Venango Campus 1st recipient of award

The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce has established a new award called the Partner in Business Award.

It recognizes a non-profit, governmental or educational organization that has developed a close partnership with the business community as a means to achieve its mission.

The chamber has named Clarion University-Venango Campus to be the first recipient.

It will be honored, along with Northwest Savings Bank as Business of the Year, at a chamber gathering at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the Movies at Cranberry at the Cranberry Mall. It is the kickoff for the annual Venango Works Trade Show the following day.

The Chamber chose Venango Campus using criteria that include reputation, achievement, innovation, business leadership, excellence and support for the community. It also considered participation in private-public partnerships, bringing creative solutions to community challenges, innovative programs, partnerships, fundraising, marketing, regional promotions and improving the quality of life for area residents.

Venango Campus has “a history of being (an) outstanding organization in our region… and continues to seek ways to better serve the community,” said Susan Williams, executive director of the chamber.

Opportunities abound

“Venango Campus has been providing life-changing opportunities for the residents of Venango County and the region for 49 years,” said Christopher M. Reber, executive dean of the campus. “From the very beginning, when community leaders and members of the Oil City Area Chamber of Commerce envisioned the need for a higher education presence in Venango County, to the present, Venango Campus has been the product of community and university working together to advance the needs of the region.”

Recognition via the Partner in Business Award “by the organization that played such an integral role in the creation of the campus is truly an affirmation of our mission for which we are extremely grateful,” Reber said.

Time of growth

Venango Campus has more than doubled its enrollment in recent years due in large part to its growing network of educational partnerships with organizations in business, industry, health care, education and other sectors. Enrollment reached an all-time high in fall 2009, with more than 1,000 students enrolled in campus programs and a growth of almost 10 percent over the previous fall.

“Our partnerships allow us to meet the workforce needs of the region,” Reber said. “By educating future employees who are skilled in their technical fields and have the educational foundation to move into management positions, we help to keep jobs — and the people who need them — here at home.”

The applied technology department was launched in 2003 at the campus in response to a need for a technically skilled workforce with the preparation for career advancement. Utilizing a unique partnership model, students earn a Clarion University associate degree by completing academic courses at the campus and the technical component of the degree through approved technical education providers.

More than 100 students are now enrolled in the campus’ 23 applied technology program concentrations, and graduate job placement exceeds 93 percent.

The design of the program allows for virtually limitless expansion. A new concentration to prepare certified Web designers was recently launched, and concentrations such as agile robotics, wind energy technology and others are being considered.

A respiratory care program was created in 2006 after the critical regional and national shortage of respiratory therapists was brought to the attention of the university by UPMC Northwest.

Both programs earned full national accreditation in 2009.

Financial support

The campus has raised more than $10 million in recent years through gifts and grants to enable the school to add programs, support students through scholarships, renovate facilities and grow enrollment.

In 2009, $3.5 million in construction projects were completed at the campus, including the renovation and restoration of West End Pond, new locker rooms in the Robert W. Rhoades Center and the fourth and fifth buildings of the planned seven-building student apartment complex.

Programs are varied

Many new programs at the certificate, associate and bachelor’s degree levels have been added to the growing array of Venango Campus academic programs in recent years, and additional new bachelor’s and graduate programs are being planned. A Venango Campus Honors Program for students with high academic potential was developed, and the first students in that program graduated in May 2009.

Venango Campus is also a cultural and educational community center and provides an array of programs open free to the public.

The campus supports the community through continuing education and programs to provide enriched educational opportunities for residents of all ages. These programs are supported through a variety of grant funding.

“The community has been an extraordinary partner through Venango Campus’ years of evolution and growth,” Reber said. “The Partner in Business Award is a tribute to the many heroes in the region and at the university who have worked together to make the vision of highquality, higher education in Venango County a reality.”