By Callie Hietala
Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC) will be making a “major, major announcement” very soon, Dr. Greg Hodges, president of P&HCC, said of a partnership between the college and the Harvest Foundation.
The statement came during the college’s Sept. 20 board meeting, held at the Manufacturing, Engineering, & Technology (MET) Complex.
“It will be the largest resource announcement in the history of our college and will not only be beneficial to our institution but to the economic development of our community,” Hodges said. “I wish I could tell you all the details right now. I’m about to explode.”
He added that the announcement “couples with what we’ve been doing with the Harvest Foundation beautifully.”
Though Hodges did not disclose further details, the Harvest Foundation has previously partnered with the college to graduate a trained and skilled workforce equipped with marketable skillsets. In 2018, the two institutions announced a three-year, $5.8 million grant focused on developing the local workforce with a focus on nursing, welding, and highly automated “smart factories.”
The new announcement will be made on September 30 at 10 a.m. in front of West Hall on the P&HCC campus.
Hodges also thanked the board for its handling of the college’s recent name change.
“We’re now in the middle of our three-phase renaming process,” he said. Phase 1, which concluded at the end of August, was a change of all public-facing information including changes on the website, logo, and social media.
The college is in the midst of phase 2, which will go through June 30, 2022, and includes changes to physical structures, like buildings, sports iconography, and street signs. At the same time, the college is already at work on phase 3, which takes the college through the end of December 2022, the time frame given by the state board. The final phase includes getting the name officially changed in national, federal, and statewide supporting agencies.
The board also heard from Terry Young, vice president of Academic and Student Services, who reported a decline in student enrollment numbers, a significant amount attributed to a lack of dual enrollment from high school students taking college classes.
Dual enrollment for the fall 2021 semester was down 14.95 percent from fall of 2020, while total enrollment was down 6.75 percent from 1,484 to 1,384. Young noted that the decline was lower than the average for community colleges statewide. Hodges noted that many other rural areas were facing similar challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian Henderson, P&HCC’s Athletic Director, reported on the college’s growing athletics program. He said there are 205 student athletes at P&HCC for the current semester, up from 130 a year ago. Of the total, 201 came to P&HCC strictly because of the sports it offers. He expects the number will be closer to 250 next year, “because we still haven’t maximized all of our rosters.”
Those student athletes, he said, and P&HCC’s ability to attract more of them, will benefit the local economy as students rent apartments, eat at local restaurants, and otherwise spend money in the area during their time at the school.
Hodges said he soon will be traveling to Richmond to address the General Assembly on the “significant positive impact” athletics has had on campus. “Athletics is now receiving statewide attention and even national attention, and certainly the success of our academic programming the last several years has assisted with that and made that very much a viable portion of our enrollment.”
Rhonda Hodges, vice president of Workforce, Economic and Community Development, said that P&HCC has awarded funding to 98 Fast Forward students this semester, which is a tie with the significantly larger Northern Virginia Community College. P&HCC also has been leading the state in G3 (Get Skilled, Get a Job, Get Ahead) grant funding awards, and currently, 94 percent of P&HCC’s Fast Forward students are participating at no cost to them or their parents.
In other matters, the board:
* Approved minutes from previous board meetings.
* Heard the Institutional Advancement report. The decision was made to once again postpone the popular scholarship luncheon, which usually includes around 200 donors and scholarship recipients, due to safety concerns. P&HCC recently released a mini-grant application process, funded through the foundation, which is available for faculty and staff to come up with creative and innovative ways to teach new things in the classroom that otherwise may not be budgeted.
*Heard a facilities update, including an announcement that demolition is complete on the second MET complex, and construction has begun. Plumbing has been installed, and the complex is on track to begin classes next fall. The complex will triple P&HCC’s welding capacity, which is expected to boost enrollment.
*Toured the current MET complex with Hodges to learn about the various ways P&HCC is helping prepare students to enter the modern workforce.