Virginia Tech and Halifax County, Virginia, announced plans to begin a new research-based outreach initiative relating to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Carole C. Inge, who formerly managed Longwood University's National Institute for Technology Policy and Research, will direct the Halifax outreach program. The announcement was made at a press conference held at the R. O. Harrell Trucking Company, west of South Boston.

This program, which will be based at the new Riverstone Technology Park west of South Boston on Route 58, will be designed to stimulate economic development, produce content for the broadband Internet service that is coming to Halifax County, and academic programs at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. It will also reinforce the Halifax County school system's STEM education efforts.

William Fitzgerald, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, made public a grant of up to $180,000 from the county to Virginia Tech to provide support for the university's first year of outreach operations in South Boston. "We are looking forward to many years of partnership," Fitzgerald said. "We have been impressed by Virginia Tech's contributions to Southside Virginia through the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville and invited the state's largest research university to join us in building the local economy in Halifax County."

John E. Dooley, vice provost for outreach and international affairs at Virginia Tech, explained that the university will work to enhance the capacity of STEM education in the region and will be seeking partnerships toward that end. "This is a research-driven initiative," Dooley said. "We will use our resources, including faculty expertise, for the economic and social well-being of this community."

The new outreach program will involve partnering with economic development and industrial development authorities to identify new STEM career education areas, building STEM-related research initiatives between Southside businesses and Virginia Tech faculty, and disseminating this information regionally, statewide, and nationally. Educating underrepresented groups about career opportunities and educational requirements for relevant jobs will follow. Virginia Tech will also foster relationships with Southside industries to provide custom programs and continuing education for professionals, thereby increasing local support from outreach for research and instruction.

"While we have weathered the worst of the job losses in our area during the last several years and unemployment has come down from a high of 12.6 percent to 8.3 percent in only nine months, we still have a lot of work to do," said Del. Clarke Hogan (R.-60th). "This cooperative venture between the broadband initiative, Riverstone Technology Park, and Virginia Tech is part of the answer and I'm very excited about this effort."

Ben Davenport, a business leader from Southside Virginia who serves as rector of Virginia Tech's Board of Visitors, told the audience "we must look to new models for improving the land-grant university's service to society in a changing world. We see our collaboration with Halifax County as a way to strengthen Virginia Tech's leadership role in the transfer of knowledge and expertise between the university and Southside Virginia to the benefit of both, and to support research and outreach activities that have potential for community and regional transformation."

Tim Franklin, director of Virginia Tech's Southside Outreach Programs, said that the Halifax partnership will supplement the university's comprehensive economic development strategy for Southside Virginia and will leverage resources, build programs, and disseminate information related to emerging technologies, e-learning, and e-business innovations.

Before joining Longwood University, Inge was an education policy analyst with the Virginia Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. As a co-founder of EdTek, Inc., she managed, designed, and implemented instructional and technical aspects of an 18-county-wide area network (WAN) in Southside Virginia.

Other speakers at the event were Rick Harrell, chairman of the Halifax County Economic Development Authority; John Cannon, chairman of the Industrial Development Authority Board; and Inge.

For Halifax County government information, contact Charlotte McDannald, cmcdannald@halifaxvirginia.com or 434/572-1734.