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  • MGM's Colleges and Universities are on Higher Ground

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    Get the low down on how Montgomery’s multiple higher education institutions continue to elevate the region’s economy, appeal and quality of life.
     
    While Montgomery’s passion for college sports, particularly football, is almost always on full display, residents should be looking past play on the fields and should be cheering about the multiple colleges and universities right in their own backyard. Due to both the number — including five major public and private schools — and their diversity, the city’s higher education institutions are key components in Montgomery’s winning playbook.
     
    They represent thousands of jobs; they train the skilled workers needed to keep and attract companies. They bring talent — both faculty and students — who make countless positive contributions to our community. And the learning opportunities they offer are for more than just enrolled undergrad and graduate students; continuing education classes are available for residents looking for everything from additional certifications to advance their careers to classes to further a hobby.
     
    THE ECONOMIC EQUATION
    While exact numbers aren’t available, Dr. Keivan Deravi, economist and Dean of the College of Public Policy and Justice at Auburn University at Montgomery, can make an extremely educated guess at the dollars and cents impact. “The overall impact of the five major universities here could be approximately $600 million annually and include providing around 4,000 jobs for the area,” he said.
     
    Gordon Stone, Executive Director of the Higher Education Partnership, shared another impressive figure from a recent report put out by the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Development: “There is a $12.50 return for every $1 our state invests in public universities; that is the largest return on investment of any dollar invested in any state program,” he said. “Look at the three public higher education institutions in our area, and think about that.”
     
    While this statistic is not specific to Montgomery, Stone went on to identify several positives that are. “Having multiple opportunities for higher education here creates access points for so many of our citizens to have that opportunity to have greater earning potential, and they are set up in a way to make it convenient for our citizens no matter what stage in life they are in, with things like online and evening classes.”
     
    Jimmy Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, agreed. “The numerous institutions offer great opportunities for our area that you can’t find in other parts of the state,” he said. “They are so varied in what they offer, and economically, they are pretty reasonable in what they cost. We are very fortunate to have the higher education here that we have.” And there’s a lot more nearby, all along the I-85 corridor, starting in Montgomery and leading to Tuskegee University and Auburn University. The growth occurring in these areas is due, in large part, to the presence of higher education, according to Stone. Head just a little west to find the University of Alabama; not far north, UAB completes a connected corridor of higher ed.
     
    Dr. Rhea Ingram, Dean of the AUM’s Col­lege of Business, stressed another plus: an abundance of both tangible and intangible assets. “Having so many higher ed institutions in one location allows us to leverage resources, to pool them together and also offer different perspectives on topics we all cover,” she said. “Being able to look at things from many angles and finding the right solution; that brings value to a community.”
     
    SCHOOL SPIRIT
    Montgomery’s higher education footprint also enhances the quality of life in our community and impacts everyone, whether they have ties to any of the institutions or not and even if they’ve never even been on their campuses. “The athletics and arts opportunities and activities they bring and the array of faculty and students coming here,” Stone said, “they all affect — in a good way — the area.” The diversity of thought and experience alone that out-of-area staff and students bring with them are major benefits. “They come from other places and bring their ideas, and as they connect, they share them,” Stone said.
     
    International students drawn to our colleges and universities bring their cultures, exposing residents to things they may otherwise never hear or see first-hand. And there’s always an increased vibrancy in a college town. “Just the energy of the student population is a plus,” Stone said. “They are often active in giving back, so they help our local service organizations build a base of volunteers.”
     
    BETTER TOGETHER
    Working With The Chamber
    The Chamber has partnered with local university Colleges of Business to develop an experiential learning program that meets the needs of both area small businesses and university students called the Small Business University Partnership Task Force. The goal of the program is to give students the opportunity to solve real-world business problems, while at the same time, helping small businesses succeed. Deans and professors representing the Colleges of Business from Alabama State University, Auburn University at Montgomery, Faulkner University and Troy University Montgomery are members of this partnership. Dr. Rhea Ingram outlined the vision. “The purpose is to bring all area higher education institutions together, and pair students with small businesses on a project,” she said. These projects allow small businesses to get things done that they couldn’t do on their own using the students’ knowledge and new ideas. Students get hands-on experience, and small business owners save time and money. It’s a win-win according to Ingram. “The students learn but are also teaching these small business owners new things as they figure out solutions to issues together,” she said. “Our community is based on the success of our small businesses, so it makes sense for us to help each other.”
     
