, far-reaching problems via innovative approaches.

    Many of Culverhouse’s research and outreach centers are involved in distributing expertise on coronavirus as it relates to their respective areas, including the Alabama Center for Real Estate, whose efforts are noteworthy for explaining — to both the general public and experts — the implications of the pandemic on real estate and the greater economy.

    Palan stressed what COVID-19’s many challenges are teaching. “Above all else, the last few months have heightened the importance of being prepared, being flexible, and being innovative,” she said. “So, even as we prepare for an on-campus fall experience for our students, we also are ready to make changes to those plans, depending on how the pandemic progresses.”

    She also pointed to the possibility that the landscape of higher education may be forever changed. “Online instruction can be highly effective as either a standalone delivery mechanism or as a tool augmenting in-person delivery,” she said. “Work sessions conducted via Zoom or other online meeting platforms have proven to be just as effective and sometimes more efficient than those done in a physical space.”

    No matter what the future brings, Culverhouse remains committed to providing the high-value, high-touch business education that it has become known for. “Whether it’s primarily online or in person,” Palan said.
     
    Faulkner University: Focused on the Future of Health Care
    Like many universities across the nation, life at Faulkner University was upended due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. In its wake, Faulkner quickly adapted to the new challenges, and professors began providing quality instruction remotely to students for the spring and summer 2020 semesters.

    In the midst of the current pandemic, healthcare professionals are needed now more than ever. The future of health science careers is moving in the direction of team-based health care and collaboration. This is the unique educational environment Faulkner is offering its students. Earning a degree in Health Sciences prepares students for careers in fields such as Speech Language Pathology, Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy. This spring, the university graduated Faulkner’s College of Health Science inaugural class earning a Master of Arts and Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology (MA/MS SLP). A ceremony for them will be held on campus, along with all spring graduates, on August 8. These students have helped hundreds of patients over the past two years at Faulkner’s SLP Clinic, and they will help thousands more throughout their careers.

    In light of its growing health science programs, this June, Faulkner University announced the recent purchase of the Montgomery East Plaza Shopping Center, located adjacent to campus, which will become the new site for the University’s College of Health Sciences.

    “This is a huge opportunity for Faulkner University to expand as an institution both geographically and academically,” said Faulkner University President Mike Williams. “We are excited to begin renovations to the property so it can house our new College
    of Health Sciences. The positive influence it will have on the community is astronomical.”

    The first of the College of Health Science programs to be housed in the new location is scheduled to be Physical Therapy in 2021. As renovations are completed, additional programs will be housed there to include Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Pathology.

    Faulkner also announced its reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for the next 10 years. Faulkner received the best possible review, being found in full compliance, with the committee offering no recommendations or requests for continued monitoring.

    In addition, several of Faulkner University’s academic programs received national attention for quality and affordability. Faulkner’s online Master of Justice Administration was nationally recognized as one of the most affordable in the nation for accelerated Master’s in Criminal Justice Online programs in 2020, according to a new report by BestCollegesOnline.org. Faulkner’s online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree was ranked among the top 25 universities in the nation by Online Schools Report for Best Online Bachelor’s in Business Administration for 2020. The same reporting agency announced Faulkner was also ranked 14th out of 50 schools for Best Online Master’s in Business Administration for 2020 for its Executive Master of Business Administration online degree. And Faulkner’s online psychology degrees were all recognized as being the third Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology Degree Programs out of 50 in the nation for 2020, according to Learn.org.
     
    South University, Montgomery: New Grant Assists with Tuition and Fees
    South University recently announced that for the first time, it will offer a new River Region High School Grant for all eligible graduates to receive help with tuition and fees to make higher education more accessible right here in Montgomery. South University has been in Montgomery for more than 120 years and takes seriously its goal of continuing to be a good local partner and to support the school systems and students on the pathway to graduation. “It is important now more than ever that we think about how to make the transition from high school to higher education as smooth as we can,” said Kandis Steele, Campus Director of South University in Montgomery. “The River Region is a fabulous area to stay, learn, work and grow. It just makes sense to invest in your future.”

