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Catawba seeks Research Campus role

By Emily Ford
Salisbury Post
Catawba College should have an advantage over other small, private schools clambering to participate at the N.C. Research Campus.
One of Catawba’s star graduates runs the show.
Lynne Scott Safrit, an inaugural inductee into the Catawba College Business Hall of Fame, directs development of the $1.5 billion biotechnology center rising in downtown Kannapolis.
Davidson College, Elon University and Pfeiffer University are all aggressively pursuing relationships with the Research Campus and its higher education partners, the University of North Carolina system and Duke University.
Catawba is not far behind.
The college’s new president says finding a role for Catawba at the Research Campus is a priority.
“Of the many issues I have great interest in and concern about, that is certainly near the top,” Dr. Craig Turner said from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Tex.
He starts work in Salisbury June 1.
“This project could have worldwide implications,” Turner said. “Catawba College certainly needs to be a part of that.”
The college started exploring ways to get involved about a year ago.
Catawba might offer a new major in biotechnology. Dr. Steve Coggin, chairman of the biology department, has submitted a proposal to administrators asking for $300,000 to fund one new faculty position, plus equipment.
The new major would better prepare students for careers at the Research Campus and similar sites, he said.
If approved, Catawba could offer the major in 2009. The program would accept 10 students the first year and build to 30.
Many of Catawba’s 50 biology majors could have internships at the Research Campus as well, Coggin said. And faculty members could collaborate with the researchers and companies that will start flocking to the campus this summer, when the Core Lab opens.
“I have been very excited about it since it was announced,” Coggin said. “It is a tremendous opportunity to have this sort of institution this close.”
Catawba has a committee of faculty and staff brainstorming ways to play a role in Kannapolis, said Phil Kirk, college vice president for external relations.
Catawba’s music program and its renowned theater department could participate in the performing arts center at the Research Campus, Kirk said.
Dr. Gary Freeze, a Catawba professor and expert on Kannapolis history, and his students could contribute to a textile museum, Kirk said.
The college also has expertise in early childhood development, which could benefit the child-care center, he said.
Catawba just needs to find its niche, Safrit said.
“I think it’s crafting the appropriate role that we have been wrestling with,” she said.
Safrit, who serves on Catawba’s board of trustees, gives the board regular updates and said she’s looking forward to meeting Turner, the new president.
Although Davidson, Elon and Pfeiffer might be farther along in their pursuit, Catawba is not too late, she said.
Safrit spoke at Catawba recently at the request of students Ryan Dayvault and Meagan Kittle. About 75 students and faculty attended the forum, which included Research Campus representatives from Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State.
Dayvault and Kittle want to make sure Catawba understands the impact of the Research Campus.
“There’s never been anything this big to happen in this region since textiles came to Kannapolis,” said Dayvault, who grew up in the mill town. “This is going to be even bigger.”
Dayvault, a political science major who hopes to work for campus developer Castle & Cooke, advocates a multi-disciplinary approach to getting involved.
Catawba’s environmental science, business, political science and biology departments all could play a role, he said.
“There’s just no end,” he said. “It’s so huge that many people can’t see how big this is.”
With Catawba’s proximity, the Research Campus could help the college make a bigger name for itself across the region, Dayvault said.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a basketball team on TV right now like Davidson,” he said, “But we can do it in other ways.”
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Contact Emily Ford at eford@salisburypost.com or 704-797-4264.

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