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Rival colleges collaborate with Newport News education center

Jordan Crawford | 8/21/2013, 3:55 p.m.
Center directors, Lubin and Cullen, speak at University of Virginia-Virginia Tech Newport News Center launch reception.

For years, cleats, helmets, and pigskin had to be present for Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia (U. VA) to come together. Now, pen and paper, and the desire to achieve career success will also allow the two schools to convene.

After over a year of planning, U. VA and Virginia Tech have joined to open a jointly operated Newport News education center.

“This opening is a celebration of our partnership with Virginia Tech, and it’s really an extension of our existing partnership in Richmond,” said Kathy Cullen, director of U.VA’s eastern outreach centers. “Our programming portfolios are very complementary, and we’re looking forward to working together to provide a better service to the community.”

The center will function as the relocation of the University of Virginia Eastern Regional Center, previously in Virginia Beach, and the new Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Center.

The new center will make it easier for students to enroll in the U. VA School of Continuing and Professional Studies program offering classes in finance, business management and administration, and information technology. U. VA also plans to collaborate with local employers to create customized courses and programs for area residents and businesses.

These classes will complement Virginia Tech’s program which offers courses in customized contract training for businesses and professional development in leadership, team building, meeting planning, and conference management. The center also plans to offer a graduate-level curriculum in engineering, business, and education.

The center is located on the second floor of the Wells Fargo building in the Newport News City Center. The city's Economic Development Authority provided almost $100,000 for building renovations to customize the space. The new facility houses five classrooms, each of which able to hold up to 70 people, allowing the universities to share office conference and classroom space in the center.

Several of the classrooms are stocked with videoconferencing equipment so that students will be able to correspond with instructors at other locales.

U.VA President Teresa Sullivan and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger celebrated the collaborative effort, the latest in a long string of such ventures by the state's flagship and land grant universities, with a grand opening public reception at the Marriott at City Center on Monday.

Sullivan said the universities had a shared goal of extending a range of programs to adult learners in the region, but the center would not duplicate the efforts of local colleges and universities. Steger added that education is one of the essential building blocks of democratic society. "Bringing together resources in a form that is complementary is essential," Steger said.

Center directors Melissa Lubin, of Virginia Tech, and Kathy Cullen, of U.VA, who have worked together since 2007, say they maintain a "healthy competitive spirit" in the midst of their collaboration. Cullen said they attempt to outdo one another on community service projects, and during football season a friendly rivalry exists. At the institutions' joint center in Richmond, the director and staff from the losing institution must buy pizza for the winners.