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Will serve as regional center for maritime and transportation industries

Podcast: SMART Center Goals

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (Oct. 6, 2010) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected Tidewater Community College to launch the NSF Southeast Maritime and Transportation Center (SMART) – the first in the nation. Recognizing TCC’s unique service and programmatic growth for these critical industries, the NSF is funding the Center’s launch with an award of nearly $3 million – $2,843,350 – over four years, beginning this fall. 

The SMART Center – a consortium of TCC, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems – will serve as a regional education resource and an economic model for preparing a sustainable, globally-prepared maritime transportation workforce for the 21st century.

Critically, the Center will address the need for an educational “pipeline,” create pathways that validate technical careers with academic credentials, serve companies with multiple locations throughout the southeast, and support the Port of Virginia and Jacksonville’s deep-water port as key drivers in regional and state economies.

“NSF’s choice of TCC to launch this important new center is in perfect keeping with our long history of service to the maritime and transportation industries,” says TCC President Deborah M. DiCroce. “We’re proud to pioneer this model initiative to connect industry and education, to serve as a rich resource for information and trends across the globe.”

“TCC has become the leader in convening, coordinating and facilitating the transfer of knowledge between maritime leaders and educational institutions,” notes Robert P. Leber, senior advisor to the governor of Virginia for Workforce Solutions.

With that acumen, the SMART Center will coordinate educators and industry partners to:

  • consolidate education criteria for specific maritime occupations
  • develop career pathways and education programs that align with standards
  • facilitate the portability of credentials among employers within the region
  • lay the groundwork for future industry-developed certifications for critical job roles
  • promote awareness of careers in maritime, transportation and logistics to high schools, community colleges and four-year institutions
  • provide a Career PathWAVES repository
  • serve as a regional and a national model to create conditions for synergy between research, career pathways and education for industry as well as students and faculty

“Creating a highly skilled, knowledge-based workforce for the ship-building and repair industry and its supplier base requires the united efforts of the public and private sectors,” explains Leber, formerly director of education and Workforce Solutions at Northrop Grumman Newport News and a co-principal investigator on the grant. “This is particularly important for preparing young people to have the skills to succeed in the industry and to help employees keep their skills up to date.”

The SMART Center will link registered journeyman-apprenticeship training with academic credentials, where students earn career studies certificates (embedded in degree programs) and can advance to associate and baccalaureate degrees.

“We plan to be the source for maritime and parallel industries for leadership in the latest educational developments in technician training,” says Theresa Bryant, TCC vice president for Workforce Solutions. “All of the models developed for the Center can be used as templates for developing courses and credentials in emerging areas.”

Proactive with emerging technologies, the Center plans to develop offerings for areas like off-shore wind turbine projects, to include research and development, construction and maintenance using new technologies such as composites and nuclear energy. Logistics and location are also key, so modules will be available for skills training in the use of GIS, GPS and remote sensing.

“It’s rewarding to see how our collaboration, hard work and expertise have paid off with NSF’s selection of TCC for the grant,” says Barbara Murray, principal investigator for the grant who will oversee the center’s activities. Receiving the SMART Center award follows an NSF planning grant given to TCC a few years ago to build the foundation for a maritime and transportation center.

Daniel DeMarte, vice president for academic and student affairs, explains that, “TCC began offering maritime and transportation coursework in 2001, then developed an associate degree in maritime logistics as well as studies in maritime welding, marine electrical, supervisor in ship repair, marine diesel and related systems.”

In addition to 10 affiliate partners around the country, the Center features nine key partners: Atlantic Marine Florida LLC; BAE Systems Ship Repair; Florida State College at Jacksonville; Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College; Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding - Gulf Coast; Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding - Newport News; U.S. Maritime Administration; Old Dominion University; and Opportunity Inc.


Laurie White

Tidewater Community College - the largest provider of higher education and Workforce Solutions services in Hampton Roads - topped 45,000 students in 2009-10. The 16th highest associate-degree producer in the nation, TCC offers more than 150 programs including business administration, culinary arts, general studies, modeling & simulation, network security, nursing, and automotive technology. Among the fastest-growing two-year institutions in the United States, TCC was founded in 1968 as a part of the Virginia Community College System. The college serves the South Hampton Roads region with campuses in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach as well as the TCC Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center in Norfolk’s theater district, the Visual Arts Center in Olde Towne Portsmouth, the Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake, and the Advanced Technology Center in Virginia Beach. Forty-six percent of the region’s residents attending a college or university in Virginia last fall were enrolled at TCC. For more information, visit