UTM, Vol State-Springfield begin academic partnership

The University of Tennessee at Martin and Volunteer State Community College in Springfield have formed an academic partnership that was made official on Nov. 29 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Robertson County campus.

The partnership allows students to pursue postsecondary education in the agriculture, education, health care and technology sectors onsite at the Vol State campus. Agriculture business will be the focus of the first phase of the partnership, which begins in January.

Vol State will deliver technical certificates and associate degrees to students pursuing those career paths, while UT Martin will provide access to bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Erica Bell, the executive director of the Office of Regional Centers and Online Programs, said the partnership will expand educational opportunities to people in northern Middle Tennessee.

“This collaborative partnership between Vol State-Springfield and UTM marks a pivotal moment in our commitment to providing seamless and supportive educational pathways for students in Robertson County and surrounding communities,” she said. “By bridging the gap, this collaboration will ensure that students can access a high-quality, affordable four-year UT degree close to home.

“Moreover, this partnership strengthens UTM’s ties to the community, fostering a vibrant learning environment that nurtures student success, preparing them for the workforce and lifelong learning to support the local community’s economic and workforce development needs.”

Bell added that a crucial aspect of this partnership will be fostering awareness and enthusiasm among students and families about the expanded educational opportunities it presents, with a specific focus on addressing the local college-going rate.

“In Tennessee, 64 out of 95 counties – including Robertson County at 37.2% – have a college-going rate below the statewide average of 54.3% for the class of 2022,” she said. “This partnership aims to bridge this gap and provide students in these underserved areas with the support and resources they need to pursue higher education.”

The partnership will enable people to pursue associate degrees up to graduate degrees without leaving Robertson County or surrounding communities, providing 360-support through a dual admission agreement that will allow students to be enrolled at both schools simultaneously and receive support from both as they follow their career study path.

Vol State sought to form a partnership that could provide agriculture education opportunities in Robertson County. The two schools will also work with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture to provide hands-on training at UT’s Highland Rim AgResearch and Education Center in Springfield.

“As a beacon of academic excellence and engagement, this partnership extends UTM’s footprint to meet the ever-evolving needs of diverse students across Tennessee,” Bell said. “It also leverages the convenience of the Springfield site, delivering inclusive, high-quality education to dual enrollment, traditional and nontraditional learners, empowering them to become UT alums, leaders and active contributors to their communities.”

UTM has been offering dual enrollment opportunities to high school students in Robertson County through online courses.

Attending the ceremony were Bell; UTM Chancellor Yancy Freeman; Dr. Russ Deaton, the interim president of Vol State Community College at Springfield; Dr. Meredith Young, the director of the Vol State Springfield Center; and Tennessee state Rep. Dr. Sabi Kumar.

Photo: UT Martin Chancellor Yancy Freeman (center right) and Dr. Russ Deaton, the interim president of Vol State Community College in Springfield, cut the ribbon Nov. 29 in a celebration of an academic partnership between the two institutions. Also pictured along the ribbon are Dr. Meredith Young (to the left of Deaton), the director of the Vol State Springfield Center, and Erica Bell (to the right of Freeman), the executive director of the Office of Regional Centers and Online Programs.

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