The buzzing at Western Nevada College’s Fallon campus is a daily reminder of the jolt of enthusiasm and upgrades being pumped into the institution.
Director Sherry Black said her first seven months on the job have been a whirlwind as she has amped up the engagement with the community, is gaining ground with its academic record and two of the three buildings are undergoing significant remodeling.
Black, though, said the support for the upgrades in construction and class schedule are a result of the support of WNC President Chet Burton. He said since the school re-invested in a full-time leader at the Fallon campus, progress has been swift.
Perhaps the biggest success, though, was the institution’s ability to secure the much-needed bridge funding from the Nevada legislature.
“It’s only been seven months, but I think we’ve really turned a corner out there and made a lot of things happen,” Burton said. “It’s indicative of everything that’s going on out at the college.”
One of Black’s primary goals upon her arrival at the Fallon campus in January was to re-establish strong ties with the community.
The school has instituted the Jump Start program with Churchill County High School and Oasis Academy, organized classes and other certifications for the business sector and hired local entities for landscaping and pest control, which previously came from outside Fallon.
“I think for years the Fallon campus has struggled with the community perception,” Black said. “I think we are overcoming that. My goal is to bring back the college to the community. Let’s support those who support us.”
Black and her staff have worked tirelessly to engage with businesses plus entities such as the city of Fallon, Churchill County, the Churchill Economic Development Authority, Chamber of Commerce and many more.
“It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” Black said. “We are one in the same. We are too small a community to not be completely connected.”
Before Black’s arrival in January, Burton said the school was without full-time leadership after the retirement of former dean Bus Scharmann. The lack of a go-to person was noticeable and Burton said the concerns raised by ROCCC stressed the need for a constant presence.
“I saw that clearly as a position we needed to find a way to fund,” Burton explained. “We carved out the money … and we told the legislature the reason the so-called bridge funding was so important, was so we could continue to fund that position.”
Last semester saw a 10 percent increase in the number of credits taken by students, Black said.
The jump is attributed to several new classes offered such as the Accelerated Welding Program, which had 11 of 14 students pass certification tests, and an OSHA class. Black said the program returns in the fall semester, although the size of the class is limited to 14 students due to space restrictions.
In addition, the Jump Start Program, where high school students earn college credit on top of high school credits, has been a smashing success.
For the fall semester, Black said 20 second-year students (high school seniors) return and 21 first-year students from CCHS have enrolled and 46 from Oasis.
“As a parent, it’s a great, great deal,” she added. “For students, you have two years of college paid for and your high school diploma. As a parent, your child starts (college) as a junior and it gives you a lot more opportunities to choose schools.”
Collaboration between WNC, CC Communications, the city of Fallon and CEDA has produced a programming class. It is basic computer programming, which will be a two-week course Tuesday through Thursdays instructed by Don Sefton.
“Businesses say they need it,” Black explained. “CC Communications offered scholarships for people to take it. We feel encouraged with this first time. I think we will try it again and try to get more people to do it.”
Other additions include classes on iPhone/iPad functionality (in two parts), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), EMS/EMT, certified nursing plus every quarter a two-day employability skills workshop.
In addition, the campus is working with Naval Air Station Fallon to build its presence on base and provide classes and advise services for sailors.
“Our goal is to have a really strong presence out there and grow the enrollment,” Black added.
For the past several months, the campus has been in the midst of a wave of construction and new paint in the Getto and Pinion buildings.
In the Getto facility that houses administrators, classrooms, the library and skills center, crews have reconstructed a trio of classrooms, office space, the library and skills center, added a security office and installed automated LED lights.
Black said a trio of rooms, which used to be separated by accordion-style dividers, are now individual spaces with walls and storage. The work will allow WNC to use all three rooms simultaneously instead of being only able to use one or two rooms at a time since the flimsy dividers did not block out noise from neighboring rooms effectively.
“The college is doing well, and I’m looking forward to our new faculty,” Black said. “I hope they enjoy our campus as much as we do.”
The library and skills center are also getting new looks. The library, she explained, will constitute less books, but with more digital resources for students to research their work.
Work in the library, however, is not slated to be completed until November. In addition, the computer lab will be updated and expanded, which will also allow the Fallon campus to be eligible to conduct GED testing. WNC is also refurbishing the veterans center. There are also little things such as automated doors and a hydration station. As far as the new look, K7 Construction, Inc. Superintendent Cody Howe said the improvements are much needed.
“It improves it exponentially,” he said. “It’s 10 times better, at least. Everything is way better, more professional.”