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10th Anniversary with Erma Byrd Center

By Josie Hanna
On September 20, 2017

10 years ago, Concord University joined with other state higher education institutions including Bluefield State, Marshall University, and New River Community and Technical College at the Erma C. Byrd Higher Education Center in Beaver in an effort to make higher education more accessible.  This facility is conveniently located off I-64, and it is the only complex of its kind in West Virginia. The 33,000 square foot facility itself consists of standard classrooms, distance learning classrooms, a science lab, computer classroom, a lecture hall, a multi-media library, as well as office space for each college and university.

    Although this partnership with the Erma Byrd Higher Education Center has only existed for the last 10 years, Concord University has had a presence with classes in the Beckley area for over 40 years. Concord University’s Beckley Campus Director Dr. Susan Williams states “There was then, and continues to be today, a real need for all students to have the opportunity to attend a university. Many people cannot, for many reasons, pack up and move to a residential campus. Additionally, it is difficult (and increasingly expensive) for people to drive the thirty to forty miles to Athens if they live in the Raleigh County region.” It was for these reasons that Concord’s stewardship of educational opportunities in that region began and why they are still greatly appreciated by the communities and individuals in that area over the years.  Without this partnership and facility, many students, both past and current, would not have been able to fulfill their educational goals.

    At the Erma Byrd Higher Education Center, students from across the region can pursue their associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate level degrees. A unique feature of this facility is that it allows students to choose whichever institution best suits their needs and educational goals.  For Concord as an institution, the space offers an opportunity to be able to serve every student at the complex by partnering with the other institutions. This unique reach is in addition to helping those who specially chose Concord University.  Dr. Williams notes that “students enjoy the flexibility and ease of taking classes from the partner institutions without having to leave the HEC.”  

    Even though the HEC is not a traditional college campus, Williams says “We work very hard to ensure that every Concord student, regardless of where they take classes, enjoys a true university experience.  Activities at either campus are open to any and all CU students.” An example if this comes from last year when many students on the Athens campus learned about the CU Beckley Harry Potter party. There were students who drove to the HEC to enjoy butter beer and a movie. 

    CU Beckley also has a Chess Club that meets weekly.  Any Concord student from either campus is encouraged to attend.  Likewise, every activity on the main campus is open to anyone who attends classes in Beckley.

    As for the future, Dr. Susan Williams says, “I see a very strong future for models like the HEC.  As the economy struggles and budgets shrink, organizations [that] have never partnered in the past will be searching for ways to survive.  Concord is already ahead of the game with its collaborative efforts at the HEC.  We work closely with our partners to find classes for students, to match people with the right majors, and to ensure a quality academic career for each student.” She also encourages Athens students that have never considered a Beckley class to take a look at the course schedule to see if there are some convenient times to take an evening class.  

    For more information on the partnership between Concord University and the Erma Byrd Higher Education Center, contact CU Beckley Director Dr. Susan Williams at or (304) 384-5247.


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