Higher education, community leaders meet to discuss educational landscape

Leaders of three southern Oregon higher education institutions met with other community stakeholders May 2 in Medford. From left are SOU President Dr. Rick Bailey, SOU Board Chair Daniel Santos, OIT Board Chair Jessica Gomez, RCC Board Chair Roger Stokes and OIT President Dr. Nagi Jagannathan. Not pictured is RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle, Ed.D., who joined the meeting virtually. RCC photo
May 6, 2022

Medford gathering will help shape map intended to guide regional planning

More than 100 community workforce and education partners joined together May 2 with Rogue Community College (RCC), Southern Oregon University (SOU) and Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) leaders, faculty, staff and students to share insights on the landscape of higher education in Southern Oregon.

A team of researchers from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) posed in-depth questions to each representative group on the challenges and successes of higher education efforts underway at all three institutions during the event at the SOU/RCC Higher Education Center in Medford.

Roundtable discussions focused on how regional economies are evolving and what changes need to be made in higher education to address those changes. In addition, regional social service organizations shared insights on special populations and their needs or access barriers to successful educational and career pathways and K-12 superintendents illuminated the impact of connections to accelerated access to higher education.

“This was an outstanding opportunity to discuss the intersections between education, employment and student challenges,” said RCC President Kemper-Pelle.  ”This forum explored meaningful topics for planning, legislative advocacy, and local action. I truly appreciate the broad participation by all constituents in this important dialogue.”

The data collected by NCHEMS will be combined with input from other regions around Oregon to form a comprehensive higher education “landscape map” that will inform legislators, higher education strategists and institutions on effective future planning and pathways.  The report, with recommendations intended to increase “financial stability and collaboration among institutions to strengthen the entire ecosystem of higher education in Oregon,” according to a timeline from the Oregon Community College Association, is expected in late August.

Students in Southern Oregon will benefit from gathered expertise of workforce partners who collaborate on employment pathways, K-12 educators who can partner to create more successful transitions into advanced education, and advocacy leaders who will link in supports for students from nontraditional backgrounds or those struggling with poverty or other social barriers.

Representatives and CEOs from regional healthcare, transportation, construction, manufacturing, information technologies, utilities, school districts, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations all shared their wish lists for higher education as well as their insights on regional challenges and strengths. The long-term impacts of COVID and regional wildfires were also discussed. 

In addition to the large group of faculty, staff and students from all three institutions, leadership teams met together as a group and individually, bringing high-level decision-makers together with the research team: Dr. Cathy Kemper-Pelle of RCC, Dr. Rick Bailey of SOU and Dr. Nagi Naganathan of OIT, and their respective board chairs, Roger Stokes, Daniel Santos, and Jessica Gomez, all joined their top leadership staff in this effort, which was funded through the Oregon Community College Association and the Oregon Council of Presidents.

Source: News release from Rogue Community College. For more information, contact Julie Raefield, public information officer, at jraefield@roguecc.edu.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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