Martinsville Bulletin: NCI’s purpose and programs are evolving, director says

Martinsville Bulletin: NCI’s purpose and programs are evolving, director says

May 20, 2017

MARTINSVILLE – The purpose of the New College Institute (NCI) is to help Southern Virginia residents boost their educational levels in various ways, not just through earning degrees, Executive Director Leanna Blevins emphasizes.

That has always been NCI’s mission, and it will continue to be, she maintains.

“Our model (for providing higher education) is not designed in the way that a traditional university’s is, and that’s on purpose,” Blevins said. Whereas universities generally decide on degree programs they will provide and continue to offer them for many years, “we have to constantly evolve (NCI’s programs) based on regional and statewide demand” for skills that people need to fill existing jobs.

 Based on statistics, she said NCI has helped many people become better educated, and she believes it will continue to well into the future.

No public four-year colleges or universities – which typically are less costly to attend than private ones – are in Southern Virginia. Believing that has led to fewer adults in the region having earned degrees, the state established the institute in uptown Martinsville in 2006 to fill the gap.

NCI provides local access to various bachelor’s and master’s degree programs of partner universities. For the most part, those degrees are ones needed for jobs that area companies and other businesses and organizations have had trouble filling. The institute also offers training and professional development programs designed to be responsive to needs of regional employers.

Students at NCI, who also are students of the universities providing the degree programs in which they are enrolled, have earned 382 undergraduate and master’s degrees over the past 11 years.

Officials with the institute when it was established predicted that at least 1,000 students would earn degrees during its first six years of operation, Blevins recalled.

Blevins is NCI’s third executive director. Although she has been with the institute since its planning stages, she did not become its top administrator on a permanent basis until last December.

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