LFCC Celebrates 25 Years in Fauquier County
Lord Fairfax Community College's Fauquier Campus (LFCC-FC) looks a little different today than it did when it opened its doors to the Warrenton community in 1988. The college began as a humble three classroom, one bath, one faculty room structure which was originally a barn for alfalfa storage. Bob Sowder, a visionary in Fauquier County, donated the 2.5 acres and his storage barn to get things started. After donating another $90,000 for renovations, the barn transformed to a place where many began a new journey in life, that of a college education.
Sowder, a farmer and real estate agent, was part of the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce when the need for space and a building was requested for an institution of higher learning. Many residences could not afford the traditional four year university and many were traveling over 40 miles to get the closest community college.
Not only did Sowder make the college a reality, but he even got IBM to donate furniture. With the barn complete and 17 students strong, the campus opened for business. Many of the teachers had mobile offices, pushing carts around with their lesson plans and assignments.
Sowder continues in the spirit of giving, as he has granted a full tuition scholarship for one local student every year since the doors opened. He was instrumental in negotiating for-and the College was given-50 more acres for the site when the remainder of his farm was sold to Fauquier County. In 2009, Sowder received the Chancellor's Award for Leadership in Philanthropy. When asked his reason for giving, he explained, "it's a way of paying back. There's nothing like having people in the community come up and say 'thank you' for making their education possible or their lives better."
In 1996, the Virginia General Assembly appropriated $7.2 million to construct and expand the campus in Fauquier and by October 1999, the official dedication of the new campus took place. It comprised of a 60,000 square foot building, with 25 classrooms, administrative offices, a library and common areas. Additional funds were also acquired through generous community donors. The college acknowledged the leading benefactors by naming parts of the campus: Paul and Sheila Wolk had the main hall of the campus named on their behalf, Rose Loeb, the student center, and Sowder the library.
Dr. Cheryl Thompson-Stacy is president of Lord Fairfax Community College, serving in that post since January 2009. She is responsible for administration at the Middletown and Fauquier campuses as well as the Luray-Page County Center. The community college serves seven counties and the city of Winchester. The counties include: Fauquier, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Frederick, Warren, Clarke, and Page. Dr. Judy Batson, Associate Vice President and Campus Administrator, oversees the administration and instructional operations at the Fauquier Campus.
While close to 50% of the student body is working towards an associate degree with plans to transfer to a four year college or university, others are opting for career certifications, or career switcher programs. LFCC has over 40 transfer agreements with four year colleges and universities. William and Mary, Virginia Tech, James Madison, University of Virginia, and Old Dominion are just a few institutions from the grouping. Worthy of mentioning, is the agreement that LFCC has with Old Dominion University, where students can earn a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate's degree through video conferencing technology.
The fastest enrollment growth has been among 18 to 24 year olds, but individuals of all ages can be seen throughout the halls of the facility. Things have changed since 1988, when popular certifications were Clerical Studies and Word Processing. Now the focus of many community colleges is that of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Healthcare. Dr. Batson says, "It's imperative to advance in these fields to insure global competitiveness."
The 2013 Outstanding Graduate, Emily Bouchard, graduated with an Associate in Arts and Sciences. This fall, she will attend UVA, working on a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry with a specialization in Biochemistry. She is a great example of a student aspiring for an advanced degree in the sciences.
Approximately 379 course sections are offered by the LFCC-FC. Courses can be taken at the campus, on-line, or a hybrid format of both. LFCC-FC also assists high school students in getting a head start in college with their dual enrollment program and AP course offerings. Local schools, work in conjunction with LFCC, so that students may get credit for select college courses before graduating from hometown high schools. Mountain Vista Governor's School is located on the property as well.
LFCC-FC offers a number of health care and technology courses, as there is quite a demand in these disciplines. The nursing program is very competitive and has a 100% in-class pass rate. Dr. Batson comments, "Many students are surprised at the number of science classes that are required for the course work." The college has a good relationship with Fauquier Hospital as nursing students perform rotations there.
Technology is always changing, and so are the classes offered in this field. An associate degree can be obtained with concentrations in the following: Cyber Security, Database Administration, Networking, Network Engineering, Software Development, Web Design, and Web Applications.
Business classes have always been a mainstay for the college. Many students are opting to obtain Career Study Certificates in: General Business, Entrepreneurship, Sales Management and Marketing, Small Business Management, and Supervision.
The Fauquier campus continues a steady path in student growth, as it accounts for 26% of the 2012-2013 headcount in LFCC numbers overall. With approximately 2,500 students attending LFFC-FC in the last year, the campus needs more space and updated amenities. Six modular- temporary buildings are currently being utilized.
The master plan entails a new academic building for science and health classes. "With a nationwide directive to increase America's academic focus on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health, it just makes since," explains Thompson-Stacy. Along those lines, there is a need for up-to-date science equipment. "Simulated patients," or computerized patient mannequins are very expensive, but essential for instruction in the health professions. Anatomical models are necessary tools for the classroom, and are utilized by many students for required study.
Simply put, LFCC-FC has out grown necessary conference space. There is a need for appropriate accommodations for large student gatherings and events. LFCC is one of 23 colleges in the Virginia community college system. Community colleges nationwide have experienced incredible enrollment and growth in recent years, which means that all our sister community colleges in Virginia are also advocating for capital funds to support new facilities. LFCC-FC has acquired $500,000 from the Virginia Assembly to renovate the original barn facility donated by Sowder, but the LFCC Foundation continues to work in a variety of ways to secure additional funds. In fact, Liv Heggoy, Executive Director of the LFCC Foundation, says "the college will soon announce a significant gift from a family that has supported the college for many years."
With this said, LFCC-FC is a campus that continues to provide the community with an affordable, quality education. The leadership, professors, and support staff are exceptional and the resounding theme is one of smaller classes and "individualized attention." Every student has numerous opportunities throughout their journey at LFCC to meet with career and academic coaches to insure success in education. It is not surprising when people in the community say they have an affiliation with LFCC because some have taken classes themselves, or have a friend, a neighbor, a family member, or business associate that has engaged in a course, class, or training with the college.