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COA agbiz program OK'd

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Robert Wynegar

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Col­lege of The Albe­marle will be­gin reg­is­ter­ing stu­dents next month for its new agribusi­ness tech­nol­ogy de­gree pro­gram af­ter the program won ap­proval from both state and ac­cred­it­ing officials.

The seven-county com­mu­nity col­lege an­nounced Tues­day that­ both the N.C. Com­mu­nity Col­lege Sys­tem Board and the South­ern As­so­ci­a­tion of Col­leges and Schools Com­mis­sion on Col­leges have given their ap­proval for the two-year pro­gram, which will start this fall at COA’s El­iz­a­beth City cam­pus.

Under the program, students pursuing an agribusiness technology degree will take their first two years of general education courses at COA and then transfer to N.C. State University for their last two years.

COA President Bob Wynegar said in an interview Tuesday the college is "ecstatic that we're working with N.C. State."

"It is our hope that it (the degree program) will open doors for students here in this area that might not have considered going to N.C. State, that they'll be willing to come here first and do their first two years with us and transfer in to State," he said.

Asked how many students COA hopes to enroll in its first year, Wynegar said, "If we have 15 this fall, I'll be content." Eventually, he’d like to see the program’s enrollment "pushing 100 students," he said.

COA is already advertising for instructors for the agribusiness technology part of the program. Wynegar said he wants to start out with one and add more as needed.

The college has also released the following registration schedule for prospective students:

* Monday, June 11 at 9:30 a.m.

* Wednesday, June 27 at 6 p.m.

* Wednesday, July 11 at 9:30 a.m.

* Monday, July 23 at 6 p.m.

All registration will take place in Room 128 of the Foreman Technology Center.

Travis Burke, a COA trustee and a former interim associate dean at N.C. State, said he’s excited the agribusiness program will be starting at the college this fall.

“We are excited about this long overdue partnership and are enthusiastic for students who reside in rural parts of the area," he said.

COA Dean of Workforce Development Director Robin Zinsmeister noted winning approval for the agribusiness program had taken some time. But the payoff for students and the region in the number of employment opportunities will be, he said. 

“Starting the agribusiness technology program has been a long but rewarding road for the college, providing a direct career pathway for future students and a large economic impact for our region," Zinsmeister said.

Former Elizabeth City Mayor Joe Peel, a member of COA’s Board of Trustees, said when people think about agribusinesses today, they’re thinking about more than farming. While the job of tilling the land is important, so are the jobs of selling chemicals, fertilizer, seed and tractors, he said. And it’s those kinds of jobs graduates of COA’s agribusiness technology program will be qualified for.  

"So, there's a lot of different areas one might really venture into," he said.

Peel said the fact graduates of COA’s agribusiness technology will be able to transfer to N.C. State makes it an attractive program to students.

"I would say it's one of the most respected universities when it comes to agriculture in the country, if not the world," he said.

The decision by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to accredit the agribusiness program now was something not foreseen by COA officials only a few months ago.

COA officials initially indicated in February that the 2019-20 school year likely would be the earliest the community college could launch a planned agribusiness program featuring a seamless transfer track for students to enroll at N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. At issue then was the extent to which the new agribusiness curriculum differs from the sustainable agriculture curriculum COA had presented previously for approval to the accrediting agency.

COA officials made the decision to move from a sustainable agriculture curriculum to an agribusiness one in early 2017. It placed a new requirement on the development of the curriculum, which was to have N.C. State agree to award university credit for COA courses. The sustainable agriculture curriculum had been envisioned as a terminal two-year program rather than as a transfer program.

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