    TWO TERRIFIC
    A lot of emphasis is put on four-year colleges and universities, but our area’s two-year colleges, like Trenholm State Community College, are an important part of our higher education picture as well. “Two-year colleges offer opportunities for many students who probably would not or could not for a number of reasons pursue education beyond the high school level. Two-year institutions are more economical for these students,” said Jimmy Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System. “In addition to academic offerings, we also offer a variety of skill training that is important to the area, particularly to service the needs of manufacturing industries in the River Region.” And as manufacturing changes on a regular basis, our state’s two-year colleges change and expand their offerings alongside industry. “Manufacturing is moving more and more to being technology driven, so we have to keep up with that and stay current,” Baker said. “We’re working hard to make sure we do that and can always accommodate the needs of manufacturing companies in this area.”
     
    TEACHING TOMORROW’S TECH TODAY
    Nobody is doing business the way they did just a decade ago, and the digital economy has now filtered into every phase of almost all business, creating a need for always-up­to-date knowledge and skills. In response, our colleges and universities are pushing ahead to the forefront of technology and technology training, making them invaluable partners in workforce development efforts. “As technology gains an ever-expanding role throughout the community but particularly in the business community, our three public institutions are making large strides in that direction, training people to use technology and making more technology available,” Stone said.
     
    Knowing how to best utilize technology lets compatible areas of a business expand its customer base and increase efficiency and productivity. “Preparing the next generation to compete in this arena is crucial,” Stone said. “Universities are best at that. They train these students in the ethics of technology too, which is equally important.”
     
    But we also need to keep existing workers up to speed, and our higher ed institutions are doing that too. “They partner with companies to keep them and their employees trained up, and that has to be continual as things in the tech sector change so fast,” Stone said.
     
    While it’s not just IT and cyber-focused companies that use technology, they especially have to stay on the leading edge of innovation to survive in an increasingly competitive market. That means an educated workforce is essential if Montgomery and the River Region want to draw and keep tech companies here. Charisse Stokes, part of the Chamber’s TechMGM team and owner of Tidal IT Solutions, believes we are currently in a good position to do that, thanks to our higher ed options. “Overall, the picture is very good from an IT and cyber perspective because of the higher ed here,” she said. “We want to have a lot of variety and a lot of options; we need those online, evening and weekend courses and also want the fulltime option. We are very fortunate to have it all for IT professionals going after a graduate degree or adding an extra degree or certification.”
     
    She also stressed the strength that comes with variety. “Our universities have different but compatible areas of focus,” she said. At AUM for instance, there is a concentration of storage area knowledge, and right here at Gunter Annex, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has the largest Oracle database in the world. “So AUM students are getting that subject matter expertise, and DISA is priming the pump for its own future workforce,” said
     
    Troy University Montgomery offers a master’s in cyber security, and is also a leading university in distance learning. “This is really huge for our downtown innovation district,” Stokes said. “It means we have students taking those classes virtually, and they bring their experience here to our innovation district; they are not here, but their ideas are.”
     
    Alabama State University has a brand new state-of-the-art training facility in the center of the developing innovation district, which will host training courses through its continuing education department. Troy University Montgomery is right down the street, and AUM has a satellite location in the RSA Data Center. “So our three public universities all physically have a presence in the innovation district, and they are all willing, cooperative partners, and that makes such a positive difference,” Stokes said. “We are all pushing for a collaborative environment,” she said. “We want students working on live applications, that can be tracked, and we have resources to do that with the diversity of programs at our also allows our higher education institutions.” Flexibility is also integral. “Several careers in cyber and IT don’t require a four-year degree, and many of our institutions also have short-track programs and associate degrees. Some even offer the opportunity to earn industry-level certifications within their courses,” Stokes said.
     
