Drive by the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) and the sights and sounds of economic transformation present themselves immediately.  Right across the street, construction crews at Kyocera SGS Tech Hub, a manufacturer of precision cutting tools, swiftly work to complete construction of a sleek new facility set to open soon and employ 35 people.  This company represents one of the latest drawn to the area in part because of the talent pipeline produced by the advanced manufacturing training program offered by Danville Community College and complemented with a third-year Capstone program at IALR’s Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining.  Kyocera’s opening constitutes just one example of IALR living its mission, to catalyze economic transformation within Southern Virginia.

“IALR is fortunate to have passionate employees and a multitude of partners and supporters who breathe life into our mission on a daily basis,” said Mark Gignac, executive director of IALR.  “Every decision, every goal, every metric centers on positively impacting and transforming our region’s economy—and what an honor it is to do such exciting work.”  

Mark Gignac, Executive Director - Photo by Michelle Dalton Photography as seen in June Evince

IALR’s service area focuses on the counties of Mecklenburg, Halifax, Pittsylvania, Henry, Franklin and Patrick as well as the cities of Danville and Martinsville.  Across this expanse—and many times, even farther—IALR’s divisions work hand in hand to identify, plan, execute and leverage opportunities for economic transformation.  

The Advanced Learning division of IALR manages programs that lead to a skilled and work-ready talent pipeline.  From K-12 accelerated learning curricula like the Piedmont Governor’s School to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camps and a mobile inspiration lab, chances abound for the region’s youth to experience and develop an interest in a STEM discipline and career path.  The division also runs adult workshops and oversees the Dan River Year AmeriCorps program, providing service-based learning opportunities.

IALR’s Applied Research division supports industry needs with research centers in analytical chemistry, advanced materials, precision agriculture and applied biostimulants.  Cutting edge technology and leading scientists have positioned IALR as a beacon for world-renowned programs like its growing library of endophytes, or beneficial bacteria—including a collection IALR recently licensed to Indigo Ag, Inc., a company dedicated to helping farmers sustainably feed the planet.  Other impactful programs include drones to help farmers address plant health issues and optimize crop growth, testing labs for industry and various others.

The Economic Development division of IALR collaborates with state and local economic development staff to effectively market the region’s assets to prospective companies and leverage opportunities for growth with existing industry.  Job creation and capital investment combine to benefit the region’s economy.

The IALR Conference Center continues to offer state-of-the-art meeting space, 21st century technology and gourmet cuisine, all with the help of expert staff who practice exceptional customer service.  The Center has served as the venue for national organizations and proudly offers a newly renovated Megabytes Café as a local dining option for the community and visitors.

As Franklin D.  Roosevelt said, “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”  IALR chooses to move forward advancing our region and welcomes others to join our efforts.


IALR recently awarded 16 graduating high school seniors with scholarships of $1,000 each to support their continued education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics) disciplines. Offered through the IALR Foundation, the scholarship program is an important catalyst for developing talent in STEM career fields, which are integral to the economic transformation of southern Virginia. IALR’S STEM commitment is also evidenced by research centers in precision agriculture, polymer chemistry, natural products and high value horticulture as well as numerous advanced learning programs and opportunities. 

Tyler Bray
Magna Vista H.S.
Washington & Lee University
Goal: CPA
“I cannot wait to begin building my career and making my dreams of becoming an accountant come true.”

Kendall Cope
Bassett H.S.
Virginia Tech
Goal: Veterinarian
“I was that child who brought home pets to his parents no matter how many times they told me that we could not bear to take in another stray.”

Helen Dawson
Patrick County H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
"I want to spend my life contributing to mental health research and treating the afflicted.” 

Benjamin Hancock
Franklin County H.S.
Bridgewater College
Goal: Veterinarian or Doctor
“Before my father was deployed to Iraq, … he was vaccinated. … My interest in disease research was born.” 

Daniel Hancock
Franklin County H.S.
Bridgewater College
Goal: Engineer
“As I’ve fabricated, programmed and presented, … I’ve discovered an enthusiasm and fascination.” 

Alissa Hill
Tunstall H.S.
Bridgewater College
Goal: Aerospace Engineer
“I love to learn about all things space, from the way centripetal forces hold satellites in orbit to how long people could survive on other planets.” 

