Snow College President Gary Carlston mingles with the Snow Student Advocates (similar to a student council) following an Advocate meeting on Monday. In the coming school year, Carlston is looking to support the new bachelor’s degree in computer software engineering, expand visual arts offerings and develop two new programs related to agriculture.

What’s new? The answers are cause for excitement at Snow

 

By Linda Petersen

Staff Writer

Sept. 21, 2017

 

As September turns into October, there’s an air of excitement on Snow College campus. It’s an excitement shared by President Gary Carlston as he welcomes a new science building, an updated stadium and several new programs along with the new school year.

The school just opened its new $22.7 million Robert M. and Joyce S. Graham Science Building.

The 56,600 square-foot building is comprised of two wings: one dedicated to laboratories, and a second that houses classrooms and offices.

New lighting has been installed on the Robert L. Stoddard Field at Badger Stadium for the first time in 51 years, Carlston said.

The stadium has also received new turf and a new video scoreboard, and is now ADA compliant. College officials hope that within three years they can add locker rooms, a weight/fitness room, additional seating, concessions and restrooms.

New this fall is the college’s second bachelor’s program: computer software engineering. (Utah State Board of Regents’ rules allow two-year colleges to have up to 10 percent of their student population graduate with a bachelor’s degree).

Snow already offers a commercial music bachelor’s program.

“Where there is a need and there are opportunities provided by our college, it is considered acceptable,” Carlston said.

The initial enrollment of 32 students in the computer software program was more than Snow officials expected (they planned on 17), but Carlston said they have hired additional instructors and are moving forward with the program.

“We expect it will grow,” he said. “It’s an area of great interest and high demand.”

Carlston said the program came about after meeting with economic development directors in the six counties that are considered the college’s service area, and brainstorming about which programs would provide the most opportunities for students from the area.

“The idea was that this would graduate students who could stay here in the area. There are a lot of job openings in this field. We’re hoping our graduates will be able to start businesses or work remotely from home,” he said.

The college has also introduced a new Associate of Fine Arts degree in visual arts (painting, sculpting, video, print-making).

Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Hood said a lot of students were staying at Snow for three years but then finding that when they transferred they had to take the same classes over again.

“At Snow College those were lower division courses (1000), but they were essentially the same courses that were being taught at four-year schools as upper division (3000) courses,” Hood said.

Snow has now been certified to offer upper division courses that will directly transfer to four-year schools.

Hood said the University of Utah and Brigham Young University jumped right on the idea and they’re currently talking with Weber and Utah State.

Snow, as a rural college, is quick to respond to the needs of the greater community. Currently the school is in the process of putting together an agriculture technology and agricultural mechanics program.

“One of our roles is to respond to the changing needs in higher education and the economy,” said Carlston, who said that farm-implement dealers in the six-county area can’t find mechanics to service the equipment.

School officials also felt that since some of the biggest outlays on farms are machinery repairs, it makes sense for farmers to receive training in making repairs to their own machines.

“There’s a lot of part-time farmers, and it can be a deal-breaker to have to send equipment away to be fixed,” Carlston said.

Snow is also currently seeking to hire instructors for a composite manufacturing program to help train students to work with carbon fiber in the aviation and agriculture industries, and officials are hoping to have the program running strong a year from now, with first classes beginning as early as next semester.

They are also reinstating the construction management program which ceased during the recession when construction slowed and they could not fill classes. They’re hoping in the next year or two to have full classes. Public education partners report they’re seeing an upswing in the numbers in their classes, and Carlston expects that trend to continue on up into higher education.

Snow is also reintroducing its truck driving program which came to a halt when the instructor retired.

College officials are also in discussion with four-year institutions across the state, in particular Utah State University and Utah Valley University, to figure out how to partner to provide education or business-related degrees.

Such partnerships would allow students to earn their associate degrees at Snow, then be able to complete their bachelor degrees at a satellite campus at Snow, either online or through remote access, or a combination of both.

Next year, officials hope to work on an enrollment management plan to help ensure students have a successful college experience.

None of this is an effort or precursor to seeking full university status.

“Our mission, both historically and in the future, is to remain a community college,” Carlston said. “The college does very well with what it does. We have a very high success rate of students graduating and then going out into the workforce or transferring to higher institutions.”

As one of only two community colleges left in the state (the other is Salt Lake Community College), school officials believe it’s particularly important that Snow College retain its junior-college status. With the lowest tuition in the state, Snow offers students an affordable education with a low instructor to student ratio.

“The students get a chance to know their instructors face to face. It’s the closest thing to having a family that you can find in higher education,” Hood said.

“There’s so much value in their completion in employment and career opportunities, and also in their personal lives and sense of accomplishment for the family,” Carlston said.

The biggest challenge the college currently faces is attracting and retaining quality faculty members, Carlston said. It can be hard to attract those professionals to such a rural institution.

“As we recruit, we need to help them understand how good Snow and Sanpete County are. We really need the best people, great teachers to provide a strong learning environment,” he said. “They’re the essence of a college’s success.”

To that end, college officials are working on ways to bring compensation for faculty and staff up to the national median.

Looking toward the future, the schools is working on plans for a new 50,000 square-foot Social Sciences building to be located near the corner of Center Street and 100 East.

Maintaining the growth of the school at a manageable rate of 2-4 percent is also a core goal of school officials.

They also want to grow the Richfield campus and to eventually be able to provide onsite student housing and food services for students, faculty and staff there.

“This is such a great institution. It has been for a long time,” said Carlston, a Snow graduate himself. “We have dedicated people in our faculty and staff. That really makes it work and this college is a credit to them.”

“I have been able to experience and celebrate all of the accomplishments of this institution and this college that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” he said. “I hear and see so many people that say Snow College has had such an impact on their lives.”