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  • Q&A with Sam Munnerlyn

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    Montgomery Business Journal: What are your responsibilities as the president of H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College?  My responsibility as president of the college is to make sure that we’re accountable to the public; to make sure that we’re offering programs in our region that are needed by business and industry; to make sure that we are accountable in terms of our fiscal operation; to make sure we are providing student services that support the academic process. The last thing would be to promote our institution in a positive way to the public, and that takes the majority of my time to make sure that’s done.

    Like we’re doing right now? Like we’re doing right now – exactly. All the meetings; the face of the college in a lot of instances especially with the Chamber, business and industry and accrediting agencies, too.

    How many students are there?   This semester (fall 2014) we have 1,449 and that’s full time and part time, and that’s on our two campuses and of course, our culinary center downtown.

    How many employees? We have 186 full-time employees and that number goes up and down a little bit. We run about 212.

    How many programs does Trenholm offer?   We have 29 programs.

    Please talk about the recent accreditation and what that means to the college and students going forward. For the college, it means there will be additional opportunities for growth; additional opportunities to upgrade our programs that we presently offer. Another thing that we don’t talk a lot about – it’s also a level of status for the institution, being accredited by an accrediting agency that is as recognized as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It brings us to the same level as other institutions of higher learning in our area.

    What are those growth opportunities?   No. 1, it will give the students in the Montgomery area a chance to take some of these general education classes like math, English, psychology, speech instead of taking them at their native college – especially for students who may be coming home for the summer.

    Because the credits now transfer. In the State of Alabama, it’s automatic, but outside the State of Alabama (it’s up to the college or university). Every public school in the State of Alabama will have to (accept) those credits.

    Why would Trenholm have new opportunities to upgrade programs? Right now, many of our students receive financial aid. In order to receive financial aid, you have to be attached to a program like welding or nursing or medical assisting. Say, for instance, you want to go into nursing and you don’t get in. Many of our students, instead of waiting until the next semester to go to school, they’re going to medical assisting because some of those courses may be needed in nursing. They do it so they can continue to receive financial aid. When we offer the associate’s of science and associate’s of arts degrees – they will be separate degrees themselves.

    Please explain.   If a student comes here and they cannot get into nursing, they can go into one of these degree programs and they can get financial aid because they can graduate out of the degree program and that block of credit will be transferrable to the four-year universities. That’s another big option that will come into play. Students will not only be able to come and major in some of our technical areas, but they can come strictly for transfer.

    When you say strictly for transfer, you’re talking about taking classes that can be transferred for credits to another university. Exactly. In many instances, students are not ready for a four-year college or university, so they want to start at a two-year college. Now, we put ourselves in a position where those courses are transferrable. We will get many of those students come to us now when they are not ready for the four-year college.

    How many more students are you expecting to have? We don’t expect to see a major influx of students until after fall of 2015. The reason for that is, there are a number of steps we still need to go through in order to offer those two degrees that I just described. The postsecondary system would have to approve (the degrees) and that won’t be an issue. The Alabama Commission on Higher Education would have to approve it.

    How many degrees do you currently offer? We offer associate applied technology. That is the degree we offer as a technical college.

    Talk about creating special training programs with companies. I know that there is a course for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. We have a pretty large workforce development program. We were approached by a number of companies, and Hyundai being one, because there is a big shortage of industrial maintenance technicians, machine tool technologists. They (Hyundai officials) approached us about getting people into the employment stream earlier and not waiting until they finish school. They approached us about having 16 of our students come out and work on the weekend – from Friday until Monday – in their particular field of study. It gives the student a chance to get out in the real world.

    Are they working at Hyundai?   They are working at Hyundai. They start on Friday and finish Monday and it does not interfere with their schooling because the ones who go to school during the day work at night and the ones who go to school in the evenings work during the day. That helps those students get into the workplace earlier and plus it gives Hyundai a chance to look at these students and see if they are indeed ones they want hire after they finish school. This program was created just for Hyundai.

    This is a work-training program. Exactly. There is no credit earned for it; no apprenticeship program or anything like that.

    This is a program you could set up for other companies as well. As a matter of fact, we are beginning to be approached by other companies to create the same kind of program. Many of our students need financial assistance and this is one way to get that financial assistance and at the same time (the student) is putting themselves in a position to have a really good-paying job when you finish your college education. They can only work Friday-Monday, so it’s not going to interfere with their schooling.

    This program is not like the one offered at Shelton Community College when Mercedes worked with the college to set up a curriculum. This will be the first stage to going into that direction. We would love to create a program similar to what they have with Mercedes, where we actually create the degree program for the company.

