Ramsey resigning as director of ICC Polk Campus

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Isothermal Community College (ICC ) will be looking for a new director to run its Polk County campus.

Cindy Ramsey has announced her resignation after serving in the position since January of 2007.

Ramsey says she is leaving to work at Central Carolina Community College, which is much closer to her oldest daughter and two young grandchildren. Her last day at ICC Polk Campus is this Friday, Sept. 4. She starts her new job on Sept. 9.

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If her daughter had become pregnant with Ramsey&squo;s first grandchild sooner, Ramsey says she may not have come to the western part of the state for the ICC job.&bsp; She says she learned about her daughter&squo;s pregnancy shortly after accepting the job here.

Still, Ramsey, a horse owner who was attracted by the scenic horse country here, says she is grateful for her time spent in Polk County. She played a significant role in expanding educational opportunities at the campus here in recent years.

Below are her responses to questions from the Bulletin this week about her time here. See also Ramsey&squo;s regular column on p. 15 of today&squo;s paper for more information about her decision.

1. What were the main things you worked on and accomplished during your time as ICC Polk director?

I repeatedly heard the phrase &dquo;senior center&dquo; associated with Polk Campus, so one of my first goals was to change that perception. Most of the classes were being offered during the day, so folks who worked an 8-5 job did not have the opportunity to access the great personal enrichment offerings here at the college. So, we added more evening classes, and I&squo;m excited to say that one of our art instructors has offered to do evening art classes next year. We also broadened the choices during the day. Our instructors are so talented and offer such a varied array of classes. I encourage anyone who has not taken a class here to find something that feeds your passion and try it. Polk Campus now has offerings for anyone from 18 to 118. We even have one class coming up this fall that will help you learn how to live to be 100 (or longer).

&bsp;Polk Campus had a strong Nurse Aide I program and still does, but the fact that we were training folks for employment seemed to escape the notice of many, including the county commissioners. I made it a goal to ensure that the wonderful work being done here by our dedicated staff and instructors was acknowledged and recognized.

The Tryon Daily Bulletin was very instrumental in helping make that happen and I am very thankful for that ‐ especially the opportunity to write my weekly column, Polk Campus Preview. It&squo;s such a great outlet to be able to share news in a format other than journalistically correct press releases, and I believe the personal communication helped the community understand more about the college.

&bsp;We also added more allied health courses ‐ Medication Aide, Phlebotomy, Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and Nurse Aide II. With the increase in offerings in Allied Health field, we not only were able to train many more students to enter the workforce, but we also increased state funding. The state has a formula based on something called FTE whereby it funds community colleges. It uses the number of classes, the number of hours in the class and the number of students in each class to come up with a dollar amount. From 2006 to 2007, Polk Campus doubled its FTE ‐ that&squo;s a 100 percent growth. Polk also earned enough FTE to receive supplemental funding from the state for the first time in its existence. Based on the Spring 2009 FTE report, if Polk Campus continues at its current pace, it will once again double FTE from 2007 to 2009–that&squo;s a 200 percent growth in just three years.

We hold a special event once a month that is free and open to the public. That&squo;s not really anything new, except perhaps in the regularity of the programs, but the turn-out is astounding. Just last week with The Blue Ridge Rounders, the auditorium was packed and I had to keep adding chairs until there was no more room. Last month, the presentation on The Dark Corner had an overflow crowd–so many that we&squo;re planning on offering it again before the end of the year. I began a Holiday Open House and Art Show my first year here and it has not only become a wonderful way for the college to share with the community, but also began our art exhibit. The expansive walls in our gallery were empty. When we set up for the first art exhibit, the room was transformed and I just couldn&squo;t bear the idea of empty walls again. So our art and photography students have graciously agreed to continuously exhibit their work. They rotate the pieces on a regular basis, so the exhibit is constantly evolving.

One other change that I&squo;m very proud of is our class brochure. We have a much more professional format that is published quarterly. We ran a logo contest last year and the winning design is a wonderful representation of the Foothills and the college. Each time, I&squo;ve used artwork or photography from students or instructors for the cover and the public response has been overwhelming. The brochure for Oct./Nov./Dec. is scheduled to be mailed Sept. 1 and it may be the best yet. I must give kudos to Susan Straw, director of the print shop at main campus. I give her the information and the ideas, but she actually does the design and layout of the brochure. She has done a marvelous job and I&squo;ve so enjoyed working with her.


