MSCC, University of Memphis Expand Collaboration
With unanimous endorsement from our Board of Trustees, Mid-South Community College has partnered with the University of Memphis to enhance applied research and training activities related to transportation and chemical processing. Our collaboration with UofM goes back several years, but this memorandum of understanding solidifies and formalizes our relationship.
The University of Memphis recently hired a new president, Dr. M. David Rudd, and he has spent a fair amount of time watching what we’ve been doing, particularly in the alternative fuel arena. He understands that we have a fantastic facility and sees the wisdom in a collaboration that will generate great benefits in western Tennessee and eastern Arkansas. And we recognize that UofM has assets that will be particularly beneficial for us as well.
Without a doubt, this new partnership is a win-win situation. Our institution possesses a multitude of advanced laboratory resources in the Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center, and we also have technicians and instructional staff that can support applied research activities. What we don’t have is the depth of science and engineering talent to maximize utilization of our cutting-edge facility. I have said on more than one occasion that the Marion Berry Center is a Ferrari, and we need more people who can drive it. The University of Memphis can provide us with those Ferrari drivers.
Looking at the big picture, MSCC, UofM, and Southwest Tennessee Community College are all navigating toward a common goal: creating opportunities for our students to become skilled workers and land great jobs with Memphis-area companies. We are currently working with Southwest to develop an innovative, new process control technology program that will allow our graduates to access thousands of jobs that are available in Memphis today – yet another effort toward economic development through education.
A key component to our collaboration with the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee is Dr. Srikant Gir who serves as director of research and technology for the UofM Center for Biofuel Energy & Sustainable Technologies. Dr. Gir is already very familiar with our campus and facilities through his ongoing work here. He has focused his considerable talents and expertise on this alternative fuel technology effort for more than six years and has created a technology that has tremendous potential for our region.
Four years ago, Dr. Gir secured a $500,000 clean energy production and research award from the U.S. Department of Energy, and 70 percent of that funding came to West Memphis to advance MSCC’s efforts toward renewable fuel research and promotion of the region’s biofuel economy. That helped us jumpstart our efforts toward designing and building a world-class facility, and we are continuing to pursue opportunities related to clean/sustainable energy that will help us reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum products.
As a result of the most recent MOU, Dr. Gir will be spending additional time on our campus. With his help, our ultimate goal is to become a major player in the biofuel arena on three different fronts: production, testing, and education/training. Those goals are all well within our reach.
Our expanding regional partnerships with forward-looking and well-resourced institutions will help us in our efforts to positively impact the people of Crittenden County and the region. We are excited about the many opportunities that we anticipate will come our way as a result of these new collaborations.