    EASY DOES IT
    In an effort to keep the pool of properly educated and trained tech talent full, TechMGM is working to highlight the appeal of IT careers, as Charisse Stokes, part of the Chamber’s TechMGM team and owner of Tidal IT Solutions, explained. “AS PART OF TECHMGM, WE ARE PUTTING TOGETHER A ONE-PAGER THAT OUTLINES IT CAREER PATHWAYS, she said. “We are working with all the higher education institutions here to see what they are offering so we can compile that info and get it out to people so they see what is available and how to get where they want to be from where they are.” It outlines the pipeline from K-12, all the way up to graduate degrees and will also highlight the salaries that come with a wide variety of IT jobs. “We want to give an easy, quick snapshot of what is available here in terms of IT education and training, and it is a lot, and we want to show people why they should be interested in IT,” Stokes said.
     
    KEEPING THE KNOW-HOW HOME
    Dr. Rhea Ingram, Dean of AUM’s College of Business, believes that her students make a quantifiable contribution to the city’s workforce. “We have pretty strong data that shows around 75 percent of our graduates stay here, so we are a big driver and big impact on the local workforce,” she said. “We serve our area well by placing many of our students back into our community. Of course, many come from here, but still, they stay here.” 
     
    RECRUITING & RETAINING TALENT 
    Montgomery’s colleges and universities draw students from all over the country and the world, but they also appeal to River Region residents. We talked to a few local young professionals who fall into both camps and asked why they are staying here after graduating and how they’re currently enriching our community.
     
    TOBIAS MENSE
    FROM: ASCHEBERG-HERBERN, GERMANY
    STUDIED AT: AUM
     
    WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO AUM? I met my wife in Germany. She was there as an American exchange student from Washington state. When she left, we continued a long-distance relationship for five years. I actually started my career in IT right after high school. I did vocational school, which is very normal in Germany. When I realized I wanted to move here, she advised me that I would probably need a bachelor’s degree if I wanted to be in management in IT, so I decided on a bachelor’s degree in information systems. AUM gave me a scholarship. Heidi and I married in 2005 and came here just a few days after our wedding.
     
    WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? I’m the Chief Information Officer at AUM, a position I took in 2016.
     
    WITH NEITHER OF YOU BEING FROM HERE, WHY DID YOU STAY AFTER GRADUATION? Originally we came down here on just a four-year plan, for my college, and then would head back to Washington. We had no intention of staying. But right away, everyone was so nice and friendly. There was a little culture shock but in good way; I’ve got lots of funny stories about that. AUM has been so good to me. I had very encouraging professors, and the internships were great. I got a scholarship for my master’s there too and then a job. My wife got a great job here. Overall, Montgomery has just been really, really good to us. And there is a lot of potential and opportunity in the tech sector here. Thanks to the TechMGM initiative, we’re seeing a lot of small startups and seeing increased collaboration with Maxwell-Gunter AFB, which is great.
     
    IN WHAT WAYS ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY? I participated in Torchbearers and Leadership Montgomery. We have a great church that we are active in and I’m working with the Alabama Technology Foundation. 
     
    GENE CODY, CCIM
    FROM: MONTGOMERY
    STUDIED AT: FAULKNER UNIVERSITY
     
    WHY DID YOU CHOOSE FAULKNER UNIVERSITY? I started at Enterprise State Junior College on baseball scholarship, and graduated with an associate degree. I then went to Faulkner on a full baseball scholarship and finished there in 2003. My choice to attend Faulkner was partly driven by the scholarship, but I also liked the idea of coming home. Plus, Faulkner’s program was getting more competitive, and the school was growing. The team is actually still improving and doing really well.
     
    WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB? I’m the Senior Vice President at Moore Company Realty, Inc. I work in commercial real estate.
     
    WHAT KEPT YOU HERE? When I graduated Faulkner, I played for the Montgomery Wings for a year. I was still chasing that dream of playing pro baseball but also realizing that I might not make it much farther. I had a girlfriend here and family here, and then I got offered a Montgomery Advertiser sales job, so never had any reason to leave. Montgomery is just home to me.
     
    WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHERE YOUR HOMETOWN IS NOW? When I look at where we are now, I see more opportunity professionally here. I’m happy to watch my kids grow up and experience some of the same things I did, plus a lot more. A lot of my friends who moved off are moving back; they are catching on to the positive things happening. And in my sister’s friend group — she is 10 years younger — there are more of them staying here. I went to public schools, but right now, in my opinion, they are the main deterrent when it comes to keeping natives here and bringing new people.
     
    SYDNEY FOSTER
    FROM: MONTGOMERY
    STUDYING AT: ALABAMA STATE UNIVERSITY
     
    WHY DID YOU STAY HOME FOR COLLEGE? I was in the Air National Guard and during training, my stepdad died. I didn’t want to leave my mom at that time, so I chose ASU. It has been such a good decision.
     
    IN ADDITION TO YOUR STUDIES, WHAT ELSE ARE YOU UP TO? I’m still in the Air National Guard and plan to stay in service with the Air Force. I am a munitions system specialist and support the F-16 jets with their ammo assets. I will transition into the F-35 jets when that happens. I also have my own photography business. Right after high school in 2013, I bought a camera and kinda taught myself. Then, I was the assistant ASU photographer, and now I’m working as photographer for Governor Ivey. I do freelance photography too, and I moved my studio into the Kress building downtown.
     
    WHY ARE YOU STAYING HERE AFTER GRADUATION? I have a lot going on, but I love it all. I’m passionate about photography. I’m really interested in continuing to help others through military service. And I want to stay here because I want to be a part of the positive changes happening. I see so many great people leave here, and there are not a lot of people in creative fields here, so I hope I can inspire other young kids to go into creative industries. I think we can create that market here. We are in a historic place, and I think there is more history to be made here.
     
    SKY HIGH: AIR UNIVERSITY’S IMPACT
    As the preeminent source of higher education for the Air Force, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base’s Air University plays a critical — and obvious — role in our nation’s defense. But it makes a significant mark on Montgomery too, according to Kent Davis, Director of Communications & Outreach at Air University. “Air University’s primary mission is to support our military and its mission,” he said. “But we recognize that there are incidental benefits to the area’s economic development because of the University’s presence here.” Positives include the approximately 3,000 jobs it provides, which translates into a large payroll with rings and rings of productive ripple effects.
     
    The retired Navy one-star rear admiral grew up in Montgomery and is happy to have returned. He just recently joined the team at Air University, coming from Anniston, Alabama, where he worked as City
    Manager and the director of economic development. Because of this experience, he deeply understands the valuable relationship thriving between the base and the area’s business community. “Air University provides our businesses of all types direct and indirect benefits,” he said. “Many private contractors work on base. And most of our folks stationed, studying here and working here live out in the economy, spending money at restaurants, on entertainment and in retail stores.” Its students and faculty are active threads in the city and region’s social fabric too. “I’m in Rotary Club, go to church here,” Davis said. “We’re a true part of the city.”
     
    TARGETING CYBER THREATS
    Air University’s core mission of professional military education, which is important not just to the Air Force, but the entire military, means it has to stay innovative to combat threats like cyber warfare. It’s why Air University’s Cyber College was recently created and why emphasis has been put on more remote forms of teaching and new leadership education strategies have been put in place. “We’re looking at how the world is evolving not just now, but five to 10 years from now and modifying our curriculum to meet that,” Davis said.
     
    Air University isn’t relying solely on inside expertise; it is also reaching out, establishing a powerful synergy with the city’s other higher ed institutions and other area organizations. “We know the Air Force doesn’t own all the good ideas, and especially when responding to emerging threats, we need partners,” Davis said.
     
    Rallying all brains on deck is the motivation behind MGMWerx, a new collaboration between Air University, the Chamber and the City of Montgomery. Its off-base site will allow these entities as well as thought leaders and students from other colleges and universities to come together to share ideas. “To find the best ways to respond to threats: That is the main goal,” Davis said. “But other advantages will spill out of that. It will foster an atmosphere of innovation that will draw more tech companies here. It will create solutions that will help existing businesses of all kinds do their jobs better and more safely. We are all in this together, and we’ll all benefit.”
     
