While most Paducah residents are familiar with West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC), they may not be as familiar with Dr. Barbara Veazey, the school’s president for the last ten years; and that’s just the way she likes it.
Veazey prefers to give all the credit for the success of the college to the community.
“When I look at these ten years, you can’t just look at what the college has done. So much of it was driven by the community,” Veazey said.
“Healthcare is big for us in this community, so we have certainly tried to expand our healthcare programs. In terms of the marine industry, we’ve developed new marine technology programs. We’ve done thorough assessments and have listened to the industries and the businesses trying to develop programs that allow our students to get jobs,” Veazey said.
Under Veazey’s tenure, the number of students has nearly doubled to 10,000 new students each year, and several new programs have been developed. The Commonwealth Middle College allows area high school students to earn up to 36 hours of college credit while still in high school. The Challenger Learning Center educates 10,000 elementary and middle school students with interests in science and math each year. The Community Scholarship program guarantees any graduate of a McCracken County school, who meets certain requirements, 60 hours of college credit at WKCTC.
Named by the Aspen Institute as one of the nation’s top ten community colleges for two consecutive years, WKCTC was also a top five finalist in the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence in 2011. This award is only open to the top ten percent of community colleges nationwide, then followed by a rigorous review process.
“The Aspen recognition was exciting for faculty, staff, and our students,” said Veazey.
With Veazey’s leadership, these programs and awards have helped the college grow.
“As the economy has changed, and as we have looked at our community, we have tried to connect education to the job market. And to me, that’s critical. We go to college to be able to have a job. What programs can we develop that would hopefully allow students to get a job in the community that they want to live in?” Veazey said.
To create those jobs in the community, the college is focusing on both the Paducah School of Art and the Allied Health programs in the coming years.
“Paducah School of Art will expand with a new location in Lower Town which allows more program expansion. We are out of space in the Allied Health facility, and we will need to address this issue as the needs of the community grow. How do we meet the demand, and how do we move that forward? Our stance is to be proactive and work with economic development to bring new business to this region,” Veazey said.
In addition, WKCTC has a strong commitment to transfer education. WKCTC students who transfer to a four-year college after attending WKCTC perform better than other transfer students in the state.
Veazey looks forward to enhancing programs in cooperation with Murray State’s new presence close to WKCTC’s campus.
“There are some great things happening in Paducah, and this college will be a part of it. There are also some challenges ahead, and we want to be a part of the solution,” Veazey said.