2. What do you see as ICC Polk&squo;s biggest needs at this point? What initiatives are still in the process, or proposed to help meet those needs?

Obviously just from growth statistics alone, you can see that Polk Campus needs more space and it needs more staffing. We continue to operate with the same number of staff that we had when I came. I cannot express enough my gratitude to Anna Gibbs and Arthur Chapman–the only two full-time staff at Polk other than the director–for their hard work and dedication. They have continuously gone above and beyond to accommodate the increased workload. Patty Volbrecht, who is our part-time front office person during the day, has braved the onslaught with a cheerful nature and continues to welcome folks in with a smile. Marcia Joiner has only been with us a little over a year, but she is a godsend. Marcia works the afternoon/evening shift and is very talented and efficient. She also has a warm welcoming nature and a beautiful smile. Kathy Hamilton has taken on the part-time task of Nurse Aide Coordinator and is doing an excellent job.

&bsp;About a year ago, Isothermal Community College went through long-range and master facilities planning. We identified allied health, entrepreneurship and heritage arts as the three main focus areas for growth at the Polk Campus. The expansion of Polk Campus ranked number three on the master facilities growth plan for the entire college and was therefore included on the plan that was submitted to and approved by the state. That doesn&squo;t mean it will happen anytime soon, but it did make the top three in Isothermal&squo;s master facilities plans, and we were very pleased that Polk&squo;s needs were recognized.

&bsp;More recently, we have received stimulus funding through an initiative called JobsNOW &dquo;12 in 6&dquo; as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Through that planning process, we identified agriculture and the equine industry as focus areas for added programs. We have a sustainable farming class beginning in just a few weeks and three other classes are still in the planning process–Veterinary Equine Assistant, Viticulture, and Equine Studies and Management. Anyone interested in any of these classes can call 828-894-3092 for information or to pre-register. This initiative doesn&squo;t help with our space or staffing needs, and will actually increase them, but it will help us earn more funding from the state in future years.

I&squo;ve also been working closely with economic development to assess and address ways the college can be a strong partner in growth–both with additional programs and finding locations for those programs. I&squo;m a member of the Foothills Economic Partnership and that has been a great experience. I&squo;ve never been part of a more exciting or excited group of people with creative ideas and a willingness to back up those ideas with action. So, I hope whoever replaces me can jump right in and join that group as well as the many other committees on which I serve.


3. Approximately, how many people take advantage of classes offered at ICC Polk in the course of a year and approximately how many classes are offered?

That question is a little difficult to answer in continuing education because so many of our students take more than one class and when we run data on enrollment, some are counted more than once. Last time we tried to give some statistics, I think we came up with a number around 1,800 a year. We offer more than 50 classes each quarter not including the allied health courses which run continuously with several classes of each course going at one time. Many people may not realize that we also train the fire, law enforcement and rescue personnel with ongoing continuing education. You can take a look at our emergency services calendar on the website just to get an idea of how many classes we offer in that area and most actually take place off-campus. We&squo;ve received many comments out and about in the community and even phone calls about the parking lot being so full. That&squo;s been fun and fulfilling for the staff.

4. What led you to decide to leave? Did you enjoy your time here in Polk County?

About the same time I accepted the job here in Polk County, I learned of a personal blessing that we&squo;d been waiting twelve years to hear. Our oldest daughter was pregnant with our very first grandchild. Had the timing been a little different, I might not have accepted this job that carried me so much further away from them. But I would have missed out on so much had I not come to Polk County, so I&squo;m glad that I did. Kamryn is now two years old and her baby sister, Lainey, is five weeks. I know that many people live much more than four hours from their grandchildren, but for me that is just too far. Being &dquo;Mimi&dquo; is too important to enjoy only once or twice a month, so my new job will allow me to continue doing the work I love while living very close to these precious little girls. Recent events remind me how short life is and that we must embrace what is most important now, every day, in this moment.

Polk County is a very special place and I have enjoyed my time here very much. I love just riding around enjoying the view. When we travel back to the coast, we always comment to each other on how unappealing the drive is when the land flattens out. The atmosphere here is very special, created by not only by the lay of the land, but also by the people who inhabit it. I will miss it, but I&squo;ve also made some very good friends here and expect that I&squo;ll be back to visit.