NPRC does not operate on a single traditional campus-based model; nor is it an online college. The NPRC utilizes multiple locations across the region to deliver its programming.
Courses are offered in a variety of ways, including in the classroom, via live interactive video technology, and through hands-on learning with equipment and lab facilities.
Established by the Pennsylvania Legislature and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in May of 2017, the Regional College is a two year institution offering associate degrees leading to work or transfer, and career focused certificate programs similar to a community college. Also similar to community colleges, the programs offered by the Regional College will reflect the needs of local business, industry, and service providers. Unlike community colleges, the Regional College has no county sponsor or sponsors, and does not require a county contribution to its operating budget.
The roots of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College lie in a collaboration between the Education Consortium of the Upper Allegheny (ECUA) and Erie’s Gannon University. ECUA and Gannon have been delivering college courses through the Regional College model for over 3 years.
Meet the Team
Dr. Joseph Nairn
Dr. Joseph T. Nairn became the founding President of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College in July 2017, just two months after the formal establishment of the college by the Pennsylvania Department of Education on May 25, 2017.
Dr. Nairn has nearly 40 years of higher education experience in private and public institutions. He began his career at Thiel College as a college admissions counselor before earning a master’s degree in student personnel services in higher education at the University of Vermont. He then spent 25 years at Rochester Institute of Technology, a career oriented private institution in Rochester, New York. In 2008 he moved to Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua NY where he served as Executive Assistant to the President and Chief Advancement Officer. In 2014, he completed a Doctor of Management degree in Community College Policy and Administration from the University of Maryland University College.
Dr. Nairn is a first generation college student. The oldest of four children, his father was a steelworker and his mother a homemaker in Aliquippa, PA. He attended Thiel College, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. While at Thiel he developed a transfer admissions application and process and worked with several two year institutions across western Pennsylvania.
At RIT, he worked in student affairs, academic affairs, continuing education, and enrollment management. In 1999 he developed a tuition plan for dislocated workers that received national attention from the University Continuing Education Association and the Innovations in Continuing Education Award. The PREP (Professional Re-employment Education Program) continues to serve qualified dislocated workers 20 years later. From 2001-2008, he travelled extensively in India, Sri Lanka, and the Dominican Republic recruiting graduate students and establishing partnerships with colleges and universities overseas.
At FLCC, Dr. Nairn served as accreditation liaison officer and director of institutional research, including establishing FLCC’s Institutional Review Board and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. He has served as a team member on several Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation teams, and as a consultant for International recruiting and preparation for state licensure in New York.
Personally, he enjoys live music, reading, Scottish heritage activities, and museums. He and his wife Terri, have three adult children and one granddaughter.
Dr. Debra Teachman
Vice President for Academics and Student Affairs
Dr. Debra Teachman became the First Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College on May 30, 2017, just five days after the formal approval to establish the college by the Pennsylvania Department of Education on May 25, 2017.
Dr. Teachman has nearly 30 years’ experience of professional higher education experience. After completing a Ph.D. in English language and literature in 1990 from the University of California, Davis, she taught for St. Peter’s University in Jersey City NJ, and for Marshall University in Huntington WV, before moving to southern New Mexico in 1997, where she worked at the National Solar Observatory and for the Alamogordo public schools, along with teaching part-time for New Mexico State University Alamogordo (NMSUA), a community college within the State University system.
In 2003, Dr. Teachman took on the position of Vice President for Academic Services at NMSUA, serving in that position until late 2013. During her time at NMSUA, she coordinated efforts to bring in over $12 million in federal grants to supplement state funds supporting development of programs in technology fields, as well as to build a new student tutoring and testing center which provides students with one-on-one and group tutoring and secure online testing options for students. A new Allied Health addition to the Science Center was built that provides state-of-the-art labs and classrooms for Nursing and EMS classes. The Advanced Technology Center was also built, funded through a local bond election. The Advanced Technology Center was designed to house technical programs such as Automotive and Hybrid Technology, Construction Technologies, and Renewable Energy Systems Technology. In response to industry needs, the Biomedical Equipment Technology program also developed as an offshoot of the longstanding and highly regarded Electronics Technology program during this time.
In 2006-2007, Dr. Teachman served as interim president for one academic year, during which she developed a new executive team for the college, and worked with that team to update institutional processes such as budgeting and planning to provide greater accountability for all departments within the college.
Dr. Teachman returned to West Virginia in 2013 to serve as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Services at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. While there she led in the reorganization of academic affairs and student services to provide stronger integration of services for students. Under her leadership, several new programs were begun, including Welding Technology, Mechatronics, Strategic Business Integration, and Health Information Management.
