Attending the announcement were, left to right, ICC Polk Center Director Kate Barkschat, Polk County Economic Development Director Libbie Johnson, Veterinarian Thann Boyum, NC State Professor of Animal Science/Equine Management Dr. Paul Siciliano, ICC President Walter Dalton and ICC VP of Community & Workforce Development Thad Harrill. (photo submitted by Mike Gavin)
Attending the announcement were, left to right, ICC Polk Center Director Kate Barkschat, Polk County Economic Development Director Libbie Johnson, Veterinarian Thann Boyum, NC State Professor of Animal Science/Equine Management Dr. Paul Siciliano, ICC President Walter Dalton and ICC VP of Community & Workforce Development Thad Harrill. (photo submitted by Mike Gavin)

Archived Story

ICC & NC State launching equine program in Polk

Published 10:08pm Thursday, November 21, 2013

By Judy Heinrich

Isothermal Community College (ICC) and NC State University are partnering to develop a new equine studies program to be offered at the ICC Polk campus beginning in 2014.
ICC President Walter Dalton and Dr. Paul Siciliano of NC State’s Animal Sciences/Equine Management department were among officials announcing the program at a Nov. 19 reception at FENCE.
The new equine studies program is part of ICC’s Workforce Development mission, according to ICC Vice President of Community and Workforce Development Thad Harrill.
“Workforce development is one of the major things ICC does, from health industry training to pipe fitting and welding.
Whatever an industry needs, we can respond by developing programs, hiring instructors and providing training to support the industry’s success. Helping businesses and industries thrive is one of the biggest ways we can help our communities.”
The equine studies program will offer three separate educational pathways, with the ultimate being a two-year associates degree from ICC that would be transferable to NC State towards a four-year degree (known as a 2-plus-2 program).
The first pathway is through continuing education classes that ICC will begin offering in 2014; the second is a certificate program through ICC’s Business Sciences Division, including nine credit hours of equine-related classes, which will begin in fall 2014; and the third pathway is the equine curriculum program designed as a two-year associates degree in equine studies, which will begin in fall 2015.
As part of the curriculum program pathway, a vet tech associate’s degree program is planned with a concentration on large animals (a career expected to grow 52 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Polk County Economic Development Director Libbie Johnson says the concept of educational programs for equine workers had been discussed previously, but really gained traction when Dalton became
ICC president and familiarized himself with industries in the communities ICC serves.
“His first focus has been how to develop occupational programs for ICC’s communities. When he understood how big the equine industry is here, he called me to ask about industry training and then started calling people to make things happen,” Johnson said.
“I’m excited about this new program because it’s an opportunity to take an already vibrant economy and make it even better,” Dalton said. “The Tryon/Polk County area has long been recognized nationally as one of the best equine venues in the US, and the equine industry is Polk County’s No. 1 industry. We can grow that industry very responsibly with the help of a tremendous, credible partner in NC State University. When you talk about Animal Sciences excellence, nobody is better than NC State.”
NC State Professor of Animal Science/Equine Management Dr. Paul Siciliano says the animal sciences field is booming and equine studies leads the way.
“When we ask incoming students for their species of choice, equine is No. 1 or No. 2 for more than 50 percent of students,” he explained. “This new program with ICC is a great opportunity in a unique area. The value of an equine program surrounded by an equine community can’t be overstated. It will enable us to combine classroom learning with the ability to go out and experience things firsthand – not only hearing about something but being able to go out and do it in the real world.”
ICC is now working on curriculum development with Dr. Siciliano as advisor, says ICC Polk Center Director Kate Barkschat.
“As we develop courses to meet the needs of our local horse industry, Dr. Siciliano will help ensure that the courses and content best position our students to transfer to a full degree program at NC State, said.”
Working with Barkschat on curriculum development is local Veterinarian Thann Boyum, who was instrumental in developing Oklahoma State University’s Equine Studies program and its curriculum.

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