University of Pikeville aims to boost business and job creation in a region that has long needed it by launching the Coleman College of Business. It’s the brainchild and first initiative of the school’s industrious, recently inaugurated 20th President James Hurley.
UPike’s existing business education program already bestows more degrees than any other category at the nearly 2,200-student school, but administrators feel the need to do more for a region long identified as economically underperforming, with higher unemployment and a lower percentage of college graduates than the rest of the state.
“We’ve got to be academically entrepreneurial,” said Howard Roberts, a UPike faculty member of 30 years who is dean of the new business college. “We need to think differently in how we create curriculum and in what we prepare college graduates to do.”
Economic conditions continue to change rapidly and Eastern Kentucky must be able to compete like the rest of the state and nation, meaning UPike must make sure its graduates are adaptable, nimble and can craft new openings themselves.
“We want to create economic opportunity that is beyond the energy sector,” Hurley said. “Coal is a very large part of our economy, but … it is taking a beating now. We have to train young business leaders to create other opportunities.”
UPike’s new business college wants to teach its students “how to hit the curveball” when it inevitably comes, Hurley explains.
“We are part of a global economy,” Roberts said. The fact that Appalachian culture has a strong focus on its traditions “makes things a little more challenging. The residents of any rural area of America must embrace that; to survive, the world they know and cherish must change,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the past will be forgotten, though. UPike’s new business program will be housed, beginning next spring, in the historic Pikeville Academy building, a distinctive two-story brick structure built in 1888 and expanded in 1892. It is the oldest educational building in Pike County and the original home of Pikeville College. The university regained ownership earlier this year after it spent two decades as the property of the city of Pikeville, which had renovated and used it for government offices.
The city installed modern technological infrastructure, but the university is upgrading further to include the latest digital communication and classroom information-sharing platforms, Roberts said. There will be a Center for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development with meeting spaces for student teams, exchanges with faculty, study, and casual interaction, including a coffee shop.
“Looking at the needs of the region and how to meet them will be part of the mission,” he said, adding that the business college will actively foster collaboration of all stripes, including the eight-county Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce based in Pikeville. “We know that as a united force we can accomplish much more.”
Collaborating with other universities
The primary focus will be on the students and increasing the region’s rate of college education, according to Roberts and Hurley. While 19 percent of adults across Kentucky hold four-year degrees, in UPike’s primary service area that figure is only 10 percent.
“It is going to take all of us working together,” Hurley said. “One institution cannot solve this.”
UPike will partner with other Kentucky organizations and universities – specifically Morehead State, with which there was friction last year regarding a proposal to bring UPike into the state university system. With public postsecondary education funding declining in Kentucky – as it is across the nation – Morehead State officials argued that cutting another slice from a shrinking pie would further starve their Appalachian institution.
However, Hurley recently earned his Ph.D. from Morehead State, and says he and MSU President Wayne Andrews are now allies actively exploring how they can collaborate to their mutual benefit.
UPike ended efforts to join the state system after its students were made eligible for Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship assistance. Known as K4C$, the program can provide up to $6,820 a year to students who are high school graduates (or GED recipients) from Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin and Pike counties and who have earned 60 credit hours toward a four-year degree. That filled the funding need UPike had that prompted its effort to go public.
“President Andrews and I are great friends,” Hurley said in August, and the pair now regularly brainstorm together to find ways their deans and chairmen can collaborate and coordinate programs.
UPike’s College of Business hopes to play a public role and pursue involvement in any regional efforts that target improving workforce training, management skills or otherwise fulfill the needs of the business community. Hurley said he is working with visioning consultants.
One of those initiatives will be a rebirth of the Central Appalachian Institute for Research and Development. CAIRD came into existence during the 1967-70 administration of the late Gov. Bert T. Combs but fell to the wayside over the years. The new CAIRD’s aim is to encourage long-term economic growth and prosperity through education improvement, economic development planning and providing applied research for public policy decision processes.
CAIRD’s revival “was my dissertation topic,” Hurley said. The Eastern Kentucky Leadership Foundation conducted a study, whose results Hurley developed into a plan that the Appalachian Regional Commission has funded for three years. Bill Weinberg, president of Clean Gas Inc. and son-in-law of Gov. Combs, now heads CAIRD.