    To qualify for the South University River Region High School Grant, for the fall 2020 term start, students must be a graduate of an eligible Autauga, Elmore or Montgomery County high school as well as a first-time college student (no prior post-high school college enrollment or credits; high school dual-enrollment students are eligible) and have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 at high school graduation. To continue receiving the grant after their first term, students must maintain eligibility.

    Eligible students will receive a grant toward tuition and fees of:
    • $1,745 per quarter if they pursue a bachelor’s degree in: Business Administration (BBA) or Psychology (BA), Healthcare Management (BS), Public Health (BS), Information Technology (BS) or Criminal Justice (BS)
    • $1,676 per quarter in the Medical Assisting Associate of Science degree program
    • $1,408 per quarter in the Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Science degree program

    South University has extensive program offerings in areas like Business, Physical Therapist Assistant, Criminal Justice, Information Technology, Healthcare and more, along with flexible learning options including day, evening and online courses. It also boasts a welcoming environment with supportive faculty and staff who provide one-on-one attention and mentorship from enrollment through graduation. Interested students should Contact the admissions team at South University, Montgomery to learn more.
     
    Trenholm State Community College: TSCC Receives Grant to Create a Distance Learning Network
    Providing new avenues of educational opportunity that will help rural students overcome geographic barriers and meet industry workforce demands is the goal of Trenholm State Community College (TSCC) through a grant funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Trenholm State received $497,000 to provide high-quality instructional resources to rural students through the creation of a distance learning network.

    The college was the only community college to be awarded the grant. TSCC will serve as a significant provider of information, advocacy and training in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related occupational fields and serve as a catalyst to improve the economy and workforce in rural Alabama. Phase one will focus on Adult Education and Ready-to-Work opportunities, followed by the expansion of dual enrollment and short-term certificate offerings. The project has the potential to raise educational outcomes and increase college-readiness among rural high school students. “Rural communities pose unique challenges, and the grant will help Trenholm State prepare students and low-skilled workers enter the pipeline of high-skilled in-demand STEM careers,” says Interim Trenholm State President, Anita Archie.

    TSCC will purchase distance learning equipment, videoconferencing equipment for full-motion video and full-duplex audio to be installed in three high schools: Bullock County High School, Macon County Career Tech Center in Tuskegee and the South Montgomery Academy Campus in Grady. The high schools will serve as end-user sites, and Trenholm State’s main campus and Patterson Site will serve as pure hub sites. The initiative will provide an accessible course delivery model with an array of college preparatory, Advanced Placement, career technology and dual enrollment courses.

    Given the critical need to close the gap to produce high-skilled healthcare professionals, Trenholm State also plans to establish a distance education (DE) program in medical imaging. “The college can help rural students align their educational and career goals with specific academic programs/career tech training to earn a degree or industry credential,” Archie said. No matter the remoteness of the schools’ location, successful completion of courses via the distance learning platform for rural students could be enormous. The network can make learning exciting and improve college readiness while motivating rural students to pursue more rigorous academic courses.
     
    Troy University: University Freezes Tuition for Second Year in a Row
    With uncertain times due to COVID-19 affecting many students, Troy University announced it will freeze its undergraduate and graduate tuition for the 2020/2021 academic year.

    The current undergraduate tuition of $325 per credit hour in class and $338 per online credit hour, and the general university fee of $42 per credit hour will remain the same for in-state students in the coming academic year. Tuition for out-of-state students and TROY Online students will also remain the same. Graduate tuition rates will remain at $425 in-class and $494 online.

    “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am pleased to announce for the second straight year Troy University will not increase undergraduate or graduate tuition rates. Many of our students and their families face economic uncertainty, therefore we believe this is a prudent decision,” said Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr.

    TROY reopened its campuses and locations on June 1 and is planning toward in-person classes for the fall semester with procedures and protocols to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff.
     
