Creating an Ultimate Community Partnership

The following is excerpted from this article written by Erin Kidd.

The road between Raleigh and Rutherford County may have gotten shorter as educators and staff from NC State University toured parts of Rutherford and Polk counties as part of a “Connecting in North Carolina” (mini CINC) tour. The university, through the office of Outreach and Engagement, has selected the Rutherford County area as an ultimate community partner, a program being piloted in 2015.

NC State faculty and staff toured areas including the Forest City Facebook Data Center, KidSenses Children’s Interactive Museum, Tryon Equine Hospital, Tryon International Equestrian Center, Trelleborg Coated Systems and Isothermal Community College.

As part of the visit, NC State Vice Provost for Outreach & Engagement Dr. Terri Helmlinger Ratcliff and the NC State group met with Isothermal Community College President Walter Dalton, Isothermal Community College Executive Vice President Kim Gold and other leaders from Rutherford County to discuss the ultimate community partnership.

“We are bringing NC State staff and faculty to the community to start the engagement,” said Ratcliff. “As we’ve gotten involved in communities, we’ve come to realize the real magic in what we do at the university happens when it’s applied to economic ecosystems,” Ratcliff said. “In this day and age, it’s going to be important for us to figure out how to make what we do important to ecosystems.”

Isothermal and NC State already partner in multiple ways. Dalton said the college values its partnership with the university and said having that connection raises the expectations of students and helps attract businesses to Rutherford County. “We are innovative and we will embrace this partnership,” Dalton said.

Gold spoke about the five education grants the institutions have jointly submitted over the last year and the NC State and Isothermal Engineering Discovery Camp that will be held this summer. There have also been discussions about bringing the university’s Science House program to Rutherford County which would provide instructors with research and teaching skills to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“This is a pilot program. We don’t have a road map yet,” Ratcliff said. “But as part of the reciprocal effort we would like to invite a group of community leaders to come and visit our campus.”

Following the meeting, a community meeting was held where the NC State members met with county leaders and received a presentation from the Rutherford Early College High School (REaCH) robotics team.

For NC State to invest in this area and create an ultimate community partnership makes perfect sense,” Dalton said. “We are a catalyst for change. We are changing rapidly and having excellent partners like NC State will assist in that.”