    “I believe Air University is the professional military education standard-bearer, not only for the United States Air Force and its sister military and civilian services, but for this nation. WHILE I AM CERTAIN THAT AIR UNIVERSITY IS INDEED ON THE CUTTING EDGE — and that our great men and women are doing an awesome job in their mission of educating and developing our future leaders — WE SIMPLY CANNOT REST ON OUR LAURELS. We must constantly lean forward, think outside the box, and even look over the horizon for future threats to this nation. I also believe Montgomery, and the greater River Region communities that we partner with, are essential to our continuing success as a preeminent academic institution for the military. THIS SYNERGISTIC PARTNERSHIP WITH THE RIVER REGION KEEPS AIR UNIVERSITY AT THE FOREFRONT OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE while, at the same time, supporting the defense of our nation in a very dangerous world of peer, near-peer, cyber, and terrorist threats.”
    – LT. GENERAL ANTHONY COTTON, COMMANDER OF AIR UNIVERSITY
     
    LEADING THE WAY:
    WE ASKED THE LEADERS OF THE AREA’S FIVE MAJOR COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES TO TELL US WHAT MAKES THEIR INSTITUTION SPECIAL AND BENEFICIAL FOR MONTGOMERY.
     
    DR. LANCE TATUM, VICE CHANCELLOR, TROY UNIVERSITY
    How does Troy Montgomery’s presence benefit Montgomery? Troy Montgomery is one of three non-traditional TROY campuses in the state of Alabama. Our mission is to provide non-residential students the opportunity to pursue their educational goals while working full time or part time. Beyond providing students with educational degree opportunities that increase and improve the region’s workforce pool, the University is also seen as one of the original anchors of the downtown revitalization effort.
     
    POINTS OF PRIDE: Troy Montgomery is a vital part of the greater Troy University community, and as such, we enjoy the same honors and awards earned by the University. Here are just a few from 2018: BestValueSchools.com named TROY among its 100 Most Affordable Universities in America 2018 ranking; U.S. News and World Report named Troy University to several rankings for its online programs. Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum has been included as a site on the United States Civil Rights Trail.
     
    NEWS:
    Beginning in the fall, Troy Montgomery will host Valiant Cross Academy’s high school. VCA will become an integral part of our campus and culture. Troy Montgomery will provide opportunities for students in our College of Education to learn from the leaders and faculty from Valiant Cross Academy. In addition, the University and VCA have plans to create a unique Teaching Academy for existing educators in low-performing schools.
     
    MICHAEL D. WILLIAMS, ED.D, PRESIDENT, FAULKNER UNIVERSITY
    How does Faulkner’s presence benefit Montgomery? Our institutional values as a Christ-centered university create an enormous amount of shared vision with the people of Montgomery. These values propel Faulkner students and faculty to be engaged in meaningful service in the River Region. Obviously, we are in the talent acquisition and development business. We attract talented students and distinguished scholars. We hope our students will fall in love with this city and make a long-term commitment to living, working and serving in this community.
     
    POINT OF PRIDE:
    Our trial advocacy team at the Jones School of Law was recently ranked No, 15 in the nation by
    US News & World Report.
     
    NEWS:
    We recently launched a new center for health sciences. Our first academic program will be a master’s degree in speech and language therapy, which will begin this fall. Future programs will include physical therapy and physician assistant degree programs. A new facility will be constructed to house these new programs. The centerpiece of the new building will be a new center for autism.
     
    DR. CARL STOCKTON, CHANCELLOR, AUBURN UNIVERSITY AT MONTGOMERY
    How does AUM’s presence benefit Montgomery? Auburn University at Montgomery’s presence benefits the city and region in three critical areas for economic growth and stability: building a highly qualified workforce and enhancing the quality of life; providing support and professional services to local and state government, businesses and organiza­tions; and providing access to youth and adult lifelong learning experiences.
     
