NWACC History | NorthWest Arkansas Community College

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NWACC History

NWACC was founded on August 15, 1989 and began holding classes as a “college without walls” in 1990, with an enrollment of 1,200 students.

Today, NWACC is the largest community college in Arkansas, serving more than 15,000 students, with over 8,000 of those being college credit students. 

View NWACC's history below.

Major Milestones

August 15, 1989 - NWACC was founded when voters in the Rogers and Bentonville, Arkansas school districts approved a 3-mill ad valorem tax to support the college.

February 5, 1990 - Investiture of Dr. Bob Burns as NWACC's first president. 

August 1990 - NWACC begins holding classes as a "college without walls", meeting throughout Benton and Washington counties in rented facilities. There were 1,232 students enrolled. 

Spring 1995 - NWACC purchases land in Bentonville and constructed its first permanent building, known as the Central Education Facility and later named Burns Hall.

February 1, 2000 - The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association grants 10-year accreditation status to NWACC.

Spring 2002 - Dr. Burns retires in 2002. The student enrollment at NWACC has grown to 4,073 students.

April 2003 - Following a national search process, Dr. Becky Paneitz is offered and accepts the position of NWACC president.

September 2003 - Construction of the Shewmaker Center for Workforce Technologies is completed and the center opens to meet the growing needs of the corporate education and workforce training programs. 

October 2003 - Investiture of Dr. Becky Paneitz as the second president of NWACC.

Spring 2004 - Classes being at Washington County Center in Springdale, Arkansas.

Fall 2004 - Classes being at Highlands Crossing Center in Bella Vista, Arkansas.

Fall 2005 - Classes begin at the Regional Technology Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  

July 18, 2006 - Announcement of $4 million gift from Walmart and Sam's Club toward Capital Campaign, largest gift in the college's history.

April 27, 2007 - The Student Center is dedicated as a "one-stop shop" to consolidate student admissions, academic advising, enrollment, records, financial aid, the cashier's office, and the bookstore in a common area.

May 11, 2007 - Shewmaker Family announces $2 million gift to benefit the nursing program.

September 11, 2008 - The groundbreaking ceremony for the Shewmaker Center for Global Business Development is held. 

January 11, 2010 - Foundation celebrates successful completion of $16 million capital campaign benefiting scholarships and capital projects.

August 25, 2010 - NWACC holds the official dedication for the Shewmaker Center for Global Business Development.

September 2010 - NWACC celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first classes with a special scholarship gala honoring the founding president and founding board members and a "Party without Walls" event. 

July 2011 - NWACC breaks ground on a new Center for Health Professions, which will encompass 83,000 square feet and house programs for registered nurses, emergency medical technicians, fire science, respiratory therapy, physical therapists assistants and certified nursing assistants.

October 19, 2011 - The NWACC Foundation launches a $3 million capital campaign to fund the renovation and furnishing of the former Highlands Oncology building to become a state-of-the-art training facility for the Southern Regional National Child Protection Training Center.

April 9, 2012 – Dr. Becky Paneitz announces her plans to retire from the role of NWACC President, effective June 30, 2013. During her tenure, credit student enrollment had risen from 4,915 in 2003 to 8,418 during the fall 2012 semester.

August 14, 2012 – NWACC and the University of Arkansas sign a “reverse transfer” agreement that will become a state model for other institutions. The agreement allows qualified students to have credits earned at the University to count toward completing an associate degree from NWACC.

October 22, 2012 – Several gifts toward the National Child Protection Training Center campaign are announced, including a $1.3 million gift from Melba Shewmaker.

December 3, 2012 – NWACC faculty and staff celebrate the official notification that the institution has received continued accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission has extended the college’s accreditation to 2019 - 20.

December 6, 2012 – NWACC Board of Trustees approves a contract with Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson to become the next president of NWACC.

March 15, 2013 – NWACC officials and child protection advocates participate in a kickoff event marking the beginning of the renovation of the building that will be transformed into the Melba Shewmaker Southern Region National Child Protection Training Center.

May 19, 2013 – Commencement exercises are planned for a record number of graduates. Dr. Becky Paneitz will be the commencement speaker. 

July 2013 - Investiture Dr. Jorgenson as the third president of NWACC.

February 2014 - Opened the Melba Shewmaker National Child Protection Training Center

October 2104 - Land was purchased in Springdale for the NWACC Washington County Center.

2015 - NWACC continues to grow and serves nearly 15,000 students throughout the academic year. 

2016 - NWACC becomes the largest community college in Arkansas.

January 2017 - NWACC opens Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food. Culinary students focus on three main areas: food as art, food as wellness, and food as business. 

May 2018 - The college graduated its first group of students who had attended all of their studies in the new culinary center — Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food. The inaugural class included 37 students.

June 2018 - NWACC broke ground on a new learning center in Springdale. Programs initially housed at the new center will include general education, nursing, health information management, and emergency medical response classes.

July 2018 - NWACC broke ground on a new Integrated Design Lab (IDL) in Bentonville, Arkansas. The lab will provide additional space for programs within workforce, communication and arts, and business and computer information divisions. 

August 2019 - NWACC opens the new Integrated Design Lab for classes in integrated design, construction, CAD and fine arts.

September 2019 - NWACC holds an Integrated Design Lab grand opening event and invites college and community members to join in the memorable celebration. 

January 2020 - NWACC opens the new Washington County facility for classes in general education, nursing, health information management, and emergency medical response. The facility also houses NWACC’s High School Relations Office.

March 2020 - NWACC receives official approval from the National Junior College Athletic Association to form a cross country program

March 2020 - NWACC responds to the COVID-19 with various safety guidelines. 

February 2021 - NWACC President Dr. Evelyn E. Jorgenson announces her plans to retire and step down from her position at the end of her contract, June 30, 2022. Jorgenson has served in the leadership role since July 1, 2013.

March 2021 - NWACC hires Joseph Boit as new cross country head coach and rolls out new spirit logo for athletics and enrollment purposes. 

April 2021 - The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation awards NWACC with $1 million grant to support a new bicycle technician program and learning center.

July 2022 - Dr. Evelyn E. Jorgenson officially retires, and Dr. Dennis C. Rittle becomes the fourth president of NWACC.