On a given Saturday morning, shoppers strolling through the Huntington Mall can buy the latest strappy sandals, trendy tees, golf balls, a latte or lunch. They can also find out how to jump-start their college careers at Marshall by chatting with the friendly lady who presides over a Marshall-laden information table. And if there’s one thing Pat Campbell is passionate about, it’s getting the word out about the College Courses in High Schools Program, so if that means heading to the mall, giving out information and literature and fielding questions in the midst of that bustle, just look for her there.
The High School Program Coordinator is a veritable one-woman academic band who plays all the early college entrance instruments in a manner of speaking. When it comes to recruiting in participating high schools in the counties she covers, finding certified instructors, recruiting students, organizing classes and doing all the required paperwork both on the county and university level, collecting fees, taking care of all follow-up activities, she’s it, and all this while serving Wayne County, as well, as their Dual Credit Coordinator.
It’s a dizzying amount of work, but she has true fervor to see students get a leg up on college by taking university courses while they’re still in high school. Currently, she’s responsible for Wayne, Cabell, Randolph and Webster counties and has overseen classes in South Charleston in Kanawha County. She works with both public and private schools
“The program has been at Marshall for about 15 years and lets high school students get some freshman courses under their belts. In the early days it was called ‘dual credit courses’ but that changed when some free-standing classes were offered,” she says. “I was fortunate to get in on the ground floor, helped to put the program together in its early stages. It has flourished in so many areas and helped so many people. It’s a wonderful opportunity for families to save money and for students to save time spent in college. Students can take as many classes as are available and as many as they can manage. We’ve had students in Wayne County who have actually entered Marshall as sophomores.”
She’s a tireless ambassador for the program, which has no downside, she says. She is always looking for new opportunities to take the program to new places. “Anytime I can get my foot in the door, I run right in,” she laughs.
One of the biggest advantages, she say,s is that there is a reduced fee for the courses taken through College Courses in the High Schools, which is overseen by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. She points out that once the students enter college, the program works well with the Promise Scholarship, which many of the participants receive. Another major cost saver is that for dual credit classes, textbooks are, many times, paid for by the counties.
Classes offered cover typical freshman subjects—English, math, history, languages and various sciences. Requirements for admittance into the program, teacher certification and adherence to Marshall policies are strict. For example, students must have a 3.0 average to take classes, no exceptions. “I have to identify school needs and marry them with what Marshall offers,” Campbell says. “The high school classes have to use the Marshall syllabus and the Marshall textbook. One thing that works out well is that the schools’ semester is longer than Marshall’s, so if there are any learning objectives that aren’t covered on the high school side, they have extra time to complete them.”
One continuing challenge is the recruitment of high school teachers who meet the rigorous MU academic departmental standards. An instructor must, for the most part, have a master’s degree in the field in which he or she is teaching, and must be approved by the corresponding academic department at Marshall. The teachers come mainly from high school faculties, but some do come from outside the schools, including retired teachers. Exceptions for educational credentials are occasionally made for hard-to-fill academic fields, she says.
Typically there are 30-40 sections going on each semester, with enrollment reaching as high as 450 for one semester, and Campbell does everything from start to finish for the areas she oversees. She travels extensively to the counties she serves. She’s constantly on the lookout for course possibilities and works with county boards of education and the administrations of private schools. Once a course is approved, she must locate an instructor, recruit students, oversee the applications and take care of the registrations. Then comes the follow-up— midterm D/F reports, evaluations to be distributed, and final grades. In Wayne County, her largest county, she collects all the fees, collates and puts the information on spreadsheets. “My job is very hands on, even in Randolph and Webster Counties, which are my most remote sites. I love going to both counties. I’ve established good relationships with county officials and with the teachers.”
One of her success stories is Harman School, a tiny school tucked away at the base of a mountain in a remote part of Randolph County, which is one of the few remaining K-12 schools to be housed in one building “We have a wonderful biology teacher there who teaches one course a year for us and would teach more if the schedules would permit. The good thing about the College Courses in the High Schools Program is that the students are increasingly considering Marshall because we have a presence there. I consider these classes to be a good recruitment tool for Marshall.”
In her quest to recruit students, Campbell has put together a presentation about the transition from high school to college that she will give “anytime, anyplace” she gets the opportunity. “In it, I talk about the transition because that often is a major stumbling block to being successful in college. I impress upon them how important it is to keep their GPAs up in order to keep the Promise and other scholarships they may receive. I talk with them about the balance between studying and doing ‘other’ things. I also discuss the differences in the way students study in college, keeping notes, taking different kinds of tests versus what they are used to doing high school. I tell them this is how you get to college, and this is how you study to stay there and graduate. These are very bright students, but anyone can get off track the first year of college.”
Campbell’s own college career includes two degrees from Marshall—a B.A. and a M.A., both in Communication Studies. She taught classes for Marshall as an adjunct before taking on her current career. Her daughter Hillary Mitchell, the mother of her two grandchildren Levi and Lydia--“the loves of my life” says Campbell, also has two degrees from Marshall. Campbell's son Gates is currently a junior majoring in English literature and a dean’s list student at MU. Son Spencer works for a mining machinery repair company and is currently completing an associate degree at Mountwest Community and Technical College. One of the fun things the family loves to do is watch four-year-old Lydia model at the Huntington Mall as part of the mall fashion board’s shows that are periodically staged there. “Lydia absolutely loves it,” her proud grandmother says. “After her first time on the runway, she came off absolutely thrilled and said, ‘That was serious fun!’ ”
Campbell is actively involved with her church, Christ Temple. She is grateful that all her children graduated from Grace Christian School and now both of her grandchildren attend there. In fact, Hillary substitutes as a teacher at Grace.
She is quick to stress that she sees retention as well as recruitment as part of her job.
“We want to get students to Marshall, but we want to keep them here as well. The
College Courses in the High Schools Program helps students be better prepared,
and they find out what college courses are like, and what rigors are expected.
It’s a college experience, it’s inexpensive, its hours they’ve gained, and
therefore there is just no downside to the program. I may help them get into
college but then the rest is up to them. I tell students, I don’t just want to
get you to Marshall, I want to see you walk across that commencement stage!”
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