Northeast State downtown site taking shape

May 4, 2012



Northeast State heads south

Community college’s downtown Johnson City site inches toward opening

Higher education in Washington County and downtown Johnson City will both get a boost in coming months when Northeast State Community College commences class offerings at its new teaching site in the Downtown Centre.

Northeast President Dr. Janice Gilliam says the first phase of renovation may still be complete in time for use of four classrooms this fall semester, which will start in late August.

“We really are trying for fall, but it will be a push,” Gilliam said during a recent visit to the Downtown Centre. The Johnson City Development Authority purchased the center from Washington County last year, and is leasing it to Northeast State. The JCDA also obligated $1 million of tax increment financing to help in the building’s renovation, which should yield around a dozen classrooms and plenty of administrative, student support and storage space.

“(Washington County Economic Development Council CEO) Robert Reynolds and (JCDA Chairman) Robert White were key in getting this through the JCDA, and we’re very appreciative of their vision,” Gilliam said.

“As gas prices go up, it’s going to become more and more important for us to be closer to the students,” Gilliam said. “I’ve seen that model work in North Carolina. It’s about the students, and we’ve got to make it more accessible. There’s so much talent out there, we just have to make it easy for them to get to us, and they’ll do the rest.”

The first cohort of students should number about 120, Gilliam said – four groups of about 30 students each taking a full load of courses.
“Within the first year I would hope we could get anywhere from 100 to 300 students,” she said, adding that the initial focus will be on general education courses that lead to a two-year associate degree.
Dr. Janice Gilliam in a future classroom at Northeast State's downtown Johnson City site.









"Then we’ll start putting in some other courses that are in demand. We’re working very closely with East Tennessee State University, and think it will benefit them as well.”

Gilliam said that’s because the “Tennessee Transfer Pathways” initiative, which allows students completing a two-year degree at a community college to seamlessly transfer to any Tennessee public university and enter as a junior.

“My vision is to help students like I was,” said Gilliam, who was from a small town in North Carolina and initially became a cosmetologist before working her way through undergraduate school and beyond.

“There are a lot of kids out there with huge potential, but just the thought of going off to a big university is daunting.”

Excitement is building about the site. “We’ve got a lot of faculty who want to teach there because they live in Johnson City. Within five years I’d say we’ll be looking at 1,000 students there, with day and evening, weekends, a full array of classes.”

Gilliam is also enthusiastic about the role community colleges will continue to play in preparing tomorrow’s workforce with the skill sets it needs.

“In skilled manufacturing, there are thousands of jobs going unfilled right now because there’s no education accessible. Many of these jobs can’t be outsourced … you have to have people here trained and ready to fill them, so we will certainly focus on workforce preparation at this site, too.”

For more information, visit and click on the “Off-Campus Sites” link on the left side of the homepage, then click on Northeast State at Johnson City.