Highland Supervisors get update from Blue Ridge Community College
Monterey, Va. –
Dr. John Downey of Blue Ridge Community College addressed the Highland County Board of Supervisors at their meeting earlier this month. First, Dr. Downey had a word of thanks for the Supervisors.
“First I need to thank you for providing us consistently with a great Board Member,” said Dr. Downey. “Caroline Sponaugle here representing our Board and does a great job advising the President and advising us on the needs of Highland County as it relates to Blue Ridge Community College and the students. So, we really appreciate her service and you appointing her. Enrollment at the college is steady. It has declined slightly this past year. Hopefully that’s a sign that the economy is starting to pick back up and people are getting back to work,” he said.
Dr. Downey goes on to note recent recognition for Blue Ridge Community College in a national higher education publication.
“Blue Ridge was named by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the top 4 community colleges in the nation to work for,” said Dr. Downey. “I think that is a testament to the spirit our employees have at Blue Ridge Community College. They really are strongly committed to student success and strongly committed to helping each student as an individual. I’m really proud of that designation because of the efforts of our employees,” he said.
Dr. Downey also reported on four new programs at the college.
“We started four new programs that I think really are addressing the needs of local employers, which I think help people stay in our communities and work in our communities,” said Dr. Downey. “That’s an important role that Blue Ridge Community College plays. We created a Bioprocessing Program in response to some of the stuff happening in our northern service area around Harrisonburg, especially in relation to Merck and SRI and those companies that have moved in. We started a Mechatronics Program at the request of Hershey and other industries like Hershey that are increasingly seeing a need for their workers to have both mechanics and electrical expertise. So we started a Mechatronics Program for them,” he said.
The aviation maintenance program has recently gained national recognition.
“A couple of success stories – our Aviation Maintenance Technology Program is the first program in the country that has been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to teach distance learning courses,” Dr. Downey said. “So we’ll be teaching what we call the didactic or interactive part of that program online, and then the students will come into the campus at the airport where we have a partnership with Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. They will do the lab portion in person. But it saves students a lot of time to be able to do the bulk of that program distance learning. So (I am) proud of that accomplishment,” he said.
Finally, Dr. Downey emphasizes the great importance he places on career and technical education.
“I think career and technical education is an emphasis of mine because I believe that those are the programs that students graduate from and stay in the area,” said Dr. Downey. “They can still progress through those programs and get a Baccalaureate, which is what most parents want for their kids. But, to be able to tell them that there is a pathway to a Baccalaureate through career and technical education that also gets them a job, I think is important in today’s economy,” he said.
Blue Ridge Community College hopes to add a new student fitness and recreation center building next fall. A new administration and student services building is in the planning stages.