For the last two months on the trail for my husband, I have been traveling across Virginia touring colleges and community colleges to see state-of-the-art academic facilities. At each stop, I’ve learned about the innovative programs they offer that ensure our workforce remains one of the most competitive in the nation and the world.
But the schools I’ve visited did not always have such state-of-the-art virtual classrooms for distance learning or innovative science, math and technology labs.
In 2008, during my husband’s term as governor of Virginia, he worked with members of both parties to pass a record higher education bond package. Under his leadership, Democrats and Republicans came together to allocate more than $1.4 billion to renovate and construct academic facilities throughout the Commonwealth.
On paper, the bipartisan bond package – the largest higher education construction bond package in our state’s history – is an impressive accomplishment. But it’s impossible to really appreciate what more than a billion dollars does for our students until you see the results first-hand.
The first stop on my tour brought me to Tidewater Community College’s (TCC) campus in Virginia Beach. Members of the faculty walked me through their Science Building, which thanks to bond package-funded renovations, is now home to world-class astronomy labs, oceanography labs, and a brand new planetarium. The faculty explained that the modern classrooms and equipment the students use at TCC are designed to prepare them to use similar materials in jobs when they graduate.
Several weeks later, I stopped by Virginia State University (VSU) in Petersburg to tour Hunter McDaniel Hall and visit with students studying to become nurses. When I stepped into the classroom, set up like a functioning hospital floor, the students were not pouring over medical textbooks (although, I’m sure they do plenty of that) - they were studying what looked and sounded like a living, breathing patient. The soon-to-be nurses explained they were learning to place IVs and evaluate the vitals of their “sim man,” an electronic, simulated patient model that reacts in real-time to treatment. It’s clear, the real-life equipment and training VSU offers will prepare these nurses to walk out the door ready to transition into the expanding health care field.
At TCC, VSU, and the many other campuses I’ve visited that have benefited from bond package funds, the innovative facilities and forward-thinking curriculums represent what we can do when our leaders come together to improve the lives of all Virginians. My husband saw an opportunity in 2008 - interests rates were low, construction costs were low, and we needed to create jobs - to find common ground to improve our educational infrastructure for the long term. As a result, today Virginia students are graduating from our universities, community colleges and workforce training programs ready to enter high-skill jobs in a globally competitive market.
At every stop along the way, the students, educators and faculty I met agree that we can’t afford more of the same paralyzing gridlock in Washington. Tim’s commitment to results-oriented, work-together leadership is what we need in Congress, and I’m confident Tim will bring our leaders together to continue to improve educational opportunities for all Virginians and Americans.