    At the news conference introducing the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center, you talked about hiring a workforce development director. What will that person do and what impact will that have? Our workforce development director will be hired the first part of (2015), and what that person will be responsible for is assisting companies in finding qualified individuals for their particular trade area. For instance, there may be a company that needs short-term training in PLCs (programmable logic controllers). They may need just 20 people, and what the workforce development director will do is set the training up. They will be the facilitator of that whole process. When a company comes to us with a need, we have to be able to respond in a reasonable time and that’s what the two-year colleges can do pretty rapidly. When we find out there is a need, we can go out and find the expertise to teach it; we have the equipment; we have the facility. And, if we do not have the facilities or if a company wants it taught on their facility grounds – we can do that also.

    Any other responsibilities?   Another thing the workforce development person will do is work through the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development to obtain various grants. What these grants will do in many instances … companies can apply for a grant and use that grant money to pay for those employees to get that training. We will help them do that.

    Can grants also be used for Trenholm to buy more equipment or expand facilities? Yes. In our welding program we used money from the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development to buy additional welders to put into that program. You can use (grants) to bolster your program in order to meet the demands of industry. Without that person (workforce development director) and without the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development providing the funds, that couldn’t happen. What people don’t realize is that not only do we do training in the manufacturing area, but we do a tremendous amount of training in the allied health sector. For instance, our nursing assistant home health aides – we train them in Bullock County; we train them in Macon County; we train them over in Elmore County. Over the last year, we probably trained over 90 of these health workers to go work in nursing homes and various other places like that. We’re getting ready to train a group of EMTs in Bullock County because that’s what that community needs, because they don’t have the hospitals and all the rest of the health care facilities we have in Montgomery.

    At the workforce development news conference, you talked about spending $150,000 to beef up the college’s dual enrollment program. What are your plans for that money? That’s also another job of the director of workforce development. They will be the one to request these funds, which come from the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development for dual enrollment. We will get those funds and work with our local high schools, especially in our service area and say, ‘We have $150,000 of dual enrollment money … and we can allot, say $50,000 for Carver High School dual-enrolled students.’ We’ll start working with them to identify those students who have the grade-point average and who are interested in dual enrollment.

    Is that $150,000 scholarship money? Exactly. When you apply for this money through the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, you have to identify what you are applying for. There is money in a pot for dual enrollment. There’s money in a pot for equipment. There’s money in a pot for programs. We’ll write a grant for the nursing assistant home aide program. We’ll write one for the ready-to-work program, where we train people who don’t necessarily have high school diplomas or GEDs and give them just minimal training so they can get a job. We’ll ask for $150,000 for dual enrollment. We’ll ask for some more money for the EMT training (in Bullock County). We also plan to ask for additional money to buy more equipment for our industrial maintenance program. Total, we’ll be asking for the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development somewhere between $350,000 and $400,000 (in 2015).

    I know that the college is developing a 10-year master plan. Please talk about where you are in the process with that plan? We’re in the preliminary stages. We are beginning now to develop a new strategic plan. Our old strategic plan runs out in 2015. We are doing an RFP (request for proposal) to bring a consultant in and help us develop the next 10-year plan, which would start in 2016. That’s what we will work off for the next five to 10 years, but along with that we will develop a facilities plan that corresponds to the strategic plan.

    What is your vision for Trenholm? What does Trenholm look like in 10 years?   In 10 years, our student body population will be somewhere around 6,000 students to 7,500 students. In 10 years, we will have developed this campus fully (Trenholm campus on Air Base Boulevard). We have 40 acres here and by that time we will have capitalized on all 40 acres. On our Patterson campus in 10 years, it will be a totally new place. What we’re doing right now is developing a master plan just for the Patterson campus. Four of the buildings are already being worked on. In terms of programs, we will have the two new degree programs, but we will also go through a phase where we will work with the public and industry to find out what new programs do we need to bring online. What I see happening on this campus (Trenholm), we will continue to develop many other allied health programs. Right now, we’re scheduled to get an occupational therapy assistant program by Baptist. There are several other programs we will continue to negotiate with Baptist. This will continue to build as an allied health hub.

    What do you mean by allied health?   It means all of the health care sector.

    Any other 10-year forecasts? Our Patterson campus will be developed fully. We will have some new technical programs. We will also change the names of some of our programs to make them more marketable. When you hear the words “industrial maintenance,” a lot of people get that mixed up with cleaning up something. That’s not what it is. Another thing I see us doing in the next 10 years is having a huge continuing education component.

    Lastly, in terms of adult education, which is another part of what we do – we do all the adult education for the surrounding area. I mean anybody that does not have a GED – we offer those classes and we also give the GED test. The numbers in that program will increase dramatically. We want to bridge that gap when you get your GED (and say,) “Then what?” We want them to be able to come to us and get their GED and then transfer right into one of our programs and then right into the world of work. I don’t want that GED to be the end. I want it to be the beginning.

    Many colleges are going away from offering developmental classes completely, but we’re not. We can prepare them because what has been proven is that when students come through a two-year college and go to a four-year college – our students do just as well or better than (students who go straight to a four-year school). We hope to be able to broker some deals with local colleges and universities about filling that role with developmental classes.

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