    Tuskegee University: Setting Strategic Direction for Next Decade
    Recent moves to online academic instruction and virtual student engagement resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the ever-changing landscape of higher education in Alabama and throughout the country. Forecasting and embracing those changes will be Tuskegee University’s goal as it begins developing its next 10-year strategic plan — an overall direction that will carry it to its 150th anniversary in 2031.

    “Tuskegee University specifically — and higher education in general — has changed drastically in just the five years since our now-expiring strategic plan was crafted,” President Lily D. McNair said of the document she inherited in July 2018 upon the start of her presidential tenure. “I imagine that a plan developed even 12 months ago would be under serious re-evaluation in light of our current healthcare crisis.”

    During her annual homecoming state of the university address in November 2019, McNair shared with alumni some of her priorities that will inform the university’s future strategic direction. In that address, she further refined the tenets of her “new era of leadership and excellence” — the outline of her strategic vision that she introduced as part of her March 2019 inauguration.

    “Every voice will be important, and your voice is needed [in the strategic planning process],” McNair said to alumni last fall, while noting that focus groups and listening sessions with other internal and external stakeholder groups will be a vital component of the process.

    As a stakeholder-informed process, McNair looks to the university’s alumni, donors, employees, students, parents, and community and research partners to share their hopes, dreams and vision for what many affectionally call “Mother Tuskegee.” But, McNair indicated, that plan will have to address some specific challenges and opportunities facing the university now and into the future. “Every student who desires a quality education should be provided that opportunity,” she said. “However, college affordability and financial aid limitations prevent students from seeing that goal to fruition. Quantifiably, we see that affect student retention and graduation rates. We must ensure students who start a degree can complete it — and then move successfully and seamlessly into the global workforce.”

    Corporate and workforce development partnerships throughout the university’s STEM and liberal arts disciplines continue to demonstrate the value Tuskegee alumni offer the marketplace. As do its research partnerships — such as recent NASA-related collaborations with Bell Textron and Huntsville-based Dynetics, which are building on the university’s established strengths in aviation and aerospace science engineering. In concert with those efforts, McNair looks for the university to continue its legacy of solving contemporary challenges like food and energy sustainability, climate change and health disparities.

    You don’t have to look much farther than the university’s backyard for some of those challenges, including economic development, food insecurity and health disparities — the latter exacerbated by the lack of a healthcare infrastructure in Macon County. University leaders continue to work with city and county officials to reinstitute ambulance service to the area — while all involved recognize the need for emergency medical facilities to serve students and area residents alike. Through a “communiversity” approach, these leaders are collaborating on a comprehensive and holistic approach to solving these issues.

    “It’s exciting — and humbling — to know that the strategic direction we set today will carry us to the threshold of such a milestone in our university’s history,” McNair said, acknowledging that the new strategic plan will align with the university’s 150th anniversary. “The direction we take now will position Tuskegee for its next century and a half of imparting knowledge to our students, leading in our communities and serving our collective society.”
     
    The University of Alabama: Student Achievements Continue
    Since its founding in 1831, UA has educated more students from our state than any other college or university in the world. Students like Marillyn Hewson from Tuscaloosa, recently retired Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin, and Sonequa Martin-Green from Russellville, who landed the lead role in "Star Trek: Discovery."

    Once again in 2020, UA students are earning honors. More than 600 National Merit Scholars are currently enrolled at UA, including 256 in its most recent freshman class. This year, 12 UA students were selected for Fulbright Awards, making it, once again, a leader among all universities in the country. And for the fifth consecutive year, UA's Alabama Astrobotics team took first place in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition.

    UA offers more than 200 programs of study in 12 different colleges and schools. If none of these is quite right, New College allows highly motivated students to customize their own course of study. Through the Accelerated Master’s Program and the STEM and CREATE Paths to the MBA, high-achieving UA students can work toward an undergraduate degree while pursuing a graduate degree at the same time. Finishing both in five years or less saves time and cuts overall educational costs.

    UA is the place where students can become what they aspire to be, and the university invites those ready for the challenge to prepare to make their mark.
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