Dr. Devin Stephenson, President of BSCTCWhen I applied for the position of president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC), I knew, firsthand, of its possibilities. I understand the dynamics of the region and the vital importance of a comprehensive community and technical college servicing the Big Sandy region.

Our role is as important as ever.

Theres no doubt the Big Sandy region is at a critical crossroads. High unemployment and declining population have us collectively asking Whats the problem?

Instead, we should be asking What are the possibilities? In the midst of challenges come great opportunities.

Through the SOAR (Shaping our Appalachian Region) initiative, the i-Highway project will bring world-class connectivity throughout our region, opening our doors to the global economy and commerce. SOAR and its regional approach, led by Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers, presents a unified regional approach to creating opportunity. Economic and workforce development is most effectively achieved on a regional level, and I feel BSCTC should be a leader in this initiative.

Economic developers are focused on bringing in the jobs and we should be a facilitator in that process, as we have the expertise to assess workers proficiencies, narrow the skills gap, create work-ready communities and lock arms with the many partners who play a vital role in positioning our region for growth. I feel that if we condition ourselves to change, we can play a critical role in making things happen. Our success will be based upon our partnerships, responding to changing educational needs and providing innovative delivery systems.

I see BSCTC as a change agent a vibrant, dynamic community of learners dedicated to engaging with every organization, entity and consortium possible for the purpose of opening doors of opportunity. I see our college as possibility thinkers and possibility doers.

As the Big Sandy region continues to evolve, so does BSCTC. Through our BuildSmart initiative, we are finishing a planning phase of an expansion on our Pikeville campus. This will include the construction of a 60,000 square-feet facility doubling our existing space and a parking garage that will not only benefit the college, but also the city of Pikeville and the adjacent East Kentucky Expo Center.

At the end of the day, its not about buildings or campuses; its about students and caring and compassionate employees. Its about what goes on within the walls of our buildings and at home through online learning. Its about success. Its about the smile on the face of a graduate as they walk across the stage. Its about the journey to that point, the stories of overcoming obstacles or becoming one of the more than 19,000 first-generation college students we have served since 2008.

Its about our success as a region. Its about a unified effort. Its about being One East Kentucky.

I look forward to the opportunities ahead, and I hope you will work collectively with us to help our students and our region find a Passion for the Possible.

Devin Stephenson is President of Big Sandy Community and Technical College