UM, partner of Northwest Community College for the dual degree program

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Northwest Mississippi Community College President Michael Heindl (left), Tiffany Leister, James Leister, Randy Leister and UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce chat after signing an agreement to create a partnership for engineering education between university and community college. James Leister, a 2022 graduate of Lafayette County High School, is the first to enroll in the program. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Mississippi — Budding engineers will soon be able to receive degrees from both simultaneously University of Mississippi and Northwest Mississippi Community Collegethanks to a partnership agreement concluded on Tuesday June 21 between the two establishments.

Students will spend the first three years full-time at NWCC while taking part-time classes at Ole Miss. By following the cohort program outline, they will earn both an associate degree and complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

“Mississippi has the best community college system in America and the best students in that system,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said before the signing. “I’m especially honored to be part of this collaboration and to have this relationship with Northwest.”

Michael Heindl, president of the NWCC, said he is delighted that the community college continues to find ways to partner with the university for the benefit of local students.

“The way this partnership was formed is an optimal solution that helps both institutions meet the needs of students,” he said. “Northwest’s vision to transform student lives, enrich our local communities, and strive for excellence in our programs and services is the common thread running through every progress the college makes, especially this one.”

UM engineering officials shared the goals and circumstances surrounding the development of the partnership.

“The goal of the Redshirt program is to give a select group of students each fall the opportunity to truly set themselves up for success in engineering, entering their first year of the engineering program as full-time students. and punctual with a strong academic and experience base and an AA degree,” said Marni Kendricks, UM Senior Assistant Dean of Engineering.

“The timing is perfect to introduce this partnership after two years of negative educational impact of COVID on high school students in our state and across the country.”

If engineering courses are to be offered at NWCC to facilitate a future transfer, the university will assist in establishing advanced standing or dual enrollment. Upon completion of the first three years at NWCC, students will enter UM Engineering school as full-time students to complete the remaining courses required for a bachelor’s degree.

Northwest Mississippi Community College President Michael Heindl (left) and UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce shake hands after signing a memorandum of understanding Tuesday, June 21 that establishes a partnership between the two institutions. The program will help prospective engineering students earn an associate’s degree from community college and a bachelor’s degree from university. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Joshua Guest, district manager of mathematics at NWCC, said college officials want students to have quality options in the state to increase program participation and hopefully make the goal of becoming an engineer more accessible.

“It’s a win-win situation – both for the institutions and, more importantly, for the students,” Guest said. “I am very grateful for the vision and leadership of Dr. Boyce and Dr. Heindl and for partnering with the university to provide this opportunity for these students.”

Dave Puleo, UM Engineering Dean, echoed Guest’s sentiments.

“It’s exciting to see the UM-NWCC partnership grow and this Redshirt program come to fruition,” he said. “We wanted to provide students with additional opportunities to pursue engineering studies, and this program is another – and important – step towards achieving that.

“A big thank you to Marni and Josh for their tremendous effort in working out the details of the program.”

Don Jones, dean of the NWCC Oxford campus, said community college officials are delighted that this special group of students can take advantage of the great things that NWCC, Ole Miss engineering and the Oxford community have to offer.

“They will work closely with our program champions, Mathematics Department Chair Joshua Guest and Senior Assistant Dean Marni Kendricks,” Jones said. “They will appreciate NWCC’s small class sizes, individual attention and scholarship opportunities.

“They will be members of the Ole Miss engineering community from day one and participate in projects and leadership opportunities.

“And they have the advantage of living in Oxford, America’s best college town, where student apartments, public transport and an incredible variety of food and entertainment are readily available.”

Kendricks and Guest have been working to set up a series of meetings between their two institutions over the past few months to discuss ways to move the partnership forward. Once the official agreement is signed, the plan is to launch the first NWCC Redshirt cohort in the fall of 2022, continuing with a new class each year.

The program has already found its first recruit: James Leister, from Oxford.

“It’s a great honor for me to be able to pave the way for other people,” said Leister, a 2022 graduate of Lafayette County High School. “I am very happy to be the first student in this program.”

“This is the most significant action taken by the school in the last 10 years, and I’m so excited about it,” said Vince Rodriguez, member of the Ole Miss Engineering Advisory Board. “It will benefit the NWCC. This will benefit UM. This will benefit the state.

“But most importantly, it will benefit a large number of students who are now finding a path to earning an engineering degree and opening the door for them to pursue their dreams.”


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