POULSBO — The title of the meeting was “Western’s Extended Education: Today and Tomorrow.” And “Go Where the Students Are” was the thematic thread that ran through the presentations at the April 20 Western Washington University Board of Trustees meeting.
It was an appropriate message, given this was the first time the WWU board met in Poulsbo.
“We’re fond of saying ‘Go, Vikings,’ ” Poulsbo City Council member Ed Stern said as he entered the board room on the second floor of the campus building at 1000 Olympic College Way NW that WWU shares with its host, Olympic College. “In this case, we want to say ‘Come, Vikings.’ ” (The Vikings are WWU’s mascot, as well as North Kitsap High School’s.)
There might well have been no meeting — and no partnering — if OC, with its two-year programs, hadn’t reached out to WWU several years ago and said, in effect, “Come, Vikings.” That happened when Dr. David Mitchell, president of Olympic College, proposed to WWU that it locate a center on OC’s Poulsbo campus and offer Kitsap County students the opportunity to complete the last two years of a four-year degree program right here at home.
“The goal is to double the number of OC students because no they can complete their four-year degree without having to leave home,” Mitchell said.
As other presenters pointed out, there were good reasons to come — some 70,000 of them, in fact. That’s how many potential degree candidates officials estimate are in the area. The 350,000 residents of the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas are underserved by four-year degree programs, one presenter explained.
“The area is growing. It’s not built out like lots of Puget Sound is,” Mitchell said.
In other words, go where the students are.
Other presenters said the injunction to “go where the students are” meant more than just geographical location. It also meant providing people with the kind of classes they need, delivered in a way that conforms to their lifestyles and interests.
The undergraduate degree in multidisciplinary studies, for example, provides a way for students to design their own program, they said. “We have to kind of meet people where they are and meet some of those deficits,” said guest presenter Rovy Branon, vice provost for educational outreach at the University of Washington.
It also means providing degree programs for in-demand fields in this area. At WWU Center at Olympic College Poulsbo, students can earn four-year degrees in business administration, computer and information systems security, environmental policy, and environmental science.
WWU offers a degree in educational leadership at its center at Olympic College Bremerton.
In addition, WWU offers the Academy for Lifelong Learning for older adults in the greater Poulsbo area. Western’s Youth Programs provides students in grades K-9 the opportunity to explore science and art through hands-on learning at the SEA Discovery Center in Poulsbo.
The WWU center in Port Angeles also offers environment policy and environmental science programs, so students can work at either campus.
— Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.