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CORBIN -- Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce members and guests heard from Melissa Newman, Ed.D., Eastern Kentucky University Executive Director of Regional Programming & Regional Stewardship, during Tuesday's member luncheon.

Newman is dedicated to the people and the students of southeastern Kentucky and beyond. She is a professor with the department of communication and works to develop strategic partnership for the university. Newman began an internship program that has placed over 100 interns in career positions. The program has a 97 percent career placement rate after graduation and Newman calls it an exciting program.

Tuesday, Newman asked that every business start looking for ways they can partner with EKU. She reminded them that the university has been in Corbin since 1990 and moved to its current location in 2004. The campus offers event and meeting space.

Their Workforce Development provides professional development and training opportunities throughout Kentucky and draws upon the expertise of faculty, area business leaders, and professional trainers to develop and deliver programs tailored to meet the current economic needs of business and industry.

"All students at EKU have the opportunity to learn," said Newman. "The vast majority -- 89 percent of EKU students are Kentucky residents. I think that really speaks to the work that we do in this state."

Newman addressed the issue of getting a quality education while needing to stay in one's own community.

"We're working very hard meeting with deans and chairs who can help us bring programs to the region," said Newman who was tight lipped on what new programs were coming to the area.

Traditional, in-person course delivery is ideal and what everyone would like, it just isn't the case for many students, and Newman is working to meet the non-traditional students where they are.

"If higher education is going to be in the business of meeting students where they are in life, we must address the most prevalent barriers," added Newman. "In this region we know that one of the biggest barriers is transportation -- we work on that. One of the other huge barriers is childcare."

With that in mind, Corbin EKU recently added 10 vouchers for childcare and is working on getting a childcare facility on the premises.

Another topic near and dear to Newman, also focusing on meeting students where they are, is the Degrees when Due program. It is a pathway that allows EKU to look at students' life experiences to see how it fits with course credit with college credit.

"Currently there are over 60,000 people in the state of Kentucky who have a piece of a degree and a whole lot of college credits," said Newman. "Half of those live in Appalachia."

"We're focused on an adult degree completion program, finding creative ways for those that have stopped college to get them back in," said Newman. "We are also working with community colleges about this problem."

Something Newman is excited about is EKU's Aviation Technician Maintenance Program. It is a unique innovative way to re-train and help the coal workforce industry. EKU is currently working on a program with the London-Corbin Airport.

"This is just part of what EKU is doing as part of a steward to the community," said Newman.

EKU is also a partner with Berea Partners for Education and this is essential noted Newman.

"We are now leading the way restoring hope in Kentucky's Appalachian counties," said Newman. "A study revealed that hope can be used to drive the economy and that we can raise hope in people and community."

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