Oregon State University’s distance education program has been named the nation’s best online college in terms of value by ValueColleges.com, an organization that provides in-depth analysis and rankings on affordability and quality in higher education.
Oregon State Ecampus ranks first on a list of the Top 50 Best Value Online Colleges for 2017. The rankings assess online bachelor’s programs based on tuition costs, reputability, and return on investment using data from the website Payscale.com.
In its evaluation, the organization noted that Ecampus delivers the most online undergraduate major and minor programs in Oregon, and that OSU is a leader in STEM research and boasts the Carnegie Foundation’s highest research activity classification.
“This ranking speaks to our mission to provide learners with access to a high-quality Oregon State education,” said Ecampus Executive Director Lisa L. Templeton. “The value comes in the form of highly engaging programs that give our students opportunities for career advancement.”
All Ecampus students pay the same tuition rate no matter where they live. Ecampus serves adult learners in all 50 states and more than 40 countries by delivering 21 undergraduate degrees and 27 graduate programs online.
During the 2015-16 academic year, more than 19,000 OSU students took at least one Ecampus class.
Oregon State has developed a reputation as a leader in online education, having been ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report each of the past two years. In 2014, Ecampus won the Online Learning Consortium’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Teaching – one of the industry’s most prestigious awards.
Two days on the road in Central Oregon with more than 50 new OSU faculty confined to a bus can be a daunting prospect. But the team that planned the tour, led by Jeff Sherman, pulled it off with aplomb.
As part of the Engagement Academy of University Outreach and Engagement, a special initiative of the division, the fourth Roads Scholar cohort hit the road before 8 a.m. on September 12, 2016. Faculty new to OSU or new to engagement work from across the university were exposed to the outreach and engagement philosophy of OSU and to the work of Extension in Central Oregon and the Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center (COARC).
At this writing, I am 11-months new to outreach and engagement work and have spent much of that time attempting to internalize and deeply understand what it means to engage communities. As the communication and marketing manager for the Division of University Outreach and Engagement, I spend most of my time trying to tell the story of engagement work, so I was eager listen and learn.
The tour reinforced the fact that outreach and engagement is not a unilateral act. The “expert model” isn’t the way to engage. Rather, the listening and learning part, essential to building trust and relationships, is just as important as the knowledge part of the equation.
At COARC, in addition to learning that the seeds that grow virtually every carrot we eat likely come from Oregon, we heard how central Oregon farmers want better ways to minimize water usage – irrigation changed what can be grown in the region, but with only 11 inches of rain a year, water resources are scarce. COARC is there to test new crops and production methods protecting the farmers and ranchers from risking their incomes and field productivity. That’s a big value to the area; so big, the farmers and ranchers help fund the work of the center.
Heading north to the Warms Springs Indian Reservation, we learned a few – many? – cultural lessons. At the Museum of Warm Springs, we heard from tribal members about the state of education of the tribe’s children, reservation and ceded lands for hunting and gathering of traditional foods, and first nation traditional foods, their importance to ceremonial occasions and threats to availability and access. We even were able to taste the foods (dried bitterroot is surprisingly tasty!). Schooling for K-8 is available on reservation; high school students must travel great distances to attend classes (sadly, graduation rates are below 30 percent). Credit for learning tribal language isn’t available because the Indian elders teaching the courses don’t have the required teaching certification.
In 1855, Joel Palmer, superintendent for the Oregon Territory, received his orders to clear the Indians from the land they had lived on for more than 10,000 years. He did so by negotiating a series of Indian treaties including the one establishing the Warm Springs Reservation. Under the treaty, the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes relinquished approximately ten million acres of land, but reserved the Warm Springs Reservation for their exclusive use. The tribes also kept their rights to harvest fish, game and other foods off the reservation in their usual and accustomed places. Later the Paiutes joined the confederation. Not surprisingly, the way of life of the tribes changed dramatically, and holding onto spiritual and cultural traditions continues to be hard fought. (Source: The Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs)
Hearing the words “we are a conquered people” was sobering. The immediate impulse is to swoop in with solutions, but that isn’t the way of engagement. Extension has worked with the community for years, building the trust necessary to help with nutrition and food safety, rebuild gardening skills for access to fresh fruits and vegetables, manage tribal forests, encourage commercial enterprises, and more.
