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Clark State to grow in Greene, Logan

Springfield-based school expects to expand job training and military programs.

Clark State Community College increased enrollment nearly 75 percent since 2007, and leaders believe more growth is possible through locations in Greene and Logan counties and through programs focused on the area’s military ties.

The college’s future initiatives will take shape through a new strategic action plan next year, Board of Trustees Chair James Doyle said, a plan molded with the input of new President Jo Alice Blondin.

Blondin took over July 1 as Clark State’s fifth president and the second consecutive female president, filling the position left by the retirement of Karen Rafinski.

Doyle sees more potential for the campus in Beavercreek.

“At the Greene Center, we still see nice growth opportunities there,” he said.

The Dayton Regional STEM School initially occupied the second floor but has since moved out, leaving space for Clark State to expand.

“With the Greene Center, we need to work closely, and are working closely, with the military complex (to) offer courses in encryption and stuff that’s important to them,” Doyle said.

Blondin also sees military and ex-military as a potential growth area.

“You’re next to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Springfield … and all kinds of military operations here in this part of the state,” she said.

“As these young American soldiers come back from the service in various parts of the country, yeah, we want to be assured they are welcomed and given whatever help it takes to ensure their success,” Doyle said.

Private business input and the college’s purpose of training a local workforce is something they’ll continue to work on, Doyle and Blondin both said.

“The college’s future is really driven by external forces. Right now, Clark County has a very low rate of people who have a college degree,” said Kristin Culp, vice president of advancement of the Clark State Foundation, which provides scholarships to students and raises funds for the college’s priorities.

“That makes it difficult for people to find good jobs. It makes it difficult for employers to fill good jobs, and so i think nothing can have a bigger impact in our community than raising the education level,” Culp said. “It helps individuals to be able to get better jobs and support their families, and it helps businesses to fill those necessary jobs, helps attract people, attract businesses to Clark County because, quite frankly, businesses who are thinking of locating here look to see how educated is the potential workforce.”

Clark State’s training program helped secure CodeBlue’s move to Springfield, where it employs 200 people now with plans of up to 100 more jobs by the end of the year.

“We still (are), and I know Dr. Blondin is, really keen on continuing to foster business partnerships as those kinds of opportunities present themselves, kind of like what we did with CodeBlue,” Doyle said.

The college continues to focus on student success too, Doyle said, like the effort to build a connector road to the old LRC (Library Resource Center) where the building will house a centralized student services center.

“That’s going to be a very nice thing where there’s this whole area focused on student success,” Doyle said.

That building will also consolidate the college’s business courses on the Leffel Lane campus, whereas now it’s split among campuses.

Centralized student services was a main focus of Blondin’s at Arkansas Tech, she said. That institution put up a new building to house such student necessities as financial aid, registration, admissions and cashiers.

“We had a new building constructed … to put … all those operations in one spot so that students didn’t have to worry about running around to offices,” Blondin said.

And Clark State’s current strategic plan focuses on a number of initiatives, including work on a plan that will monitor student performance.

“(That will) help detect when there are performance issues and, importantly, intervene and hopefully cause better performance before it’s too late. First-time students, especially, can get very discouraged very quickly,” Doyle said.

“I will say that something that I’m concerned about … is making sure that we’re providing as much access as possible and that students know who we are. I think going forward we will develop, along with that strategic plan, a strong enrollment management plan that kind of guides us,” Blondin said.

Student success, enrollment growth, retention, increased graduation rates and training a workforce were some of Blondin’s priorities in her previous positions at Arkansas Tech. She was chief student officer, chief academic officer and chancellor during her tenure.

Among her leadership credits there were increasing student retention from about 17 percent to 60 percent, increasing student enrollment from the high-200s to the low 2,000s, and increasing graduation by at least 30 percent over the national community college graduation rate, she said.

The college will also continue to look to continue to expand on services already offered at the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in Bellefontaine. Its service area is Clark, Greene, Champaign and Logan counties.

And Blondin said she wants to look east to draw on populations there.

Culp noted Blondin’s personal touch.

“It’s already become very obvious that Dr. Blondin really has a deep committment to our students. The first thing she does every morning when she gets here is walk around campus to chat, not only with staff and faculty, but to see if there are students she can talk to about what their desires are and what their challenges are so that we can meet their needs,” Culp said.

Blondin said, “Everybody deserves a welcome and everybody deserves a chance, and I think students at community colleges, because of the warm reception they get from staff and faculty — it’s been made to be an environment where they can thrive.”

“I’m here to make it easier for (students). I’m here to make sure that we develop the area economically by helping them get jobs and provide for their families. That is my job,” Blondin said.

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