Nearly two dozen community stakeholders met Tuesday morning to learn about the Center for Graduate and Professional Studies to open in Martinsburg in the fall of 2013. Shepherd University President Suzanne Shipley provided an overview of the process of developing the Center which has been tackled thus far and asked for input for plans moving forward.
Shepherd plans to open the center to provide a different avenue for a different type of student. In catering more to the mature student who does not require on-campus housing and other amenities, Shipley said, the university will be able to provide education options to an increased number of students.
Currently, Shepherd University has nearly 4,200 undergraduate students and approximately 250 graduate students, and operates under a $57.5 million dollar budget. Shipley said. Space and parking constraints prohibit more day students and residential students alike from attending Shepherd.
The goal of the new Martinsburg facility is to offer high quality academic programs focusing on the upper level of the education spectrum. The center, Shipley said, will not compete with Blue Ridge Community and Technical College which is already located in Martinsbug. Instead, Shipley said, the Center for Graduate and Professional Studies will offer a progression point for students who have completed programs at BRCTC.
Peter Checkovich, president of BRCTC, was in attendance at Tuesday's breakfast and concurred with Shipley that the two schools will not compete, but rather compliment each other. The two went so far as to sign an agreement late Tuesday allowing Blue Ridge associate business degree grduates to make a seamless transition into Shepherd to earn a four-year bachelor's degree.
A site has not been confirmed for the new center. Shipley indicated that various locations are being evaluated and that hopefully a decision will be made soon.
Shipley explained in her opening remarks that the center will offer a variety of programs including a Regent Bachelor of Arts degree, an MBA program and undergraduate and graduate courses in education. The courses will be offered on a flexible schedule including evenings and weekends with combined online and classroom segments.
The individuals gathered to offer input Tuesday were divided into areas of business, healthcare, education and the arts and nonprofit and civic organizations. Each table exchanged ideas and thoughts before sharing with the entire group.
Suggestions that came from the discussions included that Shepherd officials should more clearly target their market for the center and cater course offerings to that market.
Concerns over the potential competition between BRCTC and the new Shepherd center also topped the list around the room. Diane Melby, on the Academic Affairs staff at Shepherd, shared that at her table, the issue of communication was the biggest topic, communication between the public and the university to assure that BRCTC and SU will work together rather than compete.
Shipley assured the room that the goal was not to compete or to meld the two entities into one.
"Independence and mutual strength," she said. "We will not put the two back together but will together serve the area."
The idea of offering certificate programs as well as degree programs arose with the suggestion that certificate programs could then roll into college credit for students to seek a degree at another time.
Two additional breakfast meetings welcoming additional stakeholders were scheduled along with Tuesday's meeting. The timeline for the project includes a build out from January to April 2013 with course offerings next fall.