After a night of luxuriating in a salmon feast, watching young tribal dancers and listening to cultural myths around the wood-burning fire – coyote finds himself in many ticky situations – at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, we headed to Bend for the opening of the OSU – Cascade Campus.
The final leg of the journey, not counting the beautiful ride back to campus later in the day, included learning about the Upper Deschutes River Coalition (navigating the 4-H high ropes course, or learning about food preservation, gardening and greenhouse, or Juntos were other options). The mission of the coalition is to protect upper Deschutes River communities by restoring and sustaining healthy fire-resistant forests, pure and abundant river flows and wildlife habitat.
OSU Extension, one of many coalition stakeholders, provides access to OSU research, which helps coalition members make decisions about forest management practices, and educates the community about what users are seeing in their managed forest forays. The outreach takes the form of traditional brochures and less traditional beer labels and coasters. Nicole Strong, Extension forester, professor of practice and coalition member, invited other coalition members to share with the Roads Scholars their roles and the importance of the group’s work. It was a proud moment to learn about the crucial and creative role Nicole and OSU play in the coalition.
Last year’s Roads Scholar cohort went to the coast. Where will next year’s tour participants head? Stay tuned…and take advantage of the opportunity!
PS: One of the best parts about being a Roads Scholar this year was the impromptu discussions that took place on the bus. It’s not often one is surround by such interesting people from so many different disciplines, so it was a great pleasure to learn about the outreach and engagement work being done by those on the tour. Another best part was the traditional fry bread and huckleberry jam! Of course the succulent salmon – crusty bits on the outside and buttery on the inside – was wonderful, too.
Written by Charles Robinson, University Outreach and Engagement special initiatives, including Extension Reconsidered and Engagement Academy
Art has the ability to connect people, share knowledge and experiences, and serve communities. Teaching art at a land grant university means getting off campus, experiencing the landscape and connecting with Oregonians. And that is especially true for students participating in the Creative Coast as part of ART 406-Community Arts Studio.
In 2014 and 2015, Community Arts Studio students and others headed to the forest. In 2015 and 2016, ART 406 headed to the Oregon coast to take part in the State of the Coast conference and learn about the Marine Studies Initiative.
Creative Coast students from the OSU Art, Music and Theater programs visited Cape Perpetua over two Saturdays in the 2016 Spring term as part of the joint partnership between the College of Liberal Arts and the Division of University Outreach and Engagement. Engagement with Oregon’s people and landscape is a guiding principle of the College of Liberal Arts, and art is a powerful means to realize that educational and social purpose.
On the first Saturday, students learned the cultural history of Cape Perpetua from local historian Joanna Kittel. They also heard the poignant and tragic real-life story of Amanda, as told by Don “Doc” Slyter of Coos Bay, an elder of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indian Tribes. Amanda was a blind first-nations woman who was forced to walk over the rocky terrain of Cape Perpetua on her way to the sub-Alsea reservation at Yachats, where she later died. Mr. Slyter played a moving musical piece on his flute for the students, titled “Amanda.”
OSU Extension Service partners at Cape Perpetua and the U.S. Forest Service Rangers also aided students with their research by taking the students on natural history tours of the Cape Perpetua area. The tours enhanced the students’ understanding of the relationship the forest has to the ocean and allowed them to explore the tide pools.
Art student Auna Godinez responded to the story of Amanda and recreated part of the walk by walking 1.5 miles in bare feet to the Cape Perpetua lookout. Back on campus, she planned to create a painting of Doc Slyter playing his flute combined with a dream-like narrative-image of the story of Amanda.
