The past two weekends were filled with celebrations at Ferrum College—the 45th annual Folklife Festival, Homecoming, and the inauguration of a new president. These events recognized the rich culture of the region, the College’s history, and the new directions Ferrum will be taking in the coming months.
Ferrum College has been a vital part of this region since its founding in 1913, and although the College is changing and growing, one thing is clear: it plans to continue being part of the revitalization of this area. In his inaugural address, President David Johns said, “Service to community is our heart and soul; we have always been grounded in Appalachia and committed to southwest Virginia, even as we extend our reach far beyond this corner of the world.”
While students from across the U.S. and from several countries attend Ferrum College, about three quarter come from Virginia and the surrounding areas. Because of this, President Johns said, “We have a responsibility to pay attention to needs in this region, and give students the tools they need to succeed.”
He said that graduates need to be entrepreneurs, no matter their major. “Students must do more than seize opportunity for themselves, they need to create opportunity for others.” This is a practical application, Johns explained, of the College’s motto, Not Self, But Others.
To better serve its students and prepare them for meaningful and productive lives, Johns said, “We are reallocating our resources to invest in programs and services that help our students succeed, in college and through the rest of their lives.” For perspective, Johns added, “A student who begins college this year will retire around 2065. Obviously, we need to change in order to compete and be relevant in a world that will change considerably during the lifetime of our students.”
And Ferrum College is making strides in serving its students. During the spring, students met with the president in three Town Hall meetings to offer their comments and suggestions. “We asked our students how we could improve,” Johns said, “and they told us!” Over the summer and during this semester, College staff and faculty have made a number of changes, from building renovations and food venue changes, to upgrading internet capacity and modifying the College’s first year student program.
In July, Ferrum College joined the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, one of the nation’s largest NCAA Division III conferences. “This is an incredible opportunity for our many student-athletes,” Johns pointed out. “The level of competition in our match-ups with ODAC-member schools brings a new level of excitement for all Panther fans. In addition, the close proximity to Ferrum of the other ODAC schools means our students will not need to spend as much time traveling, and it is far easier for family members to attend games.”
But it all comes back to service.
There is a great need for professional development in our area to enhance the existing workforce. “Talking with community leaders is helping as we plan our next steps and focus our efforts,” said Johns. To meet the growing demand in the region, Ferrum College is strengthening its offerings in high demand areas such as health care and recreation leadership, and will soon begin offering graduate programs in forensic investigation and teacher education.
“The kind of education that has the power to transform,” Johns stated in his inaugural address, “is the kind that gets its hands dirty, the kind that digs into the challenges of our world.”
Ferrum College has been a vital part of this region for over a century, changing lives and improving communities, and it is making the changes necessary for the next 100 years. “I am enthusiastic about the future of Ferrum College,” Johns remarked. “With passion, imagination, hard work, and the grace of God, anything is possible.”