IMPACT delivers first graduate, expands strategic partnerships in first year
Radford University’s IMPACT program has made significant progress since its groundbreaking debut last October, most notably with a major philanthropic contribution, numerous private and public partnerships, a historic grant and the program’s first graduate, to date.
IMPACT, or, Innovative Mobile Personalized Accelerated Competency Training, is a competency-based education (CBE) program that is training working professionals for high-demand professions in cybersecurity, geospatial intelligence and education throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.
It is the first of its kind among four-year public institutions in Virginia.
Executive Director Matt Dunleavy, Ph.D., and several of his colleagues began designing the program in front of a blank whiteboard on March 13, 2017, he recalled.
“And in light of the fact that we’ve only been underway for a year and three months, I’d say we’re making outstanding progress,” Dunleavy said. “This is the direct result of a strong campus-wide effort that rallied around the innovative vision set forth by President Hemphill.”
IMPACT officially launched Oct. 1, 2017, with an initial focus on cybersecurity to help address the critical need for cybersecurity trained professionals in the Virginia workforce, and to leverage Radford University’s nationally-recognized information technology security program.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited Radford’s campus to celebrate the program’s statewide influence in a ceremonial launch on Sept. 8, 2017.
“You are leading the country, you’re making Virginia proud, you’re building a new economy in the Commonwealth of Virginia and you are giving all of these students a key to success so that they can provide for their families and participate in the American dream,” McAuliffe told IMPACT supporters.
This spring, IMPACT expanded its curriculum to include geospatial intelligence. The program has maintained a 100 percent retention rate and, just recently, delivered its first graduate.
Stacey Howard, director of Technology for Radford City Public Schools, completed the full cybersecurity certificate in seven months.
He called IMPACT “the best online class that I have ever taken.”
“The knowledge that I have gathered from this program is invaluable, as I have already put it to good use in my workplace,” he said.
In addition to cybersecurity and geospatial intelligence, the IMPACT Lab has expanded its offerings to include K-12 teacher professional development with the award of a historic grant.
Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill announced last fall that the IMPACT Lab had been awarded a $13.9 million grant - the largest in the university’s history - by the U.S. Department of Education’s Supporting Development (SEED) Grant Program (Award #: U423A170051).
The SEED grant is funding additional IMPACT curriculum, called Appalachian Support for Specialized Education Training (ASSET). ASSET will provide training for general educators “to reach and teach all of their students and help them meet ever-diversifying classroom needs,” Dunleavy said.
“General educators, especially in rural areas such as Appalachia, often do not have access to high-quality professional development training to meet the diverse needs of their students. Our objective is to help address this challenge by providing engaging and effective online, competency-based professional development,” he continued.
As of May 31, 457 teachers and administrators have been recruited from across Southwest Virginia and Pennsylvania to participate in ASSET. A total of 5,000 will be trained during the grant’s three-year course, which runs through Sept. 30, 2020. ASSET launches this fall.
As IMPACT continues to expand, so does the generosity of its supporters and the number of its partnerships.
In March, local entrepreneur Vinod Chachra, Ph.D., gifted the university a significant financial donation to specifically support IMPACT. In recognition of his generosity, the university named the program’s laboratory the Vinod Chachra IMPACT Lab. The lab is located at Radford University Corporate Park, adjacent to campus.
Just weeks later, on April 26, 2018 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam attended a signing ceremony wherein the newly-named Vinod Chachra IMPACT Lab entered into a partnership with TRGroup, LLC, to provide cybersecurity training to credit union staff in more than 800 locations across seven states to keep assets secure from cybercrime.
“Radford University aspires to become a national provider of competency-based workforce development in high-demand fields,” Dunleavy said. “We want to serve our immediate community in the Commonwealth to address critical labor deficits, and we are confident this can serve other states across the nation. Radford University faculty are providing world-class training and we look forward to sharing this expertise with our current and future partners.”
In addition to TRGroup, IMPACT’s current partners are: Montgomery County Public Schools; Radford City Public Schools; Ennoble First; VCOM; Giles County Public Schools; Radford City Police Department; Private Advisors, LLC; Radford University; Buchanan County Public Schools; Henry County Public Schools; NC4; Mecklenburg County Public Schools and New College Institute (NCI).
IMPACT in its entirety, from the initial brainstorming sessions to the official launch to the program’s promising future, would not be possible without “Radford University’s outstanding faculty and the talented IMPACT Lab team,” Dunleavy said.
He specifically credited professors Drs. Prem Uppuluri (cybersecurity), Andrew Foy (geospatial intelligence), and Brooke Blanks (ASSET) for their dedication to the program.
Looking forward, Dunleavy said, IMPACT continues to seek funding to provide CBE training to meet the needs of the work force in the Commonwealth and beyond.
“That’s our mission,” he said. “To provide working adults with career-advancing skills and to strengthen our strategic partners’ workforce.”