MOUNT VERNON — September’s First Friday festivities focused on, and were sponsored by, the area’s institutions of higher learning — Central Ohio Technical College, Kenyon College and Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
Carrying out the theme “College Night,” each school had an information booth on Public Square to help make the community aware of what is available, and to illustrate how each serves the needs of its students.
Each of the educational institutions fills a different niche in the community. COTC is a two-year technical college serving mostly nontraditional students whose average age is 28. It grants associate degrees and certificates. Kenyon is a four-year liberal arts college, and MVNU is a four-year Christian school which also offers a variety of graduate-level courses and programs.
One highlight of the evening was the grand opening of MVNU’s new visual arts center and the Schnormeier Gallery. The inaugural art exhibit, called “Heavenly Days,” was co-curated by MVNU art professor John Donnelly and Kenyon art professor Marcella Hackbardt. Throughout the year, the gallery will feature artwork by other Ohio college professors, as well as professors from MVNU and Kenyon.
Matthew Schell, 10, and his mother, Sandy Schell, were somewhat overwhelmed by the different art styles on display at the gallery, but Sandy was delighted the building has been renovated and reopened.
“This is a wonderful use of an old building that has been empty for a long time,” she said.
Besides the visual arts collaboration, the three schools cooperate on other ventures.
“We have a wonderful relationship with both schools,” said Joel Daniels, a COTC vice president.
For example, he said, MVNU has an articulation agreement with COTC. That means COTC students can seamlessly transfer from the two-year program and enter MVNU and complete a four-year program.
There is also collaboration regarding the nursing programs at COTC and MVNU, Daniels said, and Kenyon College has designated a scholarship for any COTC student who wants to go to Kenyon after two years at COTC.
Jesse Matz, advisor to Kenyon President S. Georgia Nugent, said the college offers the scholarship to COTC Phi Theta Kappa graduates who otherwise meet Kenyon’s admission requirements. Matz explained that Kenyon recognizes there are diverse paths to a college degree, and the merit scholarship is one way to enable qualified community college students to continue their education.
The cooperation goes beyond “sharing” students. For instance, all schools participate in the Food for the Hungry campaigns, and literary programs such as this fall’s “Big Read” book giveaway. Also, COTC rents a chemistry lab at MVNU for COTC students to use, and MVNU has a cordial relationship with Kenyon in a number of non-academic areas as well.
“For example,” said MVNU vice president Henry Spaulding, “we have generators in case the power goes out and they have generators. If our power goes out and theirs does not, they may share with us and if theirs goes out, we may share with them.”
Matz said the schools are also working together on what he called “mutual aid” agreements, coordinating emergency response plans. Specifically, he said, they are holding discussions with regard to the possibility of an H1N1 outbreak.
Visitors to First Friday could participate in other activities as well. Additional artwork was on display at at the B&O Depot, North Main Gallery, The Root Gallery and Creative Foundations. Other activities included a cruise-in on the square, live music, Woodward Opera House tours and the volleyball tournament finale.