Laurel Ridge Community College named a STEM school of Excellence by international educator association

For Immediate Release:
January 26, 2024

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

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Laurel Ridge has emerged as a leader in STEM education.

The quality of Laurel Ridge’s STEM education has been recognized by the ITEEA (International Technology and Engineering Educators Association. Laurel Ridge is just one of six colleges/universities – and the only community college – to receive the School of Excellence distinction.

The college will officially receive the award, which comes with a banner and certificate to display, during the ITEEA’s annual conference March 6-9 in Memphis, Tenn.

“ITEEA’s STEM School of Excellence Award recognizes superior K-12 and post-secondary STEM programs from schools all around the world,” states an ITEEA letter announcing Laurel Ridge’s award. “These schools show outstanding commitment to providing a robust integrative experience through
STEM programs. They are providing a meaningful STEM education experience for students and inspire others to learn effective best practices and instructional strategies to enhance their own programs. These schools serve as a model and inspiration to their communities. They are leaders in their region, province, or state as proponents of advancing STEM education for all.”

Dr. Craig Santicola, dean of the School of Professional Programs at Laurel Ridge, said faculty and administrators across the college have worked hard to create premier programs for students.

“Our faculty, like Melissa Stange, Beth Dodson, Sam Dillender and Liz Palffy, along with administrators, like Dean Ia Gomez, have not only put in countless hours to ensure a high-quality STEM education, but have also inspired students to think big and explore careers across the STEM fields,” said Dean Santicola. “The special part of this is that the recognition comes from other educators who recognized the hard work and dedication of our faculty and administrators in providing our students a world-class learning experience. 

“From our engineering or data analytics programs, to our new robotics and artificial intelligence offerings, Laurel Ridge is preparing students with a strong foundation and the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to succeed in jobs of the future.” 

ITEEA ( is the professional organization for technology, innovation,
design, and engineering educators. Its mission is to promote technological literacy for all
by supporting the teaching of technology and promoting the professionalism of those
engaged in these pursuits. ITEEA strengthens the profession through leadership,
professional development, membership services, publications, and classroom activities.


Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected]173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.