Jay Falkner, president of Carl Albert State College (CASC) in Poteau and Sallisaw, was the guest speaker at the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce Membership Luncheon Wednesday at the CASC Sallisaw Campus.
Falkner told the large crowd, “The thing that matters the most to me. . .is making a positive impact on this community.”
Falkner said CASC wants to “help the community thrive and grow.”
He reviewed new programs CASC is undertaking for both the college and community.
Falkner said CASC is working with Sallisaw Schools to have high school students “college ready,” and some with college credits when they graduate from high school.
He said CASC is adding new academic programs and has added a psychology and sociology instructor.
“It is no secret the state has a teacher shortage,” Falkner said. “We are partnering with others to help solve the shortage.”
He reviewed the new program with Northeastern State University in Tahlequah that allows future teachers to complete their bachelor degrees through CASC, without having to take daily classes in Tahlequah.
“We are going to grow our own elementary education and special education teachers,” Falkner said.
CASC is also working with the Cherokee Nation on scholarships, and has received a grant through Native Americans Serving Nontribal Institutions. The grant is for $1,998,818 over a five year period, until Sept. 30, 2020. The program focuses on academic achievement and successful on-time graduation. Falkner said the grant is also being used to build a Native America Resource Center on the Sallisaw campus.
“This is a very important outreach for Native American students,” he said.
Falkner acknowledged that financial problems trouble CASC and the area. Budget cuts by the state to the college resulted in a reduction in force earlier this year.
“We are in uncharted water as an institution,” Falkner said.
But, he said, the college, its staff and students are planning to be more involved in the community and with the chamber of commerce.
Falkner also thanked CASC supporters present, including Dwight Spencer, his father Buddy Spencer, and the Stites family, as well as the family of Delores Mitchell.
“You are the folks who built this campus. . .and done an amazing thing. I can’t thank you enough,” Falkner said.
Falkner became CASC president on July 1. He previously served as president of the Poteau Junior College and superintendent of Poteau Schools.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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