An influential board of directors includes Bruce Ayers, president of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College; James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville; Jim Ward, judge-executive of Letcher County; Kelly Callaham, judge-executive of Martin County; officials from Morehead State, the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University; and others.
Gov. Paul Patton’s key role
Another former Kentucky governor, Pike County native and resident Paul Patton, is a central player in this mix of education and economic development initiatives. Patton, who also is a former Pike County judge-executive, proposed reviving CAIRD during his two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003. He also served as both lieutenant governor and state economic development secretary from 1991 to 1995.
Patton now serves on the board of directors at CAIRD.
More recently, Patton was UPike president from early 2010 until he passed the baton to Hurley on July 1. Hurley, in fact, was the first person Patton hired after stepping into what he initially believed would be a one-year interim stint at the school’s helm, he said.
Patton had a long relationship with the college, having served 30 years on its Board of Trustees, including time as chairman. He had been appointed chairman of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education in 2009. Postsecondary education improvement and reorganization was a signature achievement during Patton’s administration in 1997 when the General Assembly passed House Bill 1, followed in 1998 by the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship and “Bucks For Brains” programs to help state students attend Kentucky schools and recruit university researchers, respectively.
When he agreed to become UPike president, however, the school’s enrollment was in decline and as a tuition-revenue-dependent institution the financial situation was becoming precarious, Patton said. Undergraduate enrollment was at 673 for 2009-10. He knew what education assistance programs to tap, if only the school could get tuition-paying students on campus – which is why he brought Hurley aboard as executive vice president at his alma mater.
Working together, Hurley and Patton have made the school one of the fastest growing in the South.
Hurley played sports regionally in high school and Pikeville College, and began his work career with coaching jobs in Bullitt and then back in Pike County, where he was a middle school principal with a master’s in education leadership from Indiana University. Patton said Hurley’s knowledge of the high school landscape was an important asset.
Hurley began an ongoing campaign of recruiting trips, often accompanied by Patton. Pikeville shifted to university status in 2011 and added masters’ programs in business administration and sports management; it created a new nursing bachelor’s program and four-year degrees in Spanish, media arts and film.
The expanding central Appalachia campus now has set enrollment records the past four years. Undergraduate enrollment is at 1,314 for the fall 2013 semester with another 37 graduate students, 430 in UPike College of Osteopathic Medicine and 415 in dual-credit courses for an overall total of 2,196 students.
Plans to renovate an existing campus building for the College of Medicine grew under Patton and Hurley instead into the $40 million Coal Building, a new nine-story 96,000-s.f. state-of-the-art health science facility. It has a 400-seat campus cafeteria overlooking downtown Pikeville and allowed UPike to expand the medical school’s annual class size from 75 to 135. It opened in fall 2012.
Hurley enlisted Burlin Coleman
On July 1, at age 37, Hurley took office as one of the youngest university presidents in the nation, and Patton became UPike’s first chancellor. President Hurley then announced creation of the Coleman College of Business.
It is named for key benefactor Burlin Coleman, the retired CEO of Kentucky’s largest domestically headquartered bank holding company, Pikeville-based Community Trust Bank. Though Coleman avoids the limelight, at Hurley’s request he donated $1 million toward establishing a formal business school and agreed to allow his name to be used.
Hurley said he wanted Coleman linked by name with the project because he is so respected regionally that his association provides instant credibility. Coleman began at the former Pikeville National Bank in 1949 as a clerk, rose to CEO and built it into a publicly traded bank that, according to the most recent FDIC reports, has 70 Kentucky offices and $3 billion in deposits.
Many Eastern Kentucky business leaders over the past six-plus decades can trace their first loan back to Coleman, who is known as a shrewd investor and a generous philanthropist, Hurley said. He has made many donations over the years to UPike, which has professorships in both his and his wife Jean’s names. He was instrumental in founding
“He is so humble,” Hurley said. At the early July event announcing the new business college, he told the story of going to Coleman to ask that he allow his name to be used and that he make the lead gift.
“He didn’t want to do it,” Hurley said. “He said, ‘There’s so many more deserving individuals than me,’ – and there’s not.”
Mark Green is editorial director of The Lane Report. He can be reached at [email protected]