    NEWS:
    Auburn University at Montgomery was the first university to connect to the Montgomery Internet Exchange (MIX). For our campus, that means the potential for cost savings, more opportunities for large-scale collaborative research and an increase in job opportunities for graduates. Our new and newly reorganized programs in Cyber Systems and Information Security, Homeland Security and Information Systems represent AUM’s commitment to vital areas of study that will prepare students and businesses to seize Montgomery’s growth as a “smart city” and to take advantage of careers that both contribute to the stability of the new economy and grow it.
     
    POINTS OF PRIDE:
    In 2017, Auburn University returned to the U.S. News & World Report rankings as one of the top comprehensive regional universities in the South for 2018. In addition to being named among the top tier of Regional Universities in the South, AUM was also included (No. 37) among the Best Public Regional Universities in the South, making it the top-ranked university in the River Region.
     
    QUINTON ROSS, PRESIDENT, ALABAMA STATE UNIVERSITY
    How does ASU’s presence benefit Montgomery? Alabama State University has been a part of the community for more than 100 years. The University has a tremendous impact on the River Region, not only as an educational and cultural hub, but also as an economic engine. ASU attracts students from around the world and graduates nearly 1,000 students each year, many of whom remain in Montgomery. The University also provides dozens of academic and athletic camps and innovative learning initiatives for hundreds of local elementary, middle and high school students each year. Alabama State University is one of the city’s largest employers.
     
    NEWS:
    We recently signed a new agree­ment with the National Parks Service that moves us a step closer to opening the Montgomery Interpretive Center, which is the third and final center on the National Historic Trail commemorating the historic Selma-to-Montgomery March.
     
    POINTS OF PRIDE:
    ASU faculty in our STEM-related programs have garnered millions of dollars in grants to conduct research in areas ranging from cancer to environmental protection from prestigious agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
     
    CAMERON WEST, PRESIDENT, HUNTINGDON COLLEGE
    How does Huntingdon’s presence benefit Montgomery? Many of Huntingdon’s nearly 850 traditional day students are from outside the River Region, bringing hundreds of students and families to the area who stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our retail locations, as do Huntingdon’s more than 200 faculty and staff. Culturally, hundreds of Montgomery area residents enjoy Huntingdon’s athletic events, concerts, lectures and convocations annually.
     
    NEWS:
    Earlier this year, a renovation allowed us to create a rehearsal hall for our symphonic, marching, pep, and jazz bands in Roland Student Center. Huntingdon has also purchased the former Capitol Book and News property and the former Richardson’s Pharmacy property. Plans are underway to refurbish the CBN space for our campus bookstore.
     
    POINTS OF PRIDE:
    Huntingdon is consistently named among the top regional comprehensive colleges in the Southeast by both U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review, but we were especially thrilled to be identified by U.S. News among the top 10 “Best Value” colleges in the Southeast for the past two years. In addition, our Biochemistry major has just achieved national accreditation.
     
    HIGHER EDUCATION HIGHLIGHTS
     
    CDI SOUTHEAST IMPROVES COMMUNITIES FROM WITHIN
    Communities across the nation are experiencing revival, and Alabama’s own are leading the way. A resurgence of investing in downtown buildings and infrastructure has cleared the way for new businesses in and around Montgomery and the capital’s larger metro area. While growth and development are exciting, they need to be fostered to continue their benefit to the community.
     
    Alabama universities are impacting communities by working with small businesses, large corporations and entire industries to train workers and continue economic growth.
     
    Universities offer access to resources that many private sector partners cannot. One great example is The EDGE: Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, a joint initiative between The University of Alabama, City of Tuscaloosa and The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. Through high-tech work and collaboration spaces, The EDGE will benefit entrepreneurs and the regional economy.
     
    The University of Alabama’s Gadsden Center is now host to the new Community Development Institute Southeast (CDI Southeast), which moves higher education beyond degrees by training individuals to address specific challenges within their community.
     
    Dr. Skip Campbell, Executive Director of CDI Southeast, is a native Alabamian with decades of experience in corporate and higher education work. He likens communities to families, acknowledging while each is unique, their problems and issues are similar. Dr. Campbell notes that a goal of the Community Development Institute is to network these community leaders to share and learn together as well as from each other. “I believe that giving back in the form of community and economic development is one of the University’s core responsibilities and is one of our core values. As a public institution, we owe it to our communities to help them thrive,” he said.
     
