Navarro College Waxahachie campus is gearing up for its 2013-2014 school year. The fall semester is set to kickoff Monday, Aug. 26. As the administrative staff prepares for the return of the students, they have their eyes set on another exceptionally academic year.

President of Ellis County campuses Dr. Kenneth Martin said the quality of courses combined with the excellent administrators and staff this year should be one of the best yet.

“We are really excited about this upcoming school year,” Martin said. “We are taking all of our departments to the next level, and it is for the betterment of our students.”

Martin said the science department will be extremely strong, as every instructor has obtained their doctorate.

“I don't know of any community college that can say that,” he said. “That is a really strong suit for our campus, and the students are going to benefit from that.”

Not only is the science department stepping it up when it comes to the level of teaching, but Dean of Academic Services Terry Gibson said they are adding another class in an effort to reach more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students.

“We really value the quality of education that we provide here,” Gibson said. “It is our goal to meet the needs of every student that comes on our campus. By increasing the level of instruction and providing an array of classes, we feel we can do that.”

Beginning this fall, students will have the opportunity to take organic chemistry, which could lead to a career as a forensic scientist, medical doctor, biotechnologist or pharmaceutical researcher.

“There is a growing interest in organic chemistry,” she said. “Especially in the STEM student population. We felt this was needed in order to retain more of those students.”

Kristen Walker, director of continuing education and protective services, added that the organic chemistry class, as well as many others being offered at Navarro are transferable to most four-year institutions. She said many students will be drawn to these courses simply because of that fact.

In addition to new classes, the college will also be adding new certificate programs to their repertoire. One such program, clinical massage therapy, is a two-semester certificate program and will launch next week. Assistant Dear of Business, Professional and Technical Education Dr. Don Capone said choosing to take the program into the direction of clinical massage was the idea of the advisory board, and he was thrilled when they suggested it.

“This is a really exciting opportunity,” Capone said. “If we had chosen to offer spa massage therapy, the options for our students would have been limited. The clinical massage therapy certificate is going to give them a broad employment field to enter into.”

Capone said the certificate is designed to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for graduates to take the national exam to become a licensed massage therapists.

“Upon graduation and certification students will have the option of working in a massage clinic, wellness centers, hospitals, spas, on cruise ships or open their own private practice,” he said. “The choice is theirs.”

He also stated that the class is at 80 percent capacity, but they encourage students to take advantage of the remaining space and register for the program.

Asset protection/loss prevention is another program that the administrative staff is hoping to see take off this fall. The asset protection/loss prevention course is also a two-semester certificate program. Capone said this is a growing field and the opportunities for students interested in this type of work are endless. He added there have been some misunderstandings when it comes to what this program entails.

“This program is not about receiving a certification so students can become a security guard at a retail store,” Capone said. “It is so much more involved than that, and there is a great need for these type of employees.”

He said the classes in the program combine criminal justice, accounting and management.

“It involves teaching students investigative and interrogation techniques,” Capone said. “Students must be able to read register tapes and review video surveillance tapes in an effort to protect the loss of the company.”

The college will also be launching an industrial automation program around its Shellnet U.S. Grant.

“We have a Department of Labor grant called Shellnet,” Capone said. “The grant provided $2.8 million to Navarro College and is funding industrial wiring, programmable logic controllers and industrial automation controllers.”

One of the programs that has been a strong force in Ellis County and continues to see growth is the dual credit program.

“Dual credit is huge right now,” Gibson said. “We lowered the tuition for dual credit courses, which is going to save the families more money in the long run.”

The courses for the program have been lowered to $150 per course, and Gibson said that has proven to be advantageous for the students and the college. She said that because of the high level of educational expectation throughout the county, the college is going to make dual credit courses available for qualified ninth and 10th graders.

“The goal is to introduce them to college life early so that we can set them up for success,” she said. “We will utilize the FYE (first year experience) course, which involves eight hours of big time instruction.”

Martin interjected that the fall projection is for 2,200 dual credit students.

When it comes to the continuing education department, Walker said they are seeing classes fill up quickly and the success of all the programs continues to increase.

She said if people were curious as to the success of the programs, the numbers speak for themselves. The workforce training and grant development program continues to see financial and trainee growth. Pactiv has brought in $680,00 and produced 245 trainees. JTEKT has brought in $186,000 and produced 240 trainees.

In addition, the law enforcement training program has maintained a 100 percent pass rate on the TCLEOSE exam. Walker said those classes are beginning to fill up quickly and students should seek to register immediately.

The fire science protection program saw a 96 percent pass rate from students on the TCFP exam and are more than halfway full.

Walker said the emergency medical services programs are continuing to grow and are typically at full capacity by the time the semester begins. She said the EMT program students received a 90 percent pass rate, while the paramedic students received a 94 percent pass rate.

Assistant Dean of Student Services Dr. John Howe said he is looking forward to the fall semester and being able to utilize the college's new building. He also discussed the importance of student life on the campus, which boosts morale and enthusiasm among students.

“As you look at higher education research, the closer (students are) connected to a campus community and the closer you are to faculty outside of class, the more likely you are to succeed at a college campus,” Howe said. “We have extremely dedicated faculty, so much so that our student activities director is also our math professor. Jeanette Underwood serves a dual role around here, and she does a phenomenal job. She has a very high energy, and is a great motivator for all the students.”

Howe said when Underwood took on this position as the coordinator in fall 2011, they were trying to get student government off the ground.

“This semester we are starting with six members,” Howe said. “We have four executive offices filled. To start with six members and to already have the student activities calendar planned for the entire year is absolutely fantastic.”

He said the goal of student services is not to only grow the college campus, but to have an impact on the community as well.

Registration has already started for the fall semester, but the administrative staff said it is not too late to get signed up for classes. To register or for more information, call 972-937-7612 or visit navarrocollege.edu.

Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.