Spotlight on Cullman, Walker & Winston: Higher Education

Two higher education institutions provide several certificate and degree options for area residents

Students in a Wallace State Community College nursing lecture class.

Wallace State Community College

Wallace State Community College, with a 300-acre main campus in Hanceville, satellite campus in Oneonta, and a service area that extends to Morgan and Winston counties, is a leader in regional higher education and workforce and economic development.

The college serves approximately 7,000 students in credit and non-credit programs and offers more than 200 degree and certificate options, as well as dual enrollment, adult education, career training, apprenticeships and university transfer programs.

The fourth largest community college in the state, with graduation and completion rates among the highest in the nation, Wallace State has been recognized nationally and regionally for its efforts in student success. It earned the prestigious designation as an Achieving the Dream Leader College and has been listed among the top 120 community colleges in the U.S. by the Aspen Institute.

Support services for students include success coaching, tutoring, free mental health counseling, a food pantry, work wardrobe, career services, on-campus dental clinic, a lounge for nursing mothers and more.

Wallace State is consistently ranked the preferred choice among community colleges by Alabama high school seniors taking the ACT. Wallace State’s computer science department earned a designation as National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense this year. The college was recently ranked as the No. 1 Online Community College in Alabama by the Guide to Online Colleges.

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While the majority of students at Wallace State come from the college’s five-county service area, the college offers on and off-campus housing options for those who come from farther away.

All of Wallace State’s 14 health care programs are highly regarded and the Department of Nursing Education has twice earned the National League for Nursing’s prestigious designation as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.

Wallace State, which has a new Center for Career and Workforce Development, has been ranked in the Top 3 in the South for workforce development training and among the best community colleges for automotive and aerospace worker training by Southern Business and Development Magazine. Innovative new programs include Diesel by Distance, robotic welding, radiation therapy, construction management, medical lab assistant, forensic psychology, human resources management and the expansion of the aviation program.

The college opened a new Technical Education Center this fall, allowing it to expand its welding program and provide space for its engineering technology and technology incubator programs. The college also joined officials in Blount County on the groundbreaking for a new multipurpose facility that will serve the agricultural community, career and technical education, economic development and more.

The college will soon open the Winston County Community Learning Center, offering classrooms and computers labs. Workforce development and training through Ready to Work and adult education classes are available in Winston County.

Wallace State boasts the winningest JUCO athletics program in the state, with 12 sports teams, including volleyball, baseball, softball, cheerleading and men’s and women’s programs in cross country, basketball, golf and tennis. The college is introducing NJCAAe, an eSports team, this fall.

Wallace State also has a Fine and Performing Arts Academy, offered in partnership with Cullman County Schools, and a new dance program. The award-winning Evelyn Burrow Museum, a museum of fine and decorative arts, is free to the public.

The college is a member of the STARS systems to ease transfer to four-year colleges, plus partnerships with industries, such as Mercedes-Benz and Kubota, to provide apprenticeships. It is also an active participant in the FAME advanced manufacturing apprenticeship program.

Wallace State’s One Door campaign, which won the Alabama Community College System Public Relations Association’s Best of Show Award this year, captures the college’s vision for everyone, regardless of their education or training goals, previous preparation or learning preference, whether in person or online, to be offered a pathway to completion, and connected with student success resources.

The college hosts numerous events on campus each year, from the Worlds of Work and career fairs to Let’s Pretend Hospital for 1st graders, to pageants and graduations, VEX IQ robotics events, cultural arts events, performances, open houses, professional development meetings and more.

The David Rowland Education Center on the Jasper campus of Bevill State Community College.

Bevill State Community College

Bevill State has five locations in northwest Alabama, and two locations – Jasper and Sumiton – are in Walker County.

The locations have a service area that spans more than 4,600 square miles in seven counties. Bevill State offers university parallel and applied technology educational programs. It offers several academic programs, career technical education, health sciences, workforce solutions and economic development, and adult education and dual enrollment.

In 2021, Bevill State released its new five-year strategic plan that emphasizes connection through partnerships and initiatives, helping students meet their intended educational goals and contribute to the local communities by providing a highly skilled workforce. The plan also includes such goals as redesigning student academic and career advising process and expanding training opportunities to business and industries.

Bevill State was honored with the prestigious Alabama Mining Association 2021 Safety and Sustainability Award for Exceptional Safety & Training Initiative for the longwall training expansion to the simulated underground mine, which is a part of the Alabama Mining Academy on the Sumiton campus.

Recent building improvements and changes include a new home for the Walker County Arts Alliance, which is now housed on the college’s Jasper campus in the Jesse Student Center Building. The new space allows classes and workshops for all ages. The Jasper campus also welcomed Lavish Coffee Bar.

Bevill State Community College – Sumiton.

Bevill State is known for the many partnerships and grants that allow it to expand opportunities for students. Those include:

  • A partnership with the Alabama Power Foundation and the Walker Area Community Foundation to offer the STEM22 program to students at Walker County schools and Jasper City Schools.
  • A collaboration with The Dannon Project, a Birmingham non-profit, to provide non-credit welding training and certification testing.
  • A $100,000 grant from the Don Drummond Family Fund of the Walker Area Community Foundation for Career Technical Education dual enrollment scholarships for high school students in Walker County.
  • A $72,000 donation for scholarship funds from Alabama Power for minority candidates to the HVAC Fast Track program.
  • A $20,000 contribution for scholarships from the Gene Haas Foundation for students in the machine tool technology program on the Jasper campus.
  • A $199,465 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to establish a Utility Vegetation Management program, providing a career-readiness indicator certification for existing business and industry employees who want to update their skills.

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

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