    CDI Southeast participation is open to anyone seeking to impact social and economic development in their communities.
     
    More information and registration is available at CDISoutheast.ua.edu.
     
    Experiential Learning Enhances Business Education
    Experiential learning engages students in direct experience and focused reflection to develop their abilities to solve challenges in our global society. For this reason, the Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama is prioritizing the design and development of experiential learning opportunities.
     
    Culverhouse College is thankful to have mutually beneficial relationships with external partners who collaborate with it to create these unique learning experiences.
     
    In February 2018, Culverhouse, in collaboration with The Boeing Company, offered a bootcamp experience to 28 sophomores and juniors. Over the course of an afternoon, the group worked through a simulation to acquire and build a helicopter.
     
    Research shows that students are looking for hands-on learning, real-world experience and personal connections. Culverhouse faculty and staff are delivering this by working with students and employers to craft new ways of learning, inside and outside the classroom, that challenge students’ assumptions and better prepare them to be effective employees when they graduate.
     
    Learn more at culverhouse.ua.edu/exl.
     
    UAB SCHOOL OF MEDICINE CREATES CONNECTIONS IN MONTGOMERY
    When Palee Myrex began her third year of medical school at the UAB School of Medicine Montgomery Regional Medical Campus in 2017, she never envisioned Montgomery would feel like her second home. “I had zero connections to Montgomery. I was in Birmingham for the first two years of medical school, completed my undergraduate studies in Tuscaloosa and participated in a pre-medical summer internship in Huntsville,” said Myrex, who graduated from the UAB School of Medicine this spring and will start her residency in family medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill this fall. “After training in Montgomery, I feel so plugged in to the community. I made a lot of new friends, and I took care of many amazing people. Montgomery feels like another home to me.”
     
    The Montgomery campus became the UAB School of Medicine’s newest regional medical campus in 2014, and it has quickly become an economic asset for the city. “Having a medical school in Montgomery is the equivalent of landing a major new industry,” said Lee Ellis, former chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
     
    Montgomery’s business community is optimistic about the impact the campus may bring. The hope is that students who train at the Montgomery Regional Medical Campus will be inspired to launch their medical careers in the River Region, an outcome that not only will alleviate a looming physician shortage but will also bring in new revenue with physicians buying houses and establishing medical offices in the area. “Before training here, I would never have considered Montgomery as a place to practice medicine,” said Myrex. “Now, it has opened new avenues for me.”
     
    Those avenues were opened thanks in large part to the enthusiasm with which the community has embraced the medical students. “We receive such amazing support from the community, and the students are always welcomed with open arms,” says Gustavo Heudebert, M.D., interim dean for the Montgomery campus. “We’re so thankful to Baptist Health and all our Montgomery area community partners for going out of their way to support our students. We are especially grateful to our local physicians, who are the backbone of this program.”
     
    Learn more at uab.edu/medicine/montgomery.
     
    FLEXIBILITY IS KEY AT TROY MONTGOMERY
    Many students choose Troy University for its quality academic programs, reasonable costs and availability of financial aid, as well as its outstanding faculty and flexible in-class, online and blended class offerings. While students on the Troy Campus enjoy a traditional college experience, adult students are the centers of attention at campuses in Montgomery, Dothan and Phenix City, as well as locations around the world and online.
     
    Day, night and weekend classes structured in five nine-week terms throughout the year provide convenient academic opportunities for students who are often balancing work, family and pursuing
    their career goals and dreams.
     
    Students at Troy Montgomery find degree programs in high-demand fields such as social work, human resource management, computer science, psychology, counseling, nursing and adult education. In fall 2018, students in the River Region can also pursue a bachelor of science in occupational education, a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and an adult education certificate in the area of workforce development. Troy University’s dedicated faculty and staff are committed to equipping students with the tools necessary for success.
     
