College Looks to Expand Opportunities

By Beacon Staff

A football stadium is still a long shot, but the campus of Flathead Valley Community College is poised for further development and expansion, according to the school’s president.

Jane Karas devoted her lunchtime last week to telling business leaders and other community members at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce luncheon about the ongoing evolution of FVCC.

Karas touted the strong growth and success of a community college that began in 1967 with only a few courses and now boasts more than 50 occupational programs and more than 2,200 students each semester.

The school’s priorities for educational programs include partnering with four-year universities to expand degree opportunities in Kalispell, as well as future growth, including new potential facilities like a student center and performing arts center.

“For people who because of family or work or they just don’t want to leave this great valley, they’ll be able to complete their four-year education at FVCC,” Karas said.

This month school officials will seek proposals from within the state’s university system to add new four-year degree opportunities at FVCC, and the new programs could be implemented by the fall semester, according to Karas.

A community survey taken last year identified a need for more graduates with degrees in business, accounting, education and information technology. Health care degrees were also identified as a need in the Flathead Valley, and Karas said the school’s nursing program will be expanding with more associate science and practical nursing opportunities.

Karas said the school’s priorities include maintaining strong technology on campus and in the classrooms. The school recently purchased a 3D printer, which is being used by students and faculty as a state-of-the-art teaching tool. FVCC is also pioneering “hybrid” classes that incorporate online lessons and traditional face-to-face learning.

“We need to adapt our business model to the rapidly changing technology landscape,” Karas said.

Even the possibility of adding a football program came up last week. Karas said it’s a common question she receives, to which she has an easy answer: “We’re ready, whenever someone gives us $20 million.”

The school’s music program is growing, and students can now receive a two-year transfer degree. Karas said the continued growth of music and fine arts on campus could lead to a performing arts center, which would also serve a valuable need in the community.

As far as other potential facility expansion, Karas said an on-campus fitness center and student center could be tapped as valuable developments in the future.

“We certainly have a lot of students who spend time on campus now and we’re seeing more and more students who are spending time on campus,” she said.

The school has also made it a priority to focus on providing students a “global education,” Karas said. FVCC has incorporated more study abroad programs and worked to develop partnerships specifically in Brazil and China, where students are exposed to other cultures and economies. The school has also made an effort to develop partnerships with other schools overseas to exchange faculty and students for semesters abroad.

“Like businesses, our students must be equipped to thrive in a world where languages and borders no longer are well defined,” Karas said.

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