After speaking on Aug. 24 to the Rotary Club at United Wireless Arena, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran made an on-site visit to the new University/Training Center, which officially opened Aug. 5.
The tour began with Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation executive director Joann Knight informing Moran they have applied for various additional funding to bring the building to optimal condition.
If approved, this funding will be used for upgrading the mechanical, electric, plumbing and life-safety systems in the building.
Current classes being offered by Fort Hays State University through the University/Training Center are the RN to BSN program and the Bachelor’s and Masters of Social Work programs.
So far, the Bachelor’s of Social Work program is being taught on Monday nights and the Bachelor’s of Nursing class, which started a week prior on Wednesday, with students in the Jetmore- and Garden City-based classrooms alongside the Dodge City classrooms.
Anything that is taught at the Dodge City location can be delivered to any of the satellite learning communities that include Jetmore, Elkhart, Tribune, Garden City, Scott City and Saint John.
The Rural Education Workforce Alliance (REWA) is continuing to work to recruit additional programs that are in high demand for our workforce, with Knight stating they are looking at adding additional child care programs.
SBDC programs such as tax workshops, marketing and succession planning are being offered at the University/Training Center and can be remotely attended from the satellite locations.
A series of local classes through the Community Housing Association has also been started, which Knight describes as a home renovation series. Another series is set to be offered every month.
Knight told the senator that tuition for the FSHU programs taught through the University/Training Center are the same as if it were taught at FSHU, and that they are working on creating additional scholarship funds.
"We’ve giving them [FSHU] free space for two years, we’re also doing the creation of brochures, we’re doing all the marketing and trying to recruit students for them," Knight said. "They are students of Fort Hays, they will graduation from Fort Hays."
Moran asked Knight if the Dodge City Community College saw University/Training Center as "competition." Knight answered, "I think at the beginning they were a little concerned, but we’re just asking the universities to bring in those last two-year or programs above that.
"So, with what we’re doing as far as focusing on the pathways with the high schools, this should really be feeding students to those community colleges because they need to have their community college degree before they take these classes."
Knight said it is about changing the negative mindset of residents and local businesses that are unable to obtain higher education opportunities locally and encourage otherwise, adding that they are trying to recruit those who are very local community-oriented with their goals.
"I’m very proud and pleased for you," said Moran. "This has been a concept and an attempt for as long as I’ve been around, and you’ve got it into a position where it can succeed."
Knight said their next step is to continue to promote their local opportunities and recruit students, and possibly installing a satellite classroom in Larned, as well.
Joe Nail, CEO and founder of Lead for America, whose mission is to promote civic leadership in youth for their hometown communities, was also present as they also have a program at the University/Training Center.
"So we have a Peace Corps/TFA-style fellowship program and it’s a two-year, paid program for people to work in their hometowns alongside their city manager or mayor or business leader on a critical challenge their facing," Nail said. "After two years, we help them start a business, run for office, whatever it may be."
In the Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC) classroom, Darin Beck, executive director of the LETC, told Moran that their hopes for the LETC operating their continuous training program from the University/Training Center is to become part of a national rural law enforcement training center, grants permitting.
Beyond education, the ideas for services the University/Training Center can possibly provide include serving as a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) distribution site or child care, with their location near a soccer field and the YMCA as facilitating reasons. There is also talks about expansion developments with the YMCA.
Knight said that Kansas State University is interested in bringing an agricultural program to the University/Training Center, and that they are also talking to Pittsburg State University about additional instruction technology programs.
"Thank you all and your community, for its vision and leadership," said Moran before ending the tour due to time and his agenda.