As National Park College kicks off the first of six forums focused on the recently introduced 25-year Master Plan today at noon in the Student Commons Building, the college looks to take another step forward in carrying out its vision.
While today's forum will be for NPC employees, an open forum follows today at 6 p.m., while the students attend their first forum at noon Wednesday. The remaining four forums, all open, will be held Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m., Oct. 13 at 8:30 a.m., and Oct. 14 at 1:30 p.m. Each of the six forums will be held in the first-floor meeting room of the Student Commons.
At the plan's announcement during the Sept. 22 monthly board meeting, NPC President John Hogan said the college is looking for great things over the next 25 years, and the Master Plan directly reflects that overall vision.
"We definitely want our 25-year Master Plan to be informed by all our stakeholders," NPC Vice President for Administration Kelli Embry said. "So students, especially, but also our community members, our employees, our faculty -- every voice is important as far as getting input for the Master Plan."
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Embry, who led the planning efforts, said Monday the college has already received much input through online submissions at http://www.np.edu/masterplan, where one may also go to register for the forums.
"We've already received a lot of input, so even as we were developing the original proposed Master Plan, we base that on a lot of feedback we'd already received," she said. "But this is really where we want to get the large amount of feedback as we can before we go to the board at the end of October and ask them for final approvals."
The NPC Board of Directors and overseeing committees, Embry noted, worked with project architectural firm Lewis Architects and Engineers to include all aspects of the college -- from new student housing, academic buildings, athletics facilities and much more -- and are seeking to gain as much feedback as possible for the long-term plan.
She said three key, overlying aspects she hopes the forums address are "community" and keeping graduates in Garland County, meeting newer students' needs, and incorporating NPC business partners' visions of the future.
"I think whenever I look at the Master Plan and sort of where I started specifically, is I really look at our community," she said. "Hot Springs has done so many wonderful things to expand our reach, to attract younger generations to move here and stay here, and we know that if we have young families moving into Hot Springs, they're going to want their children to stay here and have opportunities to get a quality education beyond high school. So we kind of start there.
"And we also start with our newest students, so we have students from all over the country -- all over the world at this point, actually, with our influx of international students. So we're really looking at what their current needs are, but also the indicators that they're sharing for future growth -- specifically with our four-year degree options and partnering with great universities like SAU (Southern Arkansas University) that allow us to offer, right now, four-year degrees on campus, but also expanding that and what the needs are," she said.
"We really listened to our community, but specifically, our business partners. It's really important for them to share their vision of the future and what their companies are going to look like, and that really helps us know what type of investments we need to make in our education programs."
Regarding the forums, Embry said the format and agenda will be the same for each one.
"The reason we chose to have a specific forum for students and for employees is because that gives them a chance to speak among their peers," she said. "So with students, for example, their needs and wants and feedback are going to be very different than maybe our business and community members. So we wanted to give them that opportunity to share their voice in a unique forum, specifically just for them.
"So we anticipate that will be very focused on the things that they see that we need to do. Same with employees," Embry said. "Employees really want to be able to share their voice in an environment where, you know, they know everybody, they feel comfortable speaking, and that's what we hope for them as well -- that we give them a unique experience where they can really talk about, maybe more in-depth than you would in a community forum."
Embry stressed the plan is in the very beginning stages and she expects many changes to come.
"Even though it looks like a complete Master Plan, we are in the beginning stages," she said. "Every single voice is important to us. I know sometimes people say, 'Oh, well you already have your plan; You know what you want to do' -- It really is just a vision. We partnered with Lewis Architects and just kind of shared our thoughts, and let them run with it.
"So the plan is not final. We do anticipate a lot of changes based on the feedback that we're receiving, and we're already starting to receive that in our online forum. And we're really excited about it. We're excited about that feedback and how that's going to inform our long-term goals and objectives here at National Park College," Embry said.