Molly Hughes 
Tunstall H.S.
Old Dominion University
Goal: Cytotechnologist
“[By watching Orphan Black, a TV show], I learned about chimeras, epigenetics and … evolution. …My love for biology has only continued to grow.”

Isaiah Jenkins
George Washington H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal: Doctor
“I have had a dream to go to medical school since I was nine. … I want to help every person I can live the healthiest life possible.” 

Mackenzie Lewis 
Bassett H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal:  Optometrist
“The moment I looked into an elderly woman’s eye and saw a cataract, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.” 

Katherine Mosier
Park View H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal:  Math Professor
“Knowing that I can help a person achieve that feeling of gratification during one of the most stressful and insecurity-ridden stages of life is incredibly rewarding.” 

Reid Piercy 
Park View H.S.
Harvard University
Goal:  Sports Statistician
“In second grade, … records I kept ranged from cartoon race results to kickball, basketball and football stats for class recess. … I would analyze … to pick the best possible team.”

Karen Sanchez Godinez 
Chatham H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal: Undecided
“One of my major career aspirations is to … lead a nonprofit program that allows technology to be available to people in third-world countries.”

Kyra Scott
Halifax County H.S.
North Carolina A&T University
Goal: Computer Engineer
“Walking the floors of Microsoft … had the most impact on me. … It was then that I knew I wanted to become a part of that team – of the technology force helping to advance our world.”

Evelyn Villalobos
George Washington H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal: Cardiologist or Pediatrician
“The power of science and medicine truly astonishes me and never fails to increase my appreciation for the science field. … More than likely, … I will focus on pediatric cardiology.”

Jessica Watts
Halifax County H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal: Psychiatrist or Neuroscientist
“I am wildly fascinated with the branch of STEM dealing with the human brain. … With a career in … the medical field, I hope to discover new ways to advance mental health care.”

Haley Wright
Chatham H.S.
University of Virginia
Goal: Dentist
“My vacation bible school … would take up donations for Operation Smile. … Since then, I have been wanting to improve the smiles of others.”

Danville Community College (DCC) will host a week-long national conference for the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) next week at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR).

The 2018 HTEC Americas CNC Educators Training Conference will kick off Monday, July 23, with tours of George Washington High School and Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center.

Guests will return to IALR on Tuesday for a morning keynote address from Tom Loehr, formerly with Rolls-Royce North America, followed by a workforce development panel and roundtable discussions, partner exhibits, and an afternoon keynote address from Albert Riner, who has over 45 years of experience in manufacturing, especially in precision machining and implementing emerging innovative technologies. General sessions, break-out sessions and workshops will continue through Friday.

“We are very excited to have been selected as the location for this year’s HTEC conference. This will bring leaders in automation and machining to Danville and increase our region’s visibility on a national scale,” said DCC President Dr. Bruce Scism. “We look forward to showcasing the great strides the college has made for our students in precision machining and welding through our refitted Engineering and Industrial Technologies Building and brand new Welding Building. Through DCC’s partnership with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, our students have access to world-class advanced machining technology located at IALR’s Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining, which will be a major focal point during the conference.”

Staff of the state-of-the-art Institute Conference Center at IALR will ensure the event runs smoothly.

“Hosting this year’s HTEC Annual Americas CNC Educator Conference is an honor we don’t take lightly,” said Mark Gignac, Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. “It is a testament to the high-quality advanced manufacturing program brought to the region through the partnership of Danville Community College’s expert instructors, IALR’s Gene Haas Center for Integrated Machining as part of the third-year ‘capstone’ program and many others. The conference theme, Partnerships that Transform, dovetails seamlessly with IALR’s mission to catalyze economic transformation, and that is exactly what this conference as well as the impact will help accomplish.”

DCC is one of only five HTEC Teacher Training sites that are able to offer HTEC training to educators in the U.S. This year’s attendance is slated to eclipse last year’s by more than 50 participants, with a total of 245 registered guests, which include educators, industry leaders, partners, and spouses.

Spouses of the conference attendees will be treated to special tours and activities, including a close-up look at Danville’s famed River District.

To keep up with the excitement next week, follow the hashtag #HTECDanville2018 on social media.

To learn more about HTEC, visit

Photo: Danville Community College is one of only five Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) Teacher Training sites that are able to offer HTEC training to educators in the U.S.




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