By Jennifer Hoegg
Vibrant. Nimble. Co-operative. Strategic. Community. Opportunity.
These are words principal Isabel Madeira-Voss uses to describe local Nova Scotia Community College campuses. After five years heading the Kingstec campus in Kentville, her responsibilities expanded this fall to include all the Annapolis Valley campuses – making Madeira-Voss responsible for programs stretching from Windsor to Digby.
“It is about alignment, it’s about moving forward, about being more innovative,” she said of the change. “It’s about being able to respond to complex economic issues with a more robust approach.”
Listening to her speak, Madeira-Voss’ enthusiasm for improving adult education throughout the region is clear.
“There’s huge opportunity for us to do a lot of integration, a lot of interdisciplinary activities,” she said of the shared principal model. “Not only between the various academic programs and academic school, but also being able to connect applied research much more to the academic work that we’re doing.”
Since the retirement of the Annapolis principal, Jim Stanley, she leads operations at campuses in Kentville, Middleton and Lawrencetown, along with satellite operations in Digby and Windsor.
“It’s quite exciting for me to be in a position where I can be a lot more proactive in terms of building these kinds of connections,” she said. “The programming we offer at each site is so diverse, but it can be quite complimentary.”
Building connections is one of the strengths of the community college system, Madeira-Voss added.
“We stay very connected to industry,” she said. “We try to make sure what we’re offering is current, but we’re also looking for new direction and where we need to be moving.”
For example, after surveying the province’s wineries about their needs, the college is adding new programming in winemaking in co-operation with Ontario’s Niagara College. A natural fit, Madeira-Voss said, with the Kingstec campus’ grape-growing curriculum that came out of a partnership between the Grape Growers’ Association and the college’s horticultural program.
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“What’s significant about this (agreement) is that Niagara College hosts the Canadian Food and Wine Institute,” she added.
Kingstec’s culinary, business, horticulture and tourism programs are all connected to the local wine industry, she said, and “the food agenda” and the local industry.
“It compliments our menu, the range of programs that we offer.”
Further west, the applied geomatics research group, based out of Lawrencetown’s College of Geographic Sciences, is also involved in the food production industry. For instance, one project is designed to help shellfish harvesters in the Annapolis Basin.
“We’re looking at weather conditions and helping to map (heavy rainfalls), so we can better predict when a closure is likely to happen,” she said, “to help decide when is the best time to harvest.”
Applied research is what the college does, she added.
“We don’t do theoretical research; we do solution-based research.”
In the area of energy solutions, the energy sustainability engineering technology program in Middleton is a leader in hands-on training. In partnership with industry, the campus built Pilikan house, an extremely energy-efficient model home, to offer a lab and demonstrations site.
Being a communitycollege is a priority for Madeira-Voss.
“Not only we connect our students to industry, with local employers and connect with community on that professional level, but we also connect our students and staff to community in terms of civil engagement,” she emphasized. “We’re getting them to do volunteer work and meaningful work in their communities.”
For instance, an adult day program in Middleton brings an average of 10 seniors, three days a week, onto campus to socialize and interact with students in a number of programs. In Lawrencetown, the cafeteria has become a meeting place for students and area residents alike every breakfast time.
Academically, the college is also reaching out.
“We are not limited to what we can do within our campus walls,” Madeira-Voss said. “We have the ability to take our programming beyond and into our communities.” Examples include on-site training at Michelin, a continuing care program running out of Dykeland Lodge in Windsor and a community learning centre in Digby.
The latter project brings together students doing work online to interact and share video conferencing-based classes.
“We’re using technology to help people stay in their communities or certainly reduce the amount of travel that they would have to engage in,” she said.
It seems to be working out for students.
“The stats are pretty good in terms of our graduates getting jobs in the programs they graduate in,” she said. “Our graduates get jobs in Nova Scotia.”
By the numbers…
There were 1,318 students enrolled at Valley campuses Sept. 30. Another 2,000 will come through during the course of the year to access apprenticeship training, customized training, continuing education and individual credits; as well as through off-cycle and continuous-intake programs.
Students by age
Under 20: 28 per cent
20 to 29: 48 per cent
30 to 39 12 per cent
40 and older: 12 per cent
Average age: 26
Students by gender
Female: 53 per cent
Male: 47 per cent
Employment rate (for all NSCC)
Graduates employed: 87 per cent
Graduates employed in their field: 83 per cent (of employed)