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State higher education chancellor Gardner tours WSCC

Washington State Community College president Vicky Wood and vice president of finance and administration Jess Raines show a map to Ohio Department of Higher Education chancellor Randy Gardner during a tour of the Marietta college property Tuesday afternoon. The site is where Marietta City Schools is proposing to build a new K-12 complex adjacent to the college. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

Randy Gardner, the state chancellor for higher education, took a tour of Washington State Community College Tuesday afternoon, and the college had plenty to show him.

Gardner, named chancellor by Gov. Mike DeWine in January after more than 30 years in the legislative assembly as both a representative and a senator, said he was on a tour of higher education facilities in the southeastern part of the state.

“I’ve made visiting campuses a priority. The governor wants us out in the communities,” he said. “This is the 62nd campus I’ve been on this year.”

The tour started with a trip through brushy trails behind the college buildings on all-terrain vehicles to show Gardner the site of the proposed Marietta City Schools building project, which would consolidate all grades in one complex on 49 acres of college property. College president Vicky Wood, who drove one of the side-by-sides, told Gardner the project would put Marietta at the forefront of public school collaboration in the state, with a K-14 education complex in one location.

The group, made up of Gardner, Wood and college vice president of finance Jess Raines, along with Gardner’s director of communications Jeff Robinson, looked the site over from a clearing near the top of a the heavily wooded hill. To the east, traffic on I-77, screened from view by trees, could be heard just beyond a strand of power lines as they looked a map showing the approximate footprint of the city school project. Gardner said he was encouraged by the idea.

Randy Gardner, Ohio chancellor of higher education, and Washington State Community College president Vicky Wood watch as an articulated robotic arm does a routine directed by first-year student Brandon Miller, a Marietta High School graduate, in the college’s robotics and mechatronics lab on Tuesday. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

“One thing I’ve found about the public is that they expect public institutions to work together,” he said.

Back at the college, Gardner was shown the robotics and mechatronics lab, which will be augmented next year with advanced robotics courses and equipment thanks to a POWER grant through the Appalachian Regional Council. Wood indicated an exterior wall in the lab.

“I think we’ll probably knock that out to make more room,” she said.

Gardner also was shown the auto mechanics and diesel shop, the industrial mechanics section, and the health sciences labs, an area of significant growth at the college.

Washington State has been adept and responsive in establishing partnership agreements with the public school system, industry and business, and Marietta College. Gardner said that outlook is in line with public expectations.

Washington State Community College dean of health sciences Heather Kincaid shows Ohio higher education chancellor Randy Gardner the digital touch screen anatomy education table while college president Vicky Wood looks on. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

“We want to encourage any kind of collaboration that makes sense for students, to encourage these partnerships,” he said. “The public expects that, and it saves tax dollars through the efficiency of working together. I’m encouraged by the new collaborations between Washington State Community College – they are institutions that respected, and why not work together?

“And the collaboration between the college and the city schools – we’re seeing something transformative in that.”

The chancellor of higher education is a cabinet-level position appointed by the governor as an advisor on higher education policy and as an executive responsible for carrying out functions and policies of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Gardner said Tuesday he had toured Ohio University before coming to Washington State, and he is scheduled to visit Marietta College today.

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