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     Tom Floria, Strategic Coordinator, The Solutions Group, and Anita Brackin, Industry Training Coordinator, The Solutions Group, recently returned from the national Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Florida, where Arkansas Northeastern College (ANC) and it’s division, The Solutions Group, were named as a 2005 National Bellwether Award Winner.  The Bellwether Awards annually recognize outstanding and innovative programs and practices that are successfully leading community colleges into the future. 

     The Community College Futures Assembly issued a call for Bellwether Award applications in the fall of 2004, and 30 finalist colleges were competitively chosen from the applicants. Ten finalists were selected in each category: Instructional Programs and Services, cosponsored by the National Council of Instructional Administrators; Planning, Governance and Finance, cosponsored by the Council for Resource Development; and Workforce Development, cosponsored by the National Alliance of Community and Technical Colleges.  The thirty finalists presented at the 2005 Community College Futures Assembly with a one-hour presentation and documentation of program results and a question-answer session.  The presentation and program results were used in selecting the final award recipients. 

     Floria and Brackin presented the customized Steel Industry Technology Degree Program as an entry in the Planning, Governance, and Finance category.  This category looked at programs or activities that have been designed and successfully implemented to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the community college. 

     The Steel Degree program, like many of The Solutions Group programs, demonstrates flexibility in course design and delivery methods.  Two local industries, Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel offer this program to their employees as an opportunity to continue their education while working schedules that do not fit traditionally scheduled classes.  These employees are able to complete their two-year degree at ANC and, because of partnerships developed with Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas, continue on the same schedule for their Bachelor and Master degree.

     The majority of programs offered through The Solutions Group are customized specifically for the client company to meet content and class scheduling issues.  While a division of ANC, The Solutions Group operates as a fee-based customized provider.  This uniqueness of the program, along with the ability to attract and retain instructors with industry credentials, makes The Solutions Group a national leader in exemplary practices.  Additional staff members with The Solutions Group are David Freeman, Environmental and Safety Issues; Bob Erickson, Electrical/Hydraulic Systems; Dana McElhanon, Computer Skills; Paul Shipley; Adult Basic Skills; and Sally Wilson, Quality Systems.  Adjunct instructors include Joe Brackin, Mechanical Systems; James Harrison, Electrical Systems; and Keith Williams, Metallurgy.    

     In earning the Bellwether Award, ANC successfully competed against finalists from across the nation, including the Virginia Community College System, the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Iowa Community College Partnership, Community College of Philadelphia, Community College of Baltimore County, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Kirkwood Community College (IA), West Kentucky Community and Technical College, and Middlesex Community College (MA). 

     The Arkansas Northeastern College presentation will be featured in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, a multidisciplinary forum for researchers and practitioners in higher education.  The journal promotes an increased awareness of community college issues by providing an exchange of ideas, research, and empirically tested educational innovations. 

     The Community College Futures Assembly convenes annually as an independent national policy forum for key opinion leaders to work as a “think tank” in identifying critical issues facing the future of community colleges and to recognize Bellwether Finalist colleges as trend-setting institutions.  The Bellwether Awards are administered by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida and co-sponsored by the National Council for Instructional Administrators for Instructional Programs & Services, the Council for Resource Development for Planning, Governance & Finance, and the National Alliance of Technical and Community Colleges for Workforce Development. 

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Pictured (l-r), Dr. Jim Chitwood, President, Council for Research and Development, Anita Brackin, Industrial Training Coordinator, and Tom Floria, Strategic Coordinator, The Solutions Group, Arkansas Northeastern College.