As a first-generation, non-traditional, location-bound college student from a largely rural area in Illinois, Dr. Teachman understands the challenges students can face academically, financially, and practically as they try to find the right college opportunity for them. When she heard about the mission and the delivery model of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College, she immediately knew that she wanted to be part of this important and innovative project that helps those who need or want to attend an affordable college close to home that focuses on meeting students where they are and helping them achieve success in the ways best suited to them.
Dean of Curriculum and Instruction
Ms. Melinda Saunders joined the faculty and administrative team of NPRC as the college’s first Dean of Curriculum and Instruction in March 2018.
A life-long West Virginian, Ms. Saunders is excited to share her 20+ years of experience providing accessible and affordable quality education to the residents of Appalachia with those in NPRC’s service region. From 1994 through 2018, Ms. Saunders served Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in various roles, including Professor of Mathematics, Chair of the Department of Mathematics, Division Head of University Transfer, and Chair for the School of Arts and Sciences. Under her leadership, Southern implemented a co-requisite model for delivery of developmental and college-level mathematics and English which provided a pathway for direct entry into gateway math and English courses for all students entering the open-door institution. The program resulted in opportunity for accelerated degree completion, saving students time and money. As Chair for the School of Arts and Sciences, Ms. Saunders developed the curriculum transfer agreement for the partnership between Southern and The University of Pikeville School of Optometry which awards students 90 credit hours in transfer and direct admission into the school’s professional program. Other notable recent accomplishments include presentations on models promoting rapid degree completion and success in mathematics and writing at the West Virginia Student Success Summit (2015), the West Virginia Community College Association/West Virginia Association of Developmental Educators Joint Conference (2015), and the John N. Gardner Institute Gateway Course Experience Conference (2016).
Ms. Saunders was honored with the Sava-Kostas Outstanding Faculty Award (2000) and the Joanne Jaeger-Tomblin President’s Award (2003). She was named as an Outstanding Contributor of the Year by the West Virginia Community College Association (2014). As a member of the West Virginia State Math Task Force Committee (2016-2018), Ms. Saunders worked to align mathematics curriculum to establish criteria for statewide guaranteed pre-requisite transfer of mathematics courses. She was nominated to the inaugural class of the President’s Future Leaders Academy at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College (2009-2011) and was a member of the West Virginia Deans Academy (2017-2018).
An alumnus of Marshall University, Ms. Saunders earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Master of Science in Physical Science. She holds a permanent West Virginia Teaching License with certifications in chemistry, physics, general science, and mathematics. During her tenure at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, Ms. Saunders taught a variety of science and math courses, including courses in algebra, mathematics for elementary education, trigonometry, calculus, and physics.
Ms. Saunders understands the life-changing value of postsecondary education. The product of a building supplies salesman father and a homemaker mother, cracking the door as a first-generation college student helped pave the educational path for the three children she and her husband share. All three children parlayed their Bachelor’s degrees into professional careers. As a life-long learner, the eldest has earned multiple degrees, including a Master of Science in Environmental Science; the youngest daughter holds an M.D. and is a second-year pediatric resident.
Beginning her pursuit of post-secondary education as a high school dual enrollment student, Ms. Saunders completed 26 college credits during her senior year of high school. Subsequently, she completed her first year as a full-time college student at a community college. She embraces the regional approach to the delivery of educational services as it afforded her the opportunity to achieve her educational goals while living in her home community and taking care of her family. Ms. Saunders is eager to share her academic and personal philosophy of helping people achieve greater success through education with those in the NPRC community.
Aldo R. Jackson, Ph.D.
Dean of Erie
Dr. Jackson was the director of the Erie County Technical School from 1997 to 2018. During his tenure with ECTS, the school established a quality management system accredited to the ISO 9001:2015 standard. In 2010, ECTS was selected as one of the first five Pennsylvania CTE Best Practices Initiative sites. His prior professional experiences include instructor with the Workforce Education and Development department at the Pennsylvania State University, and a marketing education teacher and an adult education director with the Great Oaks Career Development Campuses in Cincinnati, Ohio.
While at Penn State, he acquired his Ph.D. in Vocational Education. He also holds a M.Ed. in Business Education and a B.S. in Marketing and Distributive Education from Bowling Green State University.
His professional and community involvement includes Board of Directors for the NWPA Workforce Development Board, the Erie County Career Pathways Alliance, Career Street Advisory Board, and a past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Career & Technical Administrators.
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