Spotlight on Calhoun & Talladega: Higher Education

These four institutions of higher learning provide students with credentialing classes to doctoral degrees

The Miriam and James Haywood Fountain, in front of Angle Hall, is JSU’s first water feature, funded by a gift from the estate of the late Mr. and Mrs. Haywood.

Jacksonville State University

Founded in 1883, Jacksonville State University is a comprehensive, public university that offers 95 academic programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, including more than 40 online programs. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the university boasts Alabama’s only bachelor’s degree programs in respiratory therapy and forensic investigations and one of only four doctoral programs in emergency management in the U.S.

The growing university posted its highest enrollment numbers in school history in fall 2021, with 9,540 students. To accommodate its growth, JSU is in the midst of a building program. In July 2022, the university will dedicate its 105,000-square-foot business building, Merrill Hall, to replace a building destroyed by a tornado in 2018. The university also is renovating the former RMC Jacksonville Hospital to house its top-ranked nursing program.

The JSU Gamecocks compete in an array of sports from basketball, football and baseball to golf, sand volleyball and rifle. They are members of the ASUN Conference but will join Conference-USA in 2023. The university will soon break ground on an expansion to its football stadium, which will include a new residence hall and dining facility along with new offices for its football program as it moves to the FBS level.

Notable JSU alumni include legendary country music artist Randy Owen, lead singer of the band Alabama, who earned a degree in English from the university in 1973 and serves on its board of trustees. The university will soon break ground on the Randy Owen Center for the Performing Arts, which will provide a venue to showcase the talents of the university’s renowned music and theater programs.

JSU also will dedicate its first campus water feature this month. The Miriam and James Haywood Fountain is in front of the main administration building, Angle Hall. It was funded by a gift from the estate of the couple, who retired from the university in 1979.

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Talladega College President Gregory Vincent was recently presented the Black Professional Alliance 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Talladega College

The first private historically black liberal arts college in Alabama, Talladega College has been known for academic excellence for more than 150 years. It is located in a historic district in the city of Talladega and offers a close-knit, student-centered environment.

Talladega College is regularly listed among the Princeton Review’s best colleges in the Southeast, ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report and more. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the school set a record for the largest enrollment in its history with 1,313 students. It is the school’s third consecutive year for record enrollment increases.

In February, Alabama Power and its parent, Southern Company, donated $125,000 to help the school’s ongoing Civil Rights Garden. The garden will honor Hank and Billye Aaron, who have contributed more than $700,000 in scholarship money to Talladega College students through the Chasing the Dream Foundation; Arthur Bacon, a renowned local artist; Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young, who met on the campus of Talladega College for an Alpha Phi Alpha convention; and Hank Thomas, one of the 1961 Freedom Riders.

The garden will have sculptures of each person and a marker recognizing state Rep. Barbara Boyd, whose district includes Talladega College. Ultimately, the garden could be an official stop along Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail.

Also in August 2020, a naming ceremony was held for the Dr. Billy C. Hawkins Activity Center, the first building on campus to bear the name of one of the school’s African American presidents. The college also opened a new student center, museum and residence hall.

Gadsden State Community College recently celebrated the start of the truck driving program at the Ayers Campus.

Gadsden State Community College — Ayers Campus

Gadsden State Community College’s Ayers Campus serves approximately 700 students taking academic courses, health science programs and technical training offerings.

The campus offers general studies as well as accounting, computer science, office administration and child development. Students also can choose from health science programs in nursing, surgical operating room technician and EMS.

It offers 12 technical programs including air conditioning and refrigeration, mechatronics, automotive technology, salon and spa management and diesel mechanics.

The Ayers Campus is home to two programs not offered at other Gadsden State campuses — the Mobility Nursing Program and the Alabama Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, also known as FAME. The Mobility Nursing Program gives practical nurses and paramedics the opportunity to become registered nurses. It is taught in three semesters with one nursing course each semester. FAME is an apprenticeship-style program that combines classroom and lab learning with work experience at local industry partners. Both programs have selective admissions.

In May 2022, the Skills Training Division hosted a ribbon cutting for its truck driving program, which includes a truck driving simulator.

The Ayers Campus offers on-campus dual enrollment as well as adult education, English Literacy Acquisition and the federally funded Veterans Upward Bound, Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services.

The latest addition to Gadsden State’s TRIO program is the Cheaha Educational Opportunity Center, which serves Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne and Etowah counties. It is funded through a $232,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The EOC provides opportunities for academic development and assists students with applying for college enrollment and financial aid. It also serves to motivate students toward the successful completion of their high school equivalency and their postsecondary education.

The Margie Sanford Center on Central Alabama Community College’ Childersburg campus.

Central Alabama Community College/Childersburg Campus, Talladega Center

Central Alabama Community College (CACC) is a multi-campus institution and one of Alabama’s five original community colleges. It offers academic and career technical programs at its main campus in Alexander City and at locations in Childersburg, Talladega and Prattville.

With a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1, CACC offers an associate in science degree with individualized career paths, associate in applied science degrees, and associate in occupational technology degrees.

One of the fastest growing programs is dual enrollment for nearby high school students. Recently, the college created a new online orientation class for dual enrollment students that is designed to introduce high school students to college life, post-graduate opportunities and workforce. Students can receive one college credit transferable to other colleges or to help them get a good start at CACC. It was offered the first time in the spring semester this year and has more than 60 Talladega County schools students enrolled.

Also, the college and Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind have added to its existing partnership with a new pilot dual enrollment program. In January, three of AIDB’s E.H. Gentry facility students and three E.H. Gentry Work Experience/Manufacturing staffers will attend Manufacturing Skills Standards Council classes onsite on the Talladega campus. AIDB will provide the transportation, interpreters and accessible materials.

Currently, 10 Gentry facility students attend academic and credentialing classes through CACC in Talladega, Childersburg and Alexander City in partnership with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Once students become MSSC credentialed, Gentry facility job developers and coaches will work with local industry partners, cultivated by CACC, to place students in paid, 90-day work experience placements in hopes of them becoming full-time team members there or at a similar business or industry.

The Talladega Center also offers mini-term classes to help students earn an associate in science degree as quickly as possible.

At the Childersburg campus, CACC has recently expanded the machine tool program, and at the Talladega Center, the medical assistant technology program has been added as an evening class for students who work during the day.

This article appeared in the July 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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