Despite a shaky past, Union College reported at the September 26 Knox County Chamber of Commerce meeting that it has not only worked on making amends with Barbourville, but now does more for the community than ever before and vice versa.
“I know there have been moments in the college’s history where maybe the college took Barbourville for granted and didn’t do some of the work that it needed to be doing in the community,” admitted Dr. David Johns, Union College’s Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. “I think that’s something we heard loud and clear and really took the steps to address. We want to make sure that the Barbourville community knows the college is here.”
In recent years, Union has taken many steps to give back to Barbourville, including a substantial economic impact and programs to help locals. Currently, Dr. Johns reports Union College has a $40 million economic impact on the community and is the second largest employer in Knox County.
Furthermore, Union College brings the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour to town. This is a film festival of five to six independent films that are displayed on Union’s campus. The college also brings the director of the films to campus to open a conversation. This is one of many activities open to the community.
Union College also participates in the Golden Can challenge every year, collecting thousands of pounds of food that is donated to Kentucky Harvest Southeast, an organization that feeds hundreds of locals, including students in area schools. Dr. Johns reports to date, the college has collected and donated 40,000 pounds of food.
Through various dual credit and tuition assistance programs, Union has made it possible for the first time in years for local students to afford a higher education at Union College. Dr. Johns reports that through these programs, students can earn up to three semesters of free classes, making Union affordable despite rumors which suggest otherwise.
There is one thing Dr. Johns reports local businesses can do in return to help the college and its students:
“Just be here and show our students that there are people in the community who care about them. The impact that we make at Union is huge… we have a vested interest in the community and I think the community has a vested interest in our health and success as well.”
In other announcements, it was made known that Prayer on the Square will be held October 1 at 7 p.m. in the District Courtroom; a community reception for Dr. Vic Adams will be held September 28 from 5-7 p.m. at Forcht Bank, and Tractor Supply will have a ribbon cutting on September 29 at 4 p.m.
The next Chamber meeting will be held October 31 at 11:45 a.m. at Knox Central High School.