NCCC program will extend into vineyards

October 11, 2011 Updated Oct 11, 2011 at 6:33 AM EDT

By WKBW News

October 11, 2011 Updated Oct 11, 2011 at 6:33 AM EDT

Niagara County Community College is set to represent New York state - and receive more than $200,000 in grant funding from the National Science Foundation over the next four years.

The award is part of a 17-state partnership to enhance educational opportunities in the grape and wine industry.

The Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance, known as VESTA, establishes academic programs in viticulture and enology at colleges around the country, with the goal of training technicians with industry-validated credentials in grape and wine production, NCCC said. The partnership is being led by Missouri State University.

NCCC already offers an associate's degree in winery operations. Officials expect the funding to support online program expansion and form new partnerships with vineyards and wineries across the state, so that students receive hands-on experience. The courses will be available to NCCC students as well as those from around the state, either enroll in the state university system or not.

Mark Mistriner, chair of the college's business and hospitality unit, will oversee the VESTA project, NCCC said. "A big part of this project is to enhance the online learning environment through first-hand knowledge gained from working in a local vineyard close to the student's home," Mistriner said.

In total, $4.3 million in NSF funding will be made available to the 17 institutions, including Sonoma State University in California, Kent State University in Ohio and South Plains College in Texas. NCCC is the only New York state-based college involved.

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