Likewise, student Hanna Gallagher also responded to Doc’s story about the forced movement of the first nations people. She chose to respond by researching Native American basket weaving and, during her second visit to the coast, wove a basket from stalks of grass.
Video artists Courtney Kaneshiro, Courtney Mullis and Victoria Rivoire worked on a collaborative video project using editing techniques to weave together images of the ocean tide pools with images from the forest. They also created a unique soundscape to accompany the video.
Students in Anna Fidler’s foundation arts class chose to work with sea water to create dye-effects on fabric. Back on campus, they planned to add a crochet element to the artwork.
Reaching beyond the boundaries of the Corvallis campus provides vital inspiration for novel ways to integrate Oregon landscapes into student creative and community projects, and to provide guided access and practice for building the collaborative relationships so crucial to community work.
As Scott Reed, Vice Provost of University Outreach and Engagement points out with an observation by Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” The Creative Coast and courses like Community Arts Studio offer students an opportunity to see with new eyes and share their inspiration with others.
The first Monday – actually Tuesday – video features Scott talking about innovation. How do you bring innovation into your work? And what might need to drop off your plate in order to deliver innovative solutions to the people of Oregon? Share your comments and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a book from one of Scott’s favorite authors mentioned in the video.
In a small conference room at Portland Community College’s Southeast campus, a dozen middle school students turned a pile of wood into a 12-foot sailboat.
The feat was accomplished by members of the Oregon State University Extension Service’s Makers 4-H club, which was formed in 2014 to give kids in Southeast Portland a chance to participate in an after-school program in an area where few existed.
The students built the boat under the tutelage of staff from partner Wind & Oar Boat School. In the process, they put new skills to work helping to design and engineer the boat. Construction started in September 2015 and wrapped up in January. The boat was launched Aug. 13 at Willamette Sailing Club.
“Each week they got to explore nautical terminology, buoyancy, lofting, angular design and marine architecture,” said Stacey Sowders, Extension 4-H outreach coordinator. “We intended to give them new experiences, which we expected to increase their self-confidence.”
Raxlee Rax, who is about to start his freshman year at Franklin High School, said it worked for him. “I really think this program has boosted my confidence toward building something or designing something or making something happen. And I think it will spill over into other parts of my life.”
Typically, extracurricular programs are held at school sites. Because the Makers 4-H club is on the PCC campus, it can pull students from several middle schools in the area, allowing them to connect with new kids and adults. Being on campus also increases their chance of going to college, according to Sowders.
“Bringing someone in to talk about their college and career experiences to the kids is one thing,” she said. “But if they get to walk on a college campus they can see themselves there.”
Dani IV, a 14-year-old who participated in the boat-building project, said she’s more prepared for college now and appreciates that much of what she learned will help guide her to schools that have good programs in science, technology, engineering and math. Someday she’d like to be an engineer.
Most of the kids in the Makers club don’t have access to STEM-oriented activities, said Tanya Kindrachuk, Extension club coordinator and a former 4-H member. She’s watched the middle-school students respond with enthusiasm to the boat-building project as well as one designing a computer game.
“I feel like they’re having a blast or they wouldn’t show up, and pretty much all the kids show up every time,” she said. “If I had this when I was in middle school, I would have loved it. I’m having a blast now at 20 years old.”
Parents and siblings also get to experience some of the fun. During the Friday sessions, they come to see the latest developments and ask questions. It’s a time for the kids to connect with family, proudly showcase the work they’re doing and show off their new skills, Kindrachuck said.
For this school year, Sowders is considering a Makers club activity involving computers and programming. For now, Sowders is still assessing the impact of the boat-building project.
“The biggest success was when Dani’s mom told me she bought Dani a bookcase and asked her if she wanted help putting it together. And Dani said, ‘No, I know how to do this and I’ve used all these tools,’ Sowders said.
“I wanted the kids to learn new skills, but even more to learn how to meet challenges,” she added. “I don’t care if they remember how to build a boat, but I want them to go away feeling empowered to meet challenges.