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Nov. 14, 2019 LA GRANDE, Ore. – At its first regular meeting of the academic year, the Eastern Oregon University Board of Trustees discussed the institution’s fall enrollment report, approved an innovative degree program, reviewed the upcoming budget, and met with new deans.
Faculty members presented a new degree program that could bolster enrollment. With final approval expected this spring, the Sustainable Rural Systems students will learn about issues ranging from public health to public works, and from arts and culture to agriculture.
“They’ll get to know rural systems very intimately,” Dean Peter Geissinger said. “That means everything that makes our communities livable.”
Students will work on multi-year, interdisciplinary projects that affect local communities and model real-world problem-solving. Cohort groups will progressively take on more responsibility as they move up the ranks, and mentor one another.
Two concentrations, environmental resources and economics of rural systems, will set students on a path to obtain a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Art, or Bachelor of Applied Science degree through the program. Collaborating across all of EOU’s academic colleges, the program plans to hire two new faculty members before taking on a brownfields restoration project in partnership with Baker Technical Institute.
Trustees praised the program’s focus on experiential learning and its cross-disciplinary approach.
“This is how our graduates work in the real world,” Trustee Jer Pratton said. “I couldn’t be more excited about this program, and its potential to make an immediate impact for students and communities.”
The Sustainable Rural Systems degree was approved by trustees, and will go on to the Higher Education Coordinating Committee and accrediting bodies this spring, with the aim of enrolling students in fall 2020.
Enrollment numbers have been finalized for fall 2019, and EOU saw its overall headcount increase. Trustees heard the full report from Holly Chason, who oversees enrollment management at EOU. She explained that even while the number of students went up, the number of credit hours had decreased. She said the data suggests that students are taking fewer classes this term than last fall. She also said the 7 percent increase in online students and growth in high school students doing accelerated learning have contributed to the decrease in student credit hours.
This fall, EOU enrolled 11.5 percent more new online transfer undergraduates than last fall. Trustees discussed additional opportunities to partner with community colleges and engage students at regional centers across the state.
Trustees explored retention and completion rates because of their link to the cost of higher education and state funding support. Vice Chair Bobbie Conner highlighted the importance of collecting exit data, so board members understand why students leave EOU.
“I’m concerned about students stopping out or dropping out because of rising tuition costs,” she said. “We need data so we can make informed decisions about that kind of thing.”
Also looking ahead, trustees approved an updated operating budget for the current fiscal year. The preliminary budget they signed off on last spring was adjusted after the state legislature finalized its allocations for the biennium.
“I’m really impressed with the overall financial health of the institution,” Trustee Pratton said. “The stability and accountability this administration has built are what make this budget work.”
Trustees also re-elected Chair David Nelson to another two-year term, and elected Trustee Abel Mendoza to serve a one-year term as vice chair. Art faculty facilitated a mid-day tour of the Nightingale Gallery and ceramics studios. Trustees also heard from new deans of the College of Business and the College of Education.
Shared governance reports from the student body, Faculty Senate and University Council, plus a legislative update, rounded out the meeting. Meeting materials and complete minutes are available at eou.edu/governance.
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