Big Sandy Community and Technical College President Dr. Devin Stephenson participated in a panel discussion on the TechHire initiative in eastern Kentucky.  Shown are Dr. Stephenson, Ankur Gopal, founder and CEO of Interapt, Jeff Whitehead, executive director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc.; Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR; and Paul Green, of the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative.

Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC), participated in a panel discussion entitled: Tech Hire and the Digital Economy at the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) conference on Monday, June 6 at the East Kentucky Expo Center.

It was an honor to talk about the possibilities and opportunities of innovation and collaboration that can and is going on across eastern Kentucky, said Dr. Stephenson. We are at a crossroads of opportunity. Its ours for the taking.

Others participating in the panel discussion were Jeff Whitehead, executive director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP); Paul Green, Ed.D., director of the Appalachian Technology Institute at the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative; and Ankur Gopal, CEO of Interapt.

Dr. Stephenson based his presentation on a quote from President Harry Truman: It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

We want to partner, leverage resources and watch the economies of scale work, he told those in attendance. When we work within the realm of true collaboration and innovation, we must collectively labor to be solution seekers and problem solvers. We must understand that we are the pieces to the puzzle of true transformation that will affect not only our generation, but generations to come.

Big Sandy Community and Technical College was the first college in Kentucky to launch a Fiber Optics training program last year. More than $3.2 million in grants from the Economic Development Agency, Appalachian Regional Commission and Community Development Block Grant has led to the construction of the states first Advanced Technology Center. The facility, which will open next year, will be the first fiber-to-the-desk structure in Kentucky and will house the colleges new Broadband Technology degree program which was approved earlier this year by the Kentucky Community and Technical College (KCTCS) Board of Regents. The program is just the third of its kind in the United States.

Dr. Stephenson said the creation of the Fiber Optic and Broadband Technology programs displayed the colleges entrepreneurial leadership style.

Entrepreneurial leaders see opportunities before they become obvious to others, said Dr. Stephenson.

The presentation highlighted the success Fiber Optics graduate Tyler Martin. Martin, of Floyd County, returned from working in New York to attend the SOAR summit. He is leaving for training in Texas, along with nine other BSCTC Fiber Optics graduates all laid off miners to train for positions working on a project with Google on the east coast.

If we have a digital, world-class infrastructure, we must complement it with world-class workforce training and education, said Dr. Stephenson. When you have world-class infrastructure and world-class human capital, I dont believe the sky is the limit, when there are footprints on the moon.

For more information on the colleges Fiber Optics and Broadband Technology programs, contact Sally Porter at (606) 218-1276 or email