Stillman College touts community outreach efforts

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) – Stillman College is working on several initiatives in 2014 to enhance the relationship between the small private Presbyterian campus and the surrounding community as well as to open new degree paths for students, according to its interim president.

“We are really going to open up campus to the community,” interim President Peter Millet said. “We want to let people know they are welcome on campus.”

Four months into his interim presidency, Millet highlighted efforts to reach out to different groups of prospective students and increase interaction with the community that surrounds the campus in west Tuscaloosa.

Millet was named interim president in September, following the departure of former President Ernest McNealey. The college’s board of trustees is in the process or searching for a permanent replacement for McNealey.

While Millet believes Stillman has always been active in the community, it hasn’t always gotten recognition for its engagement.

The college is in the process of creating an advisory board of community stakeholders, potentially including eight to 10 representatives from business, education, religious and other groups, Millet said.

Stillman’s administration will invite some individuals to participate, while others might be identified and approached by local agencies and organizations, Millet said.

“As an extension of the community, we want to have the voice here on campus,” he said.

Stillman hopes to have the board in place by the end of the spring semester, he said.

The college plans to roll out a series of initiatives beginning in February.

The college will have its first Family and Alumni Weekend on Feb. 20-23, which will serve as an open house for the community to come explore the campus and get information about Stillman.

The college’s choir also plans to visit area churches to perform on the third Sunday of the month, beginning in February.

Next month, Stillman also plans to begin offering free computer training to the community, including basics such as using the Internet, resume building and word processing. Millet said a computer lab will be open in the evenings for the community to use.

Stillman is also working on securing support through the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program, which provides grants to higher education institutions and other organizations in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus. The program seeks to improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in distressed communities by funding research and planning to make improvements.

Millet said the college is working with the city school system to research the education experience and resources available to students in west Tuscaloosa.

“We want to make sure students in schools right in this area have everything they need to be successful,” Millet said.

Stillman is in the process of developing a series of agreements partnering the private school with its public two-year and four-year counterparts in Tuscaloosa to develop degree paths.

Stillman is working on agreements with the Alabama Community College System for a degree path that takes students from associates degrees at a two-year school to a bachelor’s degree at Stillman and another with the University of Alabama allowing Stillman students in STEM fields to complete an MBA at the Capstone, Millet said.

The private college is in the final stages of developing a draft of an agreement with the community college system to allow students who graduate with associates degrees to complete four-year degrees at Stillman, Millet said. Students would be able to transfer all of their credits, with the exception of trade courses, and would be able to finish degrees in four semesters.

The students would also be eligible for tuition and residency scholarships, Millet said.

“We think the community colleges in Alabama provide an outstanding education and align well with Stillman,” Millet said.

The agreement with UA, the details of which are still being negotiated, would allow Stillman students completing degrees in STEM fields to take a STEM Business Honors course at UA during their senior years. Under the agreement, students would complete bachelor’s degrees at Stillman, take online courses in the summer after graduation at Stillman and then complete the final business courses at UA during the fall and spring semesters of their fifth years, Millet said. The program would combine scientific expertise with business acumen.

Millet also noted previously announced plans that, during the next couple of years, the college will add three new majors and resurrect a fourth that had been discontinued. Stillman will add environmental science, criminal justice and music business and bring back chemistry.

The college is also considering a special education degree and a master’s degree in education, he said.

The private college is also looking at ways of reaching out to different groups of potential students, including military personnel and Hispanics, Millet said, noting increasing enrollment remains a perennial concern for an institution depending primarily on income from tuition.

Millet said he hopes to make Stillman a military-friendly campus, with service personnel being able to attend at a discounted rate. Stillman would enjoy earning a military-friendly designation, but the label is not the motivation for the move, Millet said.

Millet also hopes to become a Hispanic-friendly campus, noting the growth of the minority group.

Millet also has aspirations to reach out to people who are incarcerated, potentially with distance education options.

“We think educating them is going to be good for the country and the community,” Millet said.

The college also plans to roll out a summer bridge program this year offering math and English courses, tutoring and other support to students planning to attend Stillman who come close to the meeting the admission requirements but fall short.

“Some students will be wonderful college students, but they didn’t perform in high school,” he said. “We think it is important to give people a chance.”

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Information from: The Tuscaloosa News

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