Groundbreaking For McMinn Higher Education Center Scheduled For Sept. 27

Tuesday, September 17, 2019
McMinn County Higher Education Center Rendering
McMinn County Higher Education Center Rendering
A ground breaking for the McMinn Higher Education Center, 2345 DENSO Dr. in Athens, is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 27 at 11:30 a.m., with Governor Bill Lee in attendance.  

The center for collaborative higher education will include the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Cleveland State Community College and the McMinn County UT Extension Institute of Agriculture. This project will relocate current CSCC leased space, expand TCAT programs and relocate both UT Extension and Adult Education and create a space for local industry training to upgrade the existing workforce. 

“This was the only TBR project funded this year because it is a unique collaboration that will serve as a model for other communities,” stated Dr.
Bill Seymour, CSCC president. “This new facility for Cleveland State will enable the college to better serve the middle and northern sections of our service area. More students will be able to complete degrees in Athens without needing to drive to Cleveland.”

With the creation of the new center, Cleveland State will now be able to offer more general transfer, biology and chemistry labs, as well as expand both business and agriculture programs. 

Stewart Smith,president of the TCAT Athens, stated, “After seven years of working toward this day, it is thrilling to know that we will be able to celebrate this landmark with our community.  I truly believe that this center will positively impact not just McMinn county, but the region as a whole.”

TCAT will be moving their Machine Tool and Die and Electro-Mechanical Instrumentation programs to the new facility, creating additional space for HVAC and Construction Technology.

"This project will allow collaboration of public higher education and private industry to work in concert allowing a coordination of education, workforce development and training within a flexible facility that will develop a strong bond allowing all parties to be well integrated in education, industry recruitment, as well as business development," officials said.  "A partnership with McMinn County and the UT Extension will provide ongoing operations funding and expose a range of citizens to opportunities available through the College System of Tennessee. This facility was designed so that TBR can offer programs by both the TCAT and community college to meet market demand with the flexibility to develop the programs and training of new industries."

“Being from this community, one of the things that I have focused on is the fact that we have four different levels of higher education here,” stated Stefanie West, director of the CSCC Athens Center. “Starting with skills at the TCAT, moving on up to certificates and associate degrees at Cleveland State and then, you have your four-year and graduate degree programs at Tennessee Wesleyan. So, as a community, we have to stop and recognize just how blessed we are.”

According to Ms. West, the new facility will allow CSCC to expand its program offerings from 22 to 31. 

Ms. West stated, “This year, we didn’t have enough space for all of the people that wanted to take the EMT program, so it’s definitely exciting to know we are going to have a larger space to grow that program, and the Advance Business program is the same way. We are maxed out on Thursday nights for Advance. We don’t have another  classroom available for that program, so having that extra space in the new facility will be nice.”

Ms. West adds that combining efforts with the UT Extension Institute of Agriculture will provide a tremendous benefit to agribusiness anchored in Athens and help to bring students into an industry with many opportunities. 

In addition, there are also plans to host an Ag Day open to middle and high school students, as well as career exploration fairs at the center that will give the students an opportunity to see multiple levels of education and different career paths they can take.

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