From Coal Miner to Coder

It’s a few years after graduation and I am the Chief Innovation Officer of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. So far, my college mainly offers technical work-ready skills like coal mining, gas drilling, and business management to its community body; but with a rise in unemployment, a drop in the coal industry, a hike in obesity, and an epidemic for oxycontin abuse that’s highest in the nation (this is all true), I would suffice to say that our school isn’t addressing the real-life needs of the community. My first move as the Chief Innovation Officer at the college would be to integrate Inter-sectoral coordination with Cargill‘s President and Chief Operating Officer, David MacLennin, to address the educational inefficiencies of my organization. The reason I’m choosing Cargill through David MacLennin is because the community has such an abundance of natural, healthy resources that simply aren’t being taken advantage of by the community, such as ginseng, pawpaws, ramps, and many other region-specific produce in the state. Cargill “..provides agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world, together with farmers, customers, governments and communities..” and I would use this framework to make my community college a cross-sectoral partner. Other states like Kentucky have already implemented “coding” facilities for retired coal miners and the project has proven very successful for people like Drew Westmore in the picture feature for this blog.

As CIO, I would work with the faculty, staff, professors, president, and board to restructure the list of courses offered at our college to be more applicable to our community (after all, it IS a community college). The courses included would be “Alternative Native Healthy Eating 101,” “Agri-prenuership 101,” “Alternative Energy 202,” and “Rural Entrepreneurship 101.” These courses would be made possible by the leadership, education, and sponsorship of Cargill:

“…Cargill provides corporate support to select national and global nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that serve communities in which we have a business presence. We support partners working within our focus areas of food security and nutrition, education and environmental stewardship.”

Being blessed with the opportunity to obtain the level of education and connections my brother Josiah and I have obtained from Bucknell, we would see it as not only “right” to give back to our community what they helped us achieve, but to see it as our “duty” to our people, family, and friends. This makes me believe that Immanuel Kant would possibly agree most with my plans to innovate, as he views people as a “means unto themselves” and not the industry inputs that maybe my college had viewed them before with our inapplicable courses for the community issues.

Of course, my college would be one of the participants immediately affected by these changes in that the focus, maybe even the mission statement, of the college would be redirected to be relevant to its community in this modern age of new challenges and opportunities. Secondly, and more broadly, the people of the community would be affected by the changes in the class offerings to where their skill sets wouldn’t revolve around dying energy mediums, and would instead focus on the abundant options available to the region that can provide them with healthy, happy lifestyles.


6 thoughts on “From Coal Miner to Coder

  1. “Alternative Native Healthy Eating 101”

    So many things that could be going on in this class.

    Alternative Natives learning how to eat healthily.

    Run-of-the-mill natives teaching us to eat healthy, in alternative ways.

    Us eating natives in an alternative way, as opposed to how they are usually eaten.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Actually though, very practical and useful call. I forgot that this is one big reason we didn’t go there. Simply change the curriculum. I would say you would have a hard time convincing the board and the president of that change, but definitely an innovation for that place. You’d also have to think about whether or not you are providing end-to-end support for people who takes these classes or possibly some major like this. Where will they work? What networks can you connect them with? Will they leave the state for more sustainability friendly areas that they can be paid well in?


  3. I love how you took a very different approach from other posts. I am not very familiar with the kind of college that you are referring, but the ideas that you are putting out there certainly make sense from a duty standpoint and also from the viewpoint of improving the use of a cross-discipline-based college experience, which can benefit any student no matter their college major or discipline.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I find your idea to be interesting because it aims to alleviate a social problem, but it can also be scaled up very well. “After all it is a community college,” seemed to make a ton of sense to me. Why aren’t commuity colleges offering things that can work in the immediate local area. Going to a community college with no intention of transferring after the associate’s degree will not compete well on the job market. I like the idea of training and teaching skills useful for the environmental, and economic situation around them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. it is also interesting how community colleges have filled a gap left behind by the land grate schools like U of Kentucky, u of W Virginia and so on. Their agricultural schools, originally, would have served many more people since the population ws so heavily agricultural 100-50 years ago. But helping service or manufacturing workers transition is not part of the mandate of agricultural, and its resources focus more and more on agribusiness since that is where most agriculture takes place.

    So, maybe you can help revitalize the virtuous cycle of public education and local economic growth.

    Liked by 1 person

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