Ferrum in the Community
Not all of the research and application involving students is conducted in aquatic or forest areas; the Environmental Sciences program also works within the community to explore energy conservation and cost-saving options. Several years ago, the College worked with Franklin County on the Last Mile Broadband project, an initiative to locate those in remote city and county areas without a broadband internet connection. Once these citizens were located, students then used the local Geographic Information System (GIS) to decide the best possible placement for a relay tower for broadband access. Students conducted surveys and used the skills learned in critical course studies, such as that of the GIS, to improve the lives of those in the local community.
As part of the Environmental Planning and Development program, students identify a need in the community and work from the standpoint of project management, focusing on how community programs and offices work, how decisions are made and how students can impact those decisions for the good of the community. As this particular program is considered for conversion into a Bachelor of Environmental Studies, an interdisciplinary focus is a key factor. “We give students exposure as to how the world operates, from the programs and politics of the community, to the different types of programs that work together across disciplines,” says Dr. Delia Heck, Environmental Planning and Development Coordinator and Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences. The Center for Community Engagement within the School of Social Science and Professional Studies assists students in working with community organizations on the challenges and problems faced by these organizations and their constituents. These projects are creating internships and working with natural resources in the region. “If Ferrum is serious about sustainability, we cannot be an ivory tower; we need stronger community ties, not just promoting, but actually working together,” says Johnson. He notes that the traditional college approach to the surrounding community is often to take the stance that the college knows best for the community. Johnson believes one of the areas in which Ferrum is most successful is that Ferrum listens to the community as leaders suggest programs, projects and areas of need. “We work together with community leaders to identify our collective strengths and how we can best serve the community. We have been doing that for decades.”