The pact between UVa-Wise, Mountain Empire Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College and Virginia Highlands Community College is geared toward meeting the needs of the region’s emerging technology industry by allowing students to finish two years of study at one of the three community colleges and then complete the remaining two years of the software engineering program at UVa-Wise.
UVa-Wise offers Virginia’s only undergraduate degree in software engineering. The college worked with the region’s legislators, local governments, businesses and economic development officials to launch the software engineering program three years ago.
“This agreement creates a regional network of accessibility to higher education, something the public expects of the region’s colleges,” said UVa-Wise Chancellor David J. Prior during a signing ceremony Thursday in Lebanon.
“This will bring tremendous opportunities to the young people of Southwest Virginia,” said state Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Lebanon.
Delegate Bud Phillips, D-Clintwood, said the agreement is significant because education is the key to the region’s growth and prosperity.
“In the end, the quality of the work force will draw business and industry to our region,” he said. “In order to compete in the world economy, we have to be able to change and embrace new technology. Our colleges are second to none in giving a world-class education to our students.”
SWVCC President Mark Estepp said his college is proud to be a part of the pact, and MECC President Terrance Suarez said his college looks forward to seeing the results of the program on the region. F. David Wilkin, president of VHCC, said the agreement is not an isolated event because the colleges have worked together on many similar projects in the past.
The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science also provided support for the software engineering program at UVa-Wise. Dean of the school, James H. Aylor, said the program has enormous potential and will produce students poised to play a major role in the reinventing of Southwest Virginia’s economy.