Historic joint agreement signed Thursday at Columbia State
By Karen Hall
Thursday morning the presidents of two institutions of higher learning signed an historic agreement that will benefit Marshall County students for many years to come.
Dr. Janet F. Smith of Columbia State Community College and Dr. Sidney A. McPhee of Middle Tennessee State University joined faculty from both institutions, elected officials, and local dignitaries for the festive occasion.
Together they signed the Agribusiness Program 2 + 2 Agreement. This means that local post-secondary students wanting to pursue an agribusiness career can earn their associate's degree and continue on in MTSU's bachelor's degree program, all at the Columbia State Lewisburg campus. By eliminating travel to Murfreesboro, the degree becomes more accessible for students who have work and family commitments in Marshall and surrounding counties.
"I'm delighted to see everybody here," said CSCC Lewisburg Site Director Elizabeth McDow. "This is a very important and special occasion, but this is just a starting point. We see the possibility for people who earn a bachelor's degree to move into jobs here."
When he began speaking, McPhee called Columbia State "one of the best community colleges in all of the United States of America." He said MTSU is the largest undergraduate university in the state, and it is pleased to share its tremendous resources and incredible faculty with community college students.
"This program is a step in the right direction," McPhee said, noting it will contribute to Gov. Bill Haslam's drive to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a post-secondary qualification.
"Some tend to forget the importance of agriculture," McPhee continued. "It needs educated individuals at all levels. This 2 + 2 agreement breaks down barriers and reduces hassle and complications. It meets students where they are and helps them achieve the goal of a degree. This is the model of how it should be done."
"This is an articulation agreement," said Smith. "It guarantees students what they're taking here will mesh with MTSU. It will be honored on both sides. It's not the first one. Dr. McPhee and his staff have been aggressive in building articulation agreements. He has taken MTSU several notches above where it was.
"Agriculture has changed since I grew up," Smith continued. "Agriculture is now a business, and an expensive business. The whole world of agriculture has changed. Students will be getting the information they need to be good business people in agriculture. I applaud what you have done to bring it closer to home and more affordable.
"Columbia State Community College has something to be extremely proud of," she concluded.