Where Lives are Enhanced
A historically black college (HBCU), founded in 1961, J.F. Drake State Technical College of Huntsville, Alabama has enhanced lives for almost fifty years. The doors were opened for training in four technical areas for students desiring to learn a trade and enter the “world of work.” Forty-nine years later, an institution rich in history, nationally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE) and preparing for a visit this month from the Candidacy Committee empowered by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities (SACS), Drake State is providing programmatic offerings that relate to many of the top available jobs today and for subsequent years. Drake State continues to add value to lives that ultimately make the world a better place for everyone. That is what education does for boys and girls, men and women of all ages – it enhances our lives. From first generation college students to a twenty-two percent student population at Drake State who have obtained associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, and ranging in age from eighteen to eighty-five the student population is one of the most diverse in the Alabama Community College System in race, age, and educational background.
The faculty and staff represent one of the most talented assemblies of individuals in an educational institution bringing academic attainment and work experiences to the College whereby students are exposed to a bevy of highly skilled educators. During the most recent college year, the Ph. D degree was awarded to three members of the faculty – Nursing, the University of Tennessee; Physics, Alabama A&M University; and Nursing Studies, Samford University, Birmingham. Seven additional members of the faculty and staff have entered doctoral programs with three at the dissertation level, all at reputable, accredited institutions. During the same period five clerical staff members were awarded the bachelors degree. Most of the technical faculty hold masters degrees. Likewise, these outstanding credentialed faculty and staff add value to students’ lives with their work experiences. They have honed their skills in welding shops and mastered skills working with the best in architectural firms in New York; their love for teaching Humanities and English has brought unsuspecting students to a love of artistic expressions. The faculty includes a licensed master electrician, an expert in robotics and programmable logic controllers; a teacher with a love for Biology, along with a $2.1 million National Science Foundation grant that has convinced many students that they can have a love affair with Science and Math; an experienced accountant from industry with a passion for teaching. These individuals are representative of many outstanding educators with academic credentials and work experiences that enhance the lives of our students.
“Our Graduates Work” is not just a motto - it is our mantra. The work of our graduates reveals itself in all aspects of this community, and this area is enhanced by the impact of having skilled workers. A review of program completion and placement data at Drake State reveals that 1498 technicians have been placed into the local workforce during the past five years. Using a conservative estimate from the Alabama State Department of Industrial Relations Labor Market Information System, these graduates receive $35.6 million in annual income, money that finds its way into the local economy through spending and tax revenues. For several years Drake State has supplied advanced manufacturing technicians to local industries from its programs in computer-controlled machining, rapid prototyping, and three-dimensional modeling.
With the anticipated growth in commercial and residential construction resulting from local economic development initiatives, such as BRAC, the Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, and the $1 billion Redstone Gateway Office Park, Drake State graduates are prepared to serve as highly trained technicians for a wide range of construction technologies including energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems, structural welding, electrical wiring and lighting, geothermal energy, and solar panel systems. Furthermore, the increased population in our area will dictate the need for more cosmetologists, nurses, and culinary/hospitality workers, training provided at Drake State. Our students are winners at the state, regional and national levels. An electrical engineering technology student was awarded third place for a project presentation at a National Science Foundation research conference, while competing against students from four year institutions. Many of our students continue their education at four year colleges/universities for additional training.
Finally, the College enhances lives each day, and I am grateful to serve as president of this outstanding institution that provides immeasurable enhancement on a daily basis to my life.