Southwest officially opens new Somerville location
Building on its mission to offer access to an affordable college education to students and residents of Fayette County, Southwest proudly showed off its newest location during a ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 13 at The University of Tennessee at Martin Somerville Center. The site is Southwest’s seventh location in the region and will allow Fayette County residents the convenience of completing community college coursework without commuting to Memphis.
A crowd of nearly 100 from Southwest and UT Martin leadership, educators, elected officials, civic, business and industry leaders, local residents, and students showed up to welcome the College to Fayette County. President Dr. Tracy D. Hall said the opening of the Somerville site strengthens Southwest’s commitment to serving Fayette County. “This is fantastic,” Hall said. “When you think about community colleges, what we are all about is access. We are happy to be here and are looking forward to having record enrollment here this year and growing enrollment.”
Keith Carver, chancellor of The University of Tennessee at Martin, said the partnership with Southwest makes the Somerville Center complete. Carver grew up in Alamo, Tennessee, and was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs. Back then, commuting to community college or to a four-year college in Memphis was not an option for him. “What an incredible day,” Carver said. “Now students coming up through our school system locally, working adults or a single mom, have an access point. At whatever level you want to jump in, you can go from dual enrollment to an associate degree or to a bachelor’s degree, and use the same facility right here in Somerville. I think great things are going to come from this day.”
The Somerville Site features an office and reception area, two classrooms, and access to a computer lab for Southwest students. Beginning Fall Semester 2019, the College will offer eight freshman level courses designed to give Fayette County students a start on college closer to home.
In addition to the ribbon cutting, students could register for fall classes, talk to an advisor, and sign up for financial aid. Eight courses will be offered: Introduction to Business, English Composition 1, English Support, Introduction to Statistics-Enhanced, Support Course for MATH 1530, Pre-calculus Algebra, Reading Support of ACAD 1100, and Academic Success Seminar. The courses are transferable to UT Martin through the Tennessee Transfer Pathway for those wishing to complete four-year degrees. Additional degree programs will become available over the next year to allow full degree availability.
Sarah Burt, a recent graduate of Fayette Ware High School in Somerville, took dual enrollment classes at the Somerville Center and said she plans to take a couple of classes there through Southwest this fall. “I’m going to get those out of the way here,” Burt said. “It will definitely save on gas and having to drive to the Macon Cove Campus.” Her goal is to earn an associate degree from Southwest and then transfer to UT Martin to study medicine. Maddox Simmons, an Arlington High School graduate who plans to attend classes this fall at Macon Cove, used the ribbon cutting ceremony as an opportunity to make sure her financial aid was in place and that she was registered for classes. “This was very convenient for me,” Simmons said. Simmons and Burt also won $150 book scholarships from the Southwest Foundation which were drawn randomly as door prizes.
The partnership with UT Martin to share space in the building was announced in January. The Somerville Site is housed in the former Methodist Fayette Hospital, which closed in 2015. The building was given to the city by Methodist along with $250,000 to help fund the renovations. The State of Tennessee also contributed $1.125 million to transform the building into a state-of-the-art higher education facility. UT Martin opened a satellite campus there in September 2017. Somerville Center Director Kara Tapp said it is exciting to see Southwest expand the horizons of the Somerville Center by offering access to a two-year degree. “This is an exciting day,” Tapp said. “When we started the plan for this center five years ago, the thought process was that it would serve as a hub where you could earn your bachelor’s degree but also get a high school diploma. But now they can get an associate degree. It’s a proud day for Fayette County.”
State Senator Dolores Gresham, who represents the district in the Tennessee Legislature and is a champion of education, called the addition of Southwest to the Somerville Center monumental for the county and region. “You can not know how happy I am to see you,” Gresham said. “Education is the key for our state and for our county. And with this leadership right here, we can not be beat. With Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, we’re going to do great things right here in Fayette County at the Somerville Center.”
Officials from both local Chambers praised Southwest for strengthening their communities by offering new educational opportunities to their students and residents. “It is with great anticipation that our students in this community will benefit from this partnership,” said Sissy Dowdle, executive director of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. “Welcome, Southwest Tennessee Community College.”
Pattie Krepela, executive director of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and a Southwest graduate, said she knows firsthand that Southwest provides a good, affordable education and will be an asset to Fayette County. “We are just really excited,” Krepela said. “You being here makes this a better place.”