Higher Education in Hendersonville—From GED to Doctorate
Over the past 10 years, there has been a quiet revolution in higher education in Sumner County. Before this period, residents seeking post-high school educational opportunities beyond the community college level had to attend institutions located outside of the county. These options typically resulted in significantly higher educational costs due to campus room and board or commuting expenses.
However, local students in 2017 are facing a dramatically different educational landscape than their predecessors did just a few short years ago. The addition of Union University in 2008, coupled with the establishment of Welch College in 2016 and the continued growth of Volunteer State Community College, have combined to create a veritable explosion in educational opportunities and instructional delivery methods all in our community. Today, students can now go from a GED all the way to a doctorate without ever having to travel more than a few miles from Hendersonville.
Volunteer State Community College—Sumner County’s Oldest College
Founded in 1971, Volunteer State Community College is the oldest institution of higher education located within the county. Located just minutes from Hendersonville in Gallatin, Vol State has served tens of thousands of area students since the early 1970s.
Currently, Vol State offers more than 90 academic programs to its more than 8,100 students.
“The most popular field of study is the University Parallel program, which permits students to earn associate’s degrees before transferring to four-year institutions to complete bachelor’s degrees,” Vol State President Jerry Faulkner says.
Recently, Vol State announced the creation of the associate’s of applied science in mechatronics degree program.
“The addition of the mechatronics program will provide students with the academic and hands-on knowledge and skills needed for a career in advanced manufacturing and logistics industries,” Faulkner says.
The Mechatronics program at Vol State is designed to provide students with a working knowledge of advanced manufacturing and inventory management technologies, including robotics, computers, hydraulics, pneumatics, programmable controllers, sensors and sophisticated machine tools. In addition to an associate degree, students also earn Siemens Level 1 and 2 industry certifications.
Vol State first considered adding the mechatronics program in 2014 following a meeting with state and local economic community development directors. The college then commenced holding a series of fact-finding meetings with area industry leaders to determine the demand for the program and the opportunities that would be available to potential graduates. After determining the need for such a program was valid, the college began the process of planning and developing the program.
“Our surveys showed that mechatronics training is in high demand by area industries employing advanced manufacturing and inventory control technologies, including the Gap and Macy’s distribution centers located in Gallatin and Portland, respectively,” Faulkner says.
The program enrolled its first students in Gallatin in August 2017 and within days had reached capacity. Based on course demand and the requests from working students, the college added a second night section to service additional students.
Union University—The Addition of Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral Degrees
Originally founded in Jackson, Tennessee, Union University established its local presence in 2008, operating out of Hendersonville’s First Baptist Church. From 2008 until 2010, Union only offered graduate programs in Christian studies through its church campus. In 2010, the university began offering an adult bachelor’s degree completion program in Hendersonville under the direction of Renee Dauer, who currently serves as the local campus director and chair of the School of Adult and Professional Studies.
“Union strives to meet people where they are in life and help them plot out the path to finish a degree in their desired field of study,” Dauer says. “We help people reach their goals, changing their lives, changing their family’s lives and changing their community.”
In 2012, Union relocated to a brand-new dedicated 24,000-square-foot facility on Indian Lake Boulevard. Following the move, the university began offering many new undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing, education and an adult studies bachelor’s degree completion program. Union also offers three postgraduate doctoral-level degrees through its Hendersonville campus.
Although Union has strong enrollment in its education and adult studies curriculums, the largest program is the nursing program, which enrolls approximately 75 new students each year. The hallmark of the nursing school is the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, which permits students with the appropriate prerequisites to earn a nursing degree in 15 months.
“The accelerated BSN program is a fast and intense program that attracts students internationally as well as across the United States,” Dauer says.
The nursing program features a state-of-the-art nursing laboratory which simulates the actual experience found in hospitals and nursing care facilities. Further experience is gained by students through Union’s nursing partnership with TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center and Sumner Regional Medical Center.
In addition to the accelerated BSN program, Union also offers several other nursing options, including an RN-BSN program, a master’s in nursing and a doctorate in nursing practice.
Welch College–Residential Living Arrives
Welch College is the latest addition to the Hendersonville-area higher education landscape. Founded in Nashville in 1942, the school relocated to an all new campus in nearby Gallatin in 2016. Welch has the distinction of being the only higher education institution in Sumner County that offers residential dormitory housing for its students.
Welch offers a variety of undergraduate degree programs as well as a graduate master’s degree in theology and ministry. Undergraduate courses of study include biology/pre-med/pre-nursing, business, English, exercise science, history, ministry, psychology and teacher education. Welch also offers an adult degree completion program in enriched studies as well as several online associate’s and bachelor’s degree options.
“Welch’s emphasis is upon traditional students, aged 18 to 22, seeking a four-year on-campus residential experience,” Welch College President Matthew Pinson says.
This experience is designed to be like most residential colleges and universities, including the social clubs, arts and cultural events and intercollegiate athletics. Along with these activities, Welch students also participate in community service activities which provide more than 10,000 hours of local assistance to area agencies each year.
As of the fall semester 2017, the college has approximately 400 students enrolled in classes, most of whom reside in one of the school’s two dormitories.
“(Our) goal is to grow Welch’s enrollment to 1,000 students or more over the coming years,” Pinson says.
Although Pinson is proud of all of Welch’s programs, he is “particularly excited about the college’s teacher education program,” which has educated teachers from around the world since its founding in 1976. Chaired by 19-year Welch veteran Thurman Pate, the program offers a variety of majors, including early childhood education, elementary education, K-12 physical education, K-12 music education and secondary education concentrations in English, history, biology and Bible. Welch also offers an innovative teacher licensure program that gives students with noneducation bachelor’s degrees the opportunity to earn the required hours and skillsets needed to begin teaching in the classroom.