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Ozark Campus adds programs, increases students’ employability

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ozark_bannerWith summer classes in full swing and the fall semester right around the corner, Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus faculty and staff are excited about all the new offerings for students – direct results of industry employers’ needs, many of which require specialized coursework.

Some new additions for the 2012-13 school year include an Associate of General Studies (AGS) degree, Registered Nursing (RN) program and air-conditioning and refrigeration (ACR) classes at Chaffee Crossing for dislocated workers.

In April, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) approved Arkansas Tech-Ozark’s AGS degree, which allows students to tailor their coursework to meet industry needs, as well as transition into four-year degree programs.

The general studies degree – already available to students – provides a degree pathway into multiple programs of study, in particular a Bachelor of Professional Studies at Arkansas Tech University at Russellville.

Also, this degree provides a path for students who change majors, enables past coursework to be used toward a degree, allows students to pursue transferable general education coursework and provides a tool for students to utilize coursework from separate programs to complete a degree.

Chancellor Jo Alice Blondin said, “This program is a great complement to our degree offerings, as it allows for students to put together a personalized degree plan that improves their employability.”

Earlier this year ADHE approved an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, allowing the campus to launch its new RN program – an extension of its current Practical Nursing program.

Theresa Fontaine of Alma will serve as chair of the RN program, which will begin offering courses in August. Arkansas Tech-Ozark currently offers a Technical Certificate in Practical Nursing that qualifies students to test to become a licensed practical nurse, or LPN. The associate degree will allow Ozark Campus students to become a RN.

Arkansas Tech-Ozark’s nursing program is unique in that it allows current LPNs to obtain an RN degree, which allows them to transition into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the main Russellville campus.

Because Arkansas Tech’s main campus in Russellville offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, nursing students who start on the Ozark Campus will be able to take all of the required instruction to obtain a bachelor’s degree within the Arkansas Tech system.

Fontaine said, “This new Ozark program will be a good fit for the student who wishes to become an RN, but needs to do it in stages because of family and financial responsibilities.”

Through a partnership with the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, Arkansas Tech-Ozark will offer air-conditioning and refrigeration (ACR) classes this fall at Chaffee Crossing for dislocated workers.

The ACR program, which will run for one year, will be funded by an Arkansas Department of Workforce Services grant that assists in paying for students’ tuition, fees and supplies. TAA, a program of the U.S. Department of Labor implemented locally by Workforce Services, can pay for up to 156 weeks worth of classes to complete a technical certificate or associate degree.

Financial Aid Associate Director Justina Buck said, “This is a great partnership between Workforce Services and the Ozark Campus that’ll allow dislocated workers, whose jobs were sent out of the country, to stay in the area, receive quality retraining and get back out into the workforce.”

Since 2007, Arkansas Tech-Ozark has served more than 400 dislocated workers as a result of various layoffs throughout western Arkansas. More than 200 of those directly came from Whirlpool. Students will apply through Arkansas Tech-Ozark, but TAA will help with the student selection process.

Other additions for the upcoming year include the Johnson County Adult Education Center into the Arkansas Tech-Ozark Adult Education program, as well as the first class of Leadership Franklin County, a non-profit organization housed at Arkansas Tech-Ozark that develops current and emerging leaders to work together to serve the good of Franklin County.

Also, the campus will be initiating “green transcripts” by helping teachers expand and emphasize areas of their coursework that focus on environmental sustainability. By doing so, graduates will have a better understanding and appreciation of environmental sustainability, and they will be able to communicate that to employers and the community.