By Kim Walter
MIDDLETOWN -- A collaboration between Lord Fairfax Community College and Shenandoah University became official Thursday afternoon, making it possible for students to graduate with a master's in business administration in just five years.
Officials from both institutions gathered at LFCC's Middletown campus to sign an articulation agreement, which goes into effect this school year.
Cheryl Thompson-Stacy, president of LFCC, was happy to announce yet another partnership between the two schools. She said the university continues to provide benefits to students at the community college through advisement, and financial and educational assistance.
"I believe that the more options our students have, the better," she said. "We are always happy to see our graduates complete an associate's, and then move on to even higher education."
"For a student to be able to do all that in one community is a pretty wonderful thing, I'd say."
The comprehensive collaboration agreement will create a "seamless web" of joint programs and services for students who choose to attend both institutions, in order to minimize barriers and maximize student success.
The program will allow participants to easily transition from the associate of arts degree in business, to the bachelor's of business administration degree program and subsequently the MBA degree program -- all in five years.
Students wishing to participate in the agreement will sign a letter of intent while enrolled at Lord Fairfax. The letter will allow for proper preparation and orientation of students. Additionally, applications fees for both undergraduate and graduate admission will be waived.
On top of that, students who sign the letter of intent will get a 20 percent reduction in graduate tuition.
Miles Davis, dean of Shenandoah's business school, said starting the program was something he intended to do on his first day at SU.
"Continuing your education is great, but we all know that with a longer stay at a school comes a higher cost," he said.
Davis explained that he understands having limited resources and the desire to improve. He said growing up, his economic upbringing wasn't ideal. When he wanted to continue his education past high school, his only financial option was the local community college.
From there, Davis received a full scholarship to a four-year institution.
"I wanted so badly to create more opportunities for our schools to work together," he said. "The fact that we've gone from concept to implementation in less than a year is unheard of, but it's because everyone was on board from the beginning."
Tracy Fitzsimmons, SU president, said the program will work well with the schedules of younger and non-traditional students.
"Maybe you're in your 30s and realizing that you've got limited time, limited resources and huge dreams," she said. "Now, you can come across this program and make those dreams a reality."
Fitzsimmons added that it was the kind of innovative collaboration that other institutions and government officials should be paying attention to.
Julia Duke, 35, of Stephens City, was busy being a full time mom until she realized that "without an education there was no future."
She enrolled at LFCC two years ago, and recently graduated with honors. Duke just started at the university to pursue her bachelor's degree and focus in accounting. She plans to partake in the new program and receive her master's.
"I'm already enjoying the program and the faculty so much," she said. "LFCC was a great stepping stone for me ... I think if I had jumped right into a fouR-year school, I would've been overwhelmed. Instead, I feel prepared and empowered."
Mary Dyke, 50, of Winchester, decided to enroll at LFCC part time when she found out she would lose her job of 32 years. She knew she needed a new career path, and with the new agreement comes yet another option for furthering her education beyond community college.
"For a while I thought the only program I could handle and afford would be through Old Dominion University," she said. "But now I've got a great option right here at home."
According to Theresa Golding, student services coordinator for SU's business school, said if a high school student takes the right dual enrollment courses through the community college, he or she could potentially finish the whole program in less than five years.
"I think this agreement speaks a lot to how important the entire community is to both institutions," she said. "We're always trying to break down as many barriers as possible so folks can succeed.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or email@example.com