The Roanoker - May/June 2020 - 122

JENNY KINCAID BOONE is a Roanoke-based freelance writer and former business
journalist. She is a Roanoke College and Northwestern University graduate who is
passionate about exercise and chai latte.

Virginia Western Community College
Once a technical institute, VWCC celebrates being one of the first colleges in the state's community college system.
BEFORE IT WAS Virginia Western Community College, this
Roanoke institution had another name. But its mission has remained
largely the same.
Pictured here is what once was Roanoke Technical Institute.
The institute opened in 1961 as an offshoot of Virginia Tech.
Its purpose was to train technicians in the industrial, scientific,
electrical and mechanical arts and sciences as a way to enhance
the economic efficiency and safety of the manufacturing,
engineering and industrial enterprises of the state.
Six years after it opened, the institute merged with the
University of Virginia's Roanoke Center to become Virginia
Western, according to a historical account published in The
Roanoke Times.
It was one of the first colleges in the state's new community
college system, which was financed by Virginia's first sales tax
and created to provide needed workforce training and education
for the commonwealth.
There was an obvious demand for a community college
education. More than 1,240 students enrolled when Virginia
122

MAY/JUNE 2020

Western opened its doors, leading to long registration lines and
a rush on the college's mere 238 parking spaces, according to
The Roanoke Times.
Now Virginia Western, one of 23 community colleges in the
state system, has an annual enrollment of more than 9,000 students
in credit courses. Also, there are more than 1,400 students enrolled
in its fast-track workforce and continuing education classes.
The areas of study range from engineering and manufacturing
to culinary arts and healthcare.
Virginia Western hasn't stopped growing. The college's largest
building to date, a new 72,000-square-foot facility for science,
technology, engineering and mathematics, opened last year on
the 70-acre campus. The building houses an array of academic
programs, including mechatronics, engineering, biology,
chemistry, biotechnology, physics and mathematics.
" We want to prepare students for careers that are available
now and those that don't even exist yet, " said Amy White, dean
of STEM at Virginia Western, in a news release.
-JENNY KINCAID BOONE

TheRoanoker.com

JULIANNE RAINONE JACOB / CURRENT IMAGE: COURTESY OF VIRGINIA WESTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE / ARCHIVAL IMAGE COURTESY OF THE VIRGINIA ROOM, ROANOKE PUBLIC LIBRARIES

then & now


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The Roanoker - May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - May/June 2020

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