Pinckneyville native Vickie Goldman is taking advantage of Rend Lake College’s offerings in an effort to upgrade her position at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, something she said she wouldn’t be able to do without RLC’s Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus.

Goldman is one of a growing number of people who are reaping the benefits of the Pinckneyville facility, continuing to raise its enrollment to record heights.

In Fall Semester 2002, the Pinckneyville campus served 212 students for a total of 316 credit hours, not including off-campus offerings and non-credit courses. For Spring Semester 2003, the number of students declined to 169, but the number of credit hours jumped to 479.5.

The number of students again climbed to 200 in Fall Semester 2003 and the number of credit hours continued to rise, reaching 514. This semester, 252 students are using the Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus for a total of 706.5 credit hours.

When off-campus and non-credit offerings are included, the Murphy-Wall Campus is now serving more than 300 students per semester.

"We are doing better than we hoped. The response has been better than we expected," said Rend Lake College President Mark Kern.

Most students working toward an Associate in Arts or Associate in Science degree can now take at least 90 percent of their courses at the Pinckneyville campus. Campus Coordinator Heather Bauersachs said the college switches scheduled classes each semester to allow students to take as many classes as possible in Pinckneyville.

Vice-President of Student Services Mary Roe said Bauersachs has been instrumental in the success of the Murphy-Wall Campus through public relations and marketing, activity in the Chamber of Commerce and visibility in the community.

Bauersachs said she speaks with representatives of local businesses and the community in order to learn the needs of the public. She also deals with high school students and counselors to determine their needs.

Another factor in the increased number of students and credit hours is a broad offering of distance learning courses. Instructors of these courses must visit the Murphy-Wall Campus on a regular basis in order to maintain a connection with the students there.

Businesses and industries also make use of the Murphy-Wall Campus for training. Bauersachs said if there is a specific training need, business and industry representatives can contact the campus and officials will work to fill that need.

Bauersachs said she also plans to increase offerings at the Pinckneyville campus’ "Children’s Camps" this summer, including sign language and computer classes.

Seven local instructors currently teach at the Murphy-Wall Campus, including Perry County Sheriff Keith Kellerman and Assistant State’s Attorney Marty Beltz.

All of these factors add up to a winning combination for students like Goldman. "I probably wouldn’t be able to take these courses if this campus was not here," she said. Goldman said she may go for a degree at some point, but is now taking computer courses to improve her odds of promotion at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, where she is in an upward mobility program.

In addition to computer training, Goldman also is taking several Community Education courses.

Traditional students Lyndsey McKinstry and Nate Dixon, both of Pinckneyville, echo Goldman’s sentiments about the convenience of the Murphy-Wall Campus. This semester, Dixon is taking all of his courses there and McKinstry takes all but one course there.

McKinstry plans to become an X-ray technician while Dixon is studying criminal justice.

Dixon said a closer campus makes college life much easier for him. McKinstry said she enjoys the smaller class sizes available at Pinckneyville.

"The teacher interaction is great," said McKinstry. "I’m very comfortable with them."

Classes available at the RLC Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus run the gamut from college-transfer to vocational offerings, remedial/developmental classes and GED (high school equivalency).

Kern said the concept of a Pinckneyville campus was the idea of Dr. Gene Stotlar, a retired general practitioner, who said Rend Lake College needed a presence in Pinckneyville. Initially, the college planned to renovate an existing building, but after looking at several possibilities, officials found renovation costs were too high and parking was too limited at these sites.

However, with help from former State Senator William L. "Bill" O’Daniel and State Senator David Luechtefeld -- each of whom was able to contribute $200,000 for the project from discretionary funds -- and donations from Murphy-Wall Bank and a private individual, the college was able to construct the $1 million facility.

"The architect did a very good job," said Kern. "It really stands out that it is a Rend Lake College facility." The Pinckneyville building matches well with the appearance of buildings on the main campus in Ina.

According to Kern, the Murphy-Wall Campus was built with the possibility of future expansion in mind.

The Rend Lake College Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus is located at 5680 Illinois Route 154. For more information about the campus, industrial/business training or Children’s Camps, contact Bauersachs at (618) 357-3742.

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