    TRENHOLM STATE RENOVATES MULTIPLE BUILDINGS WITH AN EYE ON THE FUTURE
    To respond to students’ needs, Trenholm State is close to completing nearly $13 million in renovations. The newly renovated campus facilities are bringing a renewed sense of institutional pride that resonates among current and prospective students, faculty and alumni.
     
    Numerous campus buildings underwent renovations, with some of the most dramatic changes occurring on the Patterson Campus, Students now have access to the latest academic facilities and amenities with technology-rich classrooms, laboratories and infrastructure that will improve student engagement, achievement and well-being. Students also enjoy student-centered common areas that encourage learning beyond the classroom. Plus, faculty, staff and students can take part in campus activities in the new auditorium with a seating capacity of 240.
     
    On the Trenholm Campus, renovations include a new home for the biology lab, Medical Radiologic Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Respiratory Therapy, Dental Assisting and Medical Assisting programs.
     
    The renovations are enhancing the college’s ability to attract students in an increasingly competitive marketplace and allow it to deliver individualized services.
    Additional construction projects include the library, classroom upgrades for Computer Information Systems and Air Conditioning and Refrigeration programs, which are scheduled to be completed in January 2019. The renovations at Trenholm State will continue to transform teaching and learning for decades.
     
    WHAT IS IN A DEGREE?
    Why a college education is still relevant.
     
    With tuition expenses on the rise year after year, and TV personalities criticizing the higher education system, many are asking, “What’s the point of a college degree anymore?” We even see highly publicized stories about successful entrepreneurs who never finished college. While it’s tempting to fall for the idea that college education is unnecessary, these stories are sensational because they’re the exception, not the rule.
     
    College graduates have an easier time finding a job. According to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, 38 percent of employers have raised their education requirements over the last five years. Further, 41 percent of employers are hiring college-educated employees for roles that had historically been held by those with only high school diplomas, and 33 percent are hiring master’s educated employees for positions that had previously been held by those with a four-year degree.
     
    Beyond finding a job, a college degree helps graduates find a higher-paying job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly salary of a college graduate is usually around double that of someone who holds only a high school diploma. And based on a recent report, the median earnings throughout a lifetime increase with each degree (a $721,000 increase from high school diploma to bachelor’s degree, and a $403,000 increase from bachelor’s to master’s degree).
     
    Finally, a college degree can also help people attain better employer benefits and improve their family’s quality of life. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 75 percent of college graduates are offered health insurance, as compared to just 53 percent of high school graduates. College graduates are also more likely to receive other premium benefits from their employers such as a retirement matching, childcare, paid time off and — to help employees continue their advancement — tuition reimbursement.
     
    The University of Alabama offers affordable and flexible options that allow people in all stages of life to continue their education. With many degree programs offered completely online, UA’s Bama By Distance provides a path for people to enhance knowledge and boost their career by earning an advanced degree from a name you know.
     
    Learn how you can rise with the Tide by contacting uadistance@ua.edu.
     
    GRADUATE DEGREES GROW IN IMPORTANCE TO EMPLOYERS
    Auburn University at Montgomery offers new programs in competitive fields
     
    For decades, professionals with undergraduate degrees could expect robust and growing careers. The landscape, however, may be changing — dramatically for some — as employers increase their demand for a workforce with advanced degrees. Here are some numbers:
     
    • 38% of employers are looking for more educated workers (Career Builder 2017).
    • 35% Average salary increase for your earnings with a master’s degree.
     
    With its deep roots in serving the business community in the River Region and the state, Auburn University at Montgomery is keenly aware of the need to prepare new entrants to the employee pool and to serve others while they actively work in their fields. The university’s approach to the changing landscape has been the addition of new programs and updated curricula in some of the fastest growing and competitive fields — information technology, computer science, cyber security, criminal justice, medical and nursing practice and administration, public administration, and business and management. AUM has also adapted its delivery to include more than 20 fully online degree programs, in addition to its hybrid programs and standard flexible on-campus classes.
     
    As Alabama and the River Region continue to advance into new economic opportunities, employees will have to look harder at advanced degrees as a way to meet the skill levels needed to compete and succeed in the changing employment landscape.
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