The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in Washington, D.C., recently announced that Southeastern Community College will be part of the 2017-2019 cohort for the MentorLinks: Advancing Technology Education program with funding from the National Science Foundation. Southeastern Community College will receive $20,000 for the two-year grant period to attend national meetings and events for technical assistance and professional development through the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technology Education national conference and grant community.
Southeastern’s project, “Preparing the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce in Rural North Carolina,” was one of 11 projects selected through a national, competitive peer review process. The project will focus on implementing the college’s new Mechatronics Engineering Technology degree program. Mechatronics prepares multi-skilled technicians that can work on the electrical, mechanical, hydraulic / pneumatic, and computer control systems in an advanced manufacturing or technology environment. The project will build pathways for high school students, dislocated workers, veterans, and others to pursue these skills to qualify for jobs in advanced manufacturing and help contribute to economic development in Columbus County.
AACC has managed the MentorLinks grant since 2002. Since then over 44 colleges have been assisted by the grant program. The program promotes rural colleges that often lack the resources to build or strengthen their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. Forty-six percent of colleges receiving a MentorLinks grant are from rural areas.
The MentorLinks initiative pairs experienced community college mentors with extensive experience in planning and implementing advanced technology programs with colleges seeking support to build, strengthen, and sustain new or existing STEM technician education programs. Selected colleges work closely with their mentor on activities such as curriculum development or redesign, industry engagement, faculty development, student recruitment and retention, and internships and other learning experiences for faculty and students.
Southeastern Community College will join colleges from Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Washington in the 2017-2019 Mentorlinks cohort. Angie Ransom, division chair of technical programs, and Jeff Hester, mechatronics instructor, will participate in the grant from the college. Mr. James Hyder, a professional consultant from New Mexico will be the college’s mentor. Hyder has been employed as an Instructional Designer and Instructor at Rio Salado College in Arizona and Industry Liaison for the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education in New Mexico. As part of the grant, Hyder will visit the Sasser Industrial Training Center on Southeastern’s campus and the Southeastern team will visit the advanced technology center at a college that Hyder will arrange.
Dr. Anthony Clarke stated, “We are honored that AACC and NSF has selected us to be part of the 2017-2019 MentorLinks cohort. Our intent is to learn from others about how to implement a successful mechatronics program that will prepare students for jobs and promote economic development in Columbus County. I am confident that Angie Ransom and Jeff Hester will learn a lot and bring that knowledge back to the college. We are looking forward to working with our industry and educational partners to prepare student for advanced technical jobs.”