Last semester, River Valley Community College (RVCC) partnered with Keene State College to co-locate on campus. RVCC took over the space on 67 Winchester Street for administrative offices and uses classrooms on the KSC campus, as well as labs and storage space. This partnership is now one full semester in the making, so how’s it going thus far?
KSC President Melinda Treadwell and RVCC President Alfred Williams embarked on a media tour on Friday, February 14, to update the community on this. According to both Treadwell and Williams, the partnership has been going well so far without complaints. One River Valley faculty member, professor of biological science and the department chair for science and technology Julie Robinson, said that her job has not been impacted in a negative way since the move to KSC.
“I’m still teaching the same classes I would have taught at our old building, but now the lab space is bigger and it’s really well-equipped,” Robinson said. “The lab manager and technician and all the faculty in the Science Center have been really kind and helpful.”
Robinson also shared an anecdote of one of her River Valley students asking a KSC faculty member a question about the greenhouse in the Science Center. That faculty member then proceeded to bring the student down to the greenhouse, answer all her questions and gave her a plant to take home, despite not even knowing the student.
“Some of my students were a little nervous the first week or so that they wouldn’t integrate well or that they were ‘outsiders.’ I don’t see any of that,” Robinson said.
Prior to the partnership, there was concern from some at Keene State that the college’s identity and vision would be lost in this process.
“There were some questions about whether we were blurring our identity by welcoming the community college,” Treadwell said. “Those, to me, are arguments of something new and different, rather than reasons not to pursue it.”
Now, River Valley and Keene State are looking for ways to better integrate River Valley students’ experiences with KSC culture. The hope is to also make it easier for any River Valley student who is looking to transfer to KSC upon receiving some credits at River Valley.
“We’re working on things now like meal plans for River Valley students and rec center memberships,” Treadwell said. “What are the ways for us to create not only an ad hoc community but chances for them to be a part of other things here and be a part of the sports scene and music and cultural scene in ways that are more welcoming.”
One major way in which the two institutions will be working together moving forward is through an evolving nursing program.
“We’re looking at what additional programs River Valley can offer now that we have a different kind of space. The LPN (licensed practical nurse) program is a program we’re going to be starting next year,” Williams said.
“What I know from this community is that we need other nursing credentials in addition to the bachelor’s we offer,” Treadwell said. “River Valley starting up an LPN, thinking about an LNA (licensed nursing assistant), getting stronger and visible as a place where you can get an RN (registered nurse), is helping people see the great quality programs in nursing that River Valley offers and those entry-level credentials that make a huge difference for this region. For River Valley to offer those at Keene State is really important and it’s necessary for this region when you think about elder care and hospital needs.”
The institutions will also be looking at ways to offer different certificates and microcredentials that could help people already in the workforce who are looking to advance their skills. River Valley is also looking at classes they offer that Keene State students may be interested in, like their sign language class. Williams hopes that the new number of opportunities this partnership offers will attract more people to the region.
“Not being a native of New Hampshire, I see that New Hampshire is a great place to live and raise a family. The college-going rates should be higher and we need to have more of those students stay in New Hampshire after they go to college,” Williams said. “This just fits into my mission as a community college president, to have more students be interested in coming to college.”
There is also hope that this partnership will inspire other institutions to do the same.
“If we make this work, it’s a new model for how two and four-year institutions would work together to create a new business model for access and affordability,” Treadwell said. “We have very high-quality programs. It makes sense. We’re not losing our identity in this, we’re actually strengthening opportunity webs.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at