June 17, 2009

SIUC, Frontier College team up for event in Flora

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- If you live in the Flora area and are thinking about expanding your horizons and furthering your education, you won’t want to miss an event this month.

The Showcase for Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Frontier Community College is June 24 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Flora Depot. The depot, located at 223 Railroad St., is across from Hucks.

“We are happy to work with Frontier Community College in this initiative to serve Flora residents,” said Victoria Valle, SIUC’s assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management. “Our partnerships with community colleges are vital to our success in meeting the educational needs of the people of Southern Illinois. We want the people of the Flora area to know that we are here to serve them.”

Flora, population 5,000, is home to the Flora Industrial Park, where a dozen industrial partners employ more than 1,500 people. The five largest employers in the park sent surveys to the workforce several months ago to determine employees’ interest in furthering their education. Based on the strong, favorable response from about 700 respondents, talks between SIUC, Frontier Community College (FCC) and the city of Flora continued. Soon, the idea for the Showcase was born.

“This project is aimed at enhancing the capacity of the workforce in Flora and the greater Southern Illinois region by effectively developing people and employees who are capable of competing in a global marketplace,” said Tim Taylor, president of Frontier Community College in Fairfield. “This is especially relevant in the Flora area, where there are several international companies that would like to foster new product development and company growth but are having difficulty finding enough qualified employees to help them respond to the global economic pressures that they are currently facing.

“Further, sometimes there is a perception amongst our community residents that there is a disconnect between community colleges, universities, government and private business -- especially relative to economic and community development concerns. This project is a wonderful example of the synergy that can be created by public-private partnerships and I believe that our active participation in the program will have tangible results in both the strengthening and expansion of our region’s economy, which could lead to increased community trust and public investment in college activities,” Taylor added.

The Showcase is a chance for all participating parties to find out more about one another and gauge interest in taking the next step.

“We’re really hoping that on June 24 most of the folks who took the time a few months back to complete the survey will visit the Depot. They can learn more about SIUC and the bachelor’s programs the prestigious University may offer in Flora,” said Dan Sulsberger, Flora director of economic development. “Frontier Community College will also be offering information on how their educational opportunities can benefit area residents.”

Organizers emphasize that everyone is welcome to attend the Showcase. While the interest surveys polled industrial park employees, the members of the general public are welcome to come to the Showcase and see what it can mean to their lives.

Frontier Community College will offer those in attendance information about how they can complete their associate degree, thus being able to continue on to earn at bachelor’s degree at SIUC, according to Jervaise McGlone, associate dean of the adult continuing education program at Frontier. She said feedback from the public indicates there is a significant number of people in the area who earned college credits but who lack a degree, and Frontier can help them complete their associate degree, even providing ways to do so outside of the Frontier campus.

“It’s a great opportunity for residents of the Flora community to complete their education while continuing to work, and in many situations, care for their family,” McGlone said.

Participating in the Showcase from SIUC will be Workforce Education, Division of Continuing Education, Undergraduate Admissions, and from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, the Technical Resource Management, Industrial Technologies and Electronic Systems Technologies programs. Faculty and staff from each of those areas will hand out information, answer questions and assess community interest.

“We’ve always known that our local industrial base is rich with educated and talented people,” said Flora Mayor Bob Tackitt. “There’s a lot of excitement about the SIUC and FCC initiative.”

“This showcase is really going to be an informative meeting for everyone,” added Ron House, director of the SIUC Service Centers at Frontier Community College and Olney Central College. “People will be learning what Frontier and SIUC have to offer them and we’ll be seeing if people from the Flora area are interested in enhancing their education through SIUC if we bring programming to the area. We’re trying to say, If you are interested, we have a full circle of services and we’d like to make them available to you.’ This Showcase is a wonderful collaboration between the three entities -- SIUC, Frontier Community College and Flora.”