Spotlight on Madison County: Higher Education

The University of Alabama in Huntsville Shelby County for Science & Technology.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville
The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is a public national research-intensive university. Its students hail from 49 U.S. states and 54 countries.

Included among this year’s record-setting enrollment of 10,000 was an incoming freshman class with an average ACT score of 27.6 and GPA of 3.88. UAH has 1,961 full-time and part-time faculty and staff.

UAH offers nearly 90 degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, with colleges of engineering, education, arts/humanities/social sciences, nursing, science, business, honors, graduate school and professional studies.

UAH’s classroom curriculum is complemented by a wide variety of experiential learning activities available to students, including internships, cooperative education and study abroad.

Beyond academics, UAH’s students enjoy more than 185 student-run organizations, 11 fraternities and sororities, and 16 NCAA sports — including the only Division I ice hockey team in the Southeast.

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UAH’s 500-plus acre campus is home to 17 high-tech research centers and institutes. The university reported record annual R&D expenditures of $131.6 million in FY 2020. UAH also serves as the anchor tenant for the second-largest research park in the nation, Cummings Research Park, and maintains strong partnerships with local, federal and commercial employers like the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as numerous Department of Defense agencies, such as the Missile Defense Agency, the Missile and Space Intelligence Center and the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

UAH is considered by the Brookings Institution to be the best public university in the state based on the economic outcomes of its graduates.

In addition, UAH has six programs that rank among the top 20 in the nation by the National Science Foundation for federally financed research expenditures — aerospace/aeronautical engineering (6th), atmospheric sciences (10th), computer and information sciences (11th), astronomy (14th), economics (15th) and industrial/manufacturing engineering (17th). Nearly 45 percent of UAH graduates earn a degree in a STEM field.

In June 2019, the Invention to Innovation Center opened on campus. It is a regional initiative that fosters, promotes and accelerates commercialization of technology-based ventures through incubation, co-working, mentorship, funding and strategic support. The three-story, 46,650-square-foot building is next to UAH’s College of Business building.

And in June 2020, the UAH College of Business announced an online MBA option. 

Calhoun Community College
With approximately 10,000 students at campuses in Huntsville and Decatur, Calhoun is Alabama’s largest two-year college and the sixth-largest higher education institution in the state.

The college’s Huntsville campus is located in Cummings Research Park, making Calhoun the only two-year college in the nation housed in a major research park.

Calhoun recently received approval to offer several new academic programs in criminal justice, visual communications multimedia technology, computer information systems areas and several manufacturing areas, from engineering design technology to welding, machine tool and additive manufacturing.

The nursing program at Calhoun is one of the top-ranked in the state and recently received a 100% National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate for its practical nursing program and a 92.9% pass rate for the registered nursing program for students in the 2017-2019 graduating class. The PN program exceeded the national average by 15% and the RN program by 5% for the last three years.

Calhoun and UAH have entered a memorandum of understanding that streamlines the transfer of honors program students between the schools. Calhoun’s honor students must first be admitted to UAH as transfer students, then they will be granted automatic admission to the Honors College at UAH and must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25.

Drake State Community & Technical College
Drake State Community & Technical College, based in Huntsville, offers university-transfer degrees and a health sciences program. Drake State boasts strong technical and workforce programs, helping meet the demand for skilled employees in the advanced manufacturing and aerospace industries. The college’s computer information systems and cyber security programs are also generating workforce for the North Alabama region and the state.

In April 2021, Drake State kicked off a yearlong celebration of its 60th anniversary.

And in September 2020, Drake State became the first and only historically black community college to receive a cooperative agreement from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. With matching funds provided by NASA’s Office of Education Minority University Research Program, Drake State established the Frontiers Research Program to house and manage all aspects of the related research project and curriculum development.

The research will ultimately support NASA’s Moon-to-Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology project and include testing materials and processes used in 3D printing technology to help develop construction techniques suitable for building landing pads, roads and other large structures on Earth and in space. The team will also develop curriculum for training a new workforce of technicians specialized in 3D construction techniques.

Alabama A&M STEM Students.

Alabama A&M University
Alabama A&M University, a land-grant university, was organized in 1875. It offers its students a wide variety of degree programs ranging from bachelor’s to Ph.D. AAMU is located on more than 2,300 acres in Normal, only a five-minute commute from downtown Huntsville. There are nearly 6,000 students, and it is the largest historically Black institution in the state.

New developments include:

  • A new collaboration between AAMU and IBM will give students majoring in the STEM disciplines an extra boost. The university and IBM are teaming to provide special software and related expertise to support faculty and students in STEM areas. The collaboration invites Alabama A&M to be a part of the IBM Academic Initiative, the IBM Skills Academy and related IBM awards. AAMU is the top producer of African American STEM graduates in Alabama and among the top three nationally among all HBCU colleges.
  • AAMU will offer two new master’s programs in engineering this fall — one in electrical engineering and one in mechanical engineering, both growing fields.
  • Alabama A&M University received a $500,000 grant from Alabama Power and its parent, Southern Co., to help bolster technological capabilities across campus. It is a part of the $50 million HBCU Initiative that provides HBCU students with scholarships, internships, leadership development and access to technology for career readiness. The grant will pay for an extended reality lab, visual collaboration classrooms and cloud virtual desktops.
  • The college is moving forward on its Event Center, a development that will boost campus aesthetics and have a significant economic impact on north Huntsville. It is expected to be completed by 2022.

Oakwood University
Oakwood is a historically Black Seventh-day Adventist university. It is one of Huntsville’s historical landmarks and is a major part of the community, with students participating in local tutoring, disaster relief, community improvement and child development programs.

Oakwood has consistently been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best regional colleges and universities, with more than 58 majors across five schools. Oakwood also offers four graduate programs in pastoral studies, urban ministry, public health and an MBA in leadership.

The school also is currently serving as temporary home of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering, a free, public, residential magnet high school for students seeking advanced engineering and cyber technology studies. The new school will be housed in Cummings Research Park in 2022.

New programs as part of Oakwood’s Healthy Campus 2020 nationally-recognized wellness program include:

  • A mobile farmers market to take fresh fruits, vegetables and health education to underserved communities.
  • Oakwood Farms, which opened its new retail location across from the school’s main entrance in June 2020. The new store creates jobs for the community and offers campus-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs for the surrounding area, that has been identified as a food desert.
  • An ambulatory care clinic within the university’s Community Health Action Center, established by Huntsville Hospital and allowing for continuity of care between the walk-in clinic and inpatient care at the hospital.

Faulkner University (Huntsville campus)
The Montgomery-based school’s Huntsville campus, in operation for more than 30 years, offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs. It is one of four Faulkner campuses in the state.

The Huntsville campus offers classes during the day, evening and weekend hours to accommodate work and family schedules.

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