BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Culinary arts students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College can now earn a four-year degree without having to leave the Jeff Davis campus. On Friday, the community college and the Mississippi University for Women signed an unprecedented agreement to prepare students for jobs in the hospitality industry.
With signatures and a handshake, the presidents of MGCCC and the MUW celebrated their first partnership.
"It is definitely a history making day seeing this kind of collaboration between institutions," said MUW President Dr. Jim Borsig.
The Memorandum of Agreement is one of a kind, because Gulf Coast culinary arts students don't have to transfer to The W campus in Columbus to get their bachelor's degree. Instead, MUW will offer students advanced courses at the Hospitality and Resort Management Center at JD.
"They'll actually take classes here on-site. The W will use our facilities, our kitchens, our administrative space and they will teach students. Some classes will be online, but many will actually be in the kitchen, hands-on training, so we're excited about that," said MGCCC President Dr. Mary Graham.
The W faculty will help students sharpen their culinary and management skills to prepare them for positions like executive chefs and restaurant managers.
That's a tempting idea for Marie Leeks. She's graduating in December and dreams of opening her own cupcake shop.
"It would mean a lot to me. It'll open up a lot of opportunities and doors for everybody at this college. So I'm really excited to see what it has," Leeks said.
This unique partnership means students who were born and raised on the Mississippi Coast can get their training and jobs close to home.
"A lot of casinos on the coast have hired in the past out of state to fill their upper level positions because we didn't have a trained workforce here on the coast. These two programs coming together will allow that to stay in state. I'm very, very excited to have this program," said MGCCC Instructor and Chef Todd Reilly.
Both institutions have been working on this partnership for almost a year.
"This is the first. We're tickled to be here, and they have been great hosts for us. They've also been very aggressive in helping us work out the details in order to make this program successful for the students. So, it's a terrific partnership," said Borsig.
"Big day, historic day for us and we intend to do more partnerships with more universities in the near future, so we're excited," said Graham.
The new program will start this fall. Students will apply through The W and pay the university's tuition. Just so you know, The W has the only four-year culinary arts degree program in Mississippi.