CORVALLIS - Two things will happen to the 1997 graduating class of Oregon State University on June 15: They will receive their diplomas from the university, and at the same time, enroll at OSU for life.

This year's graduating class will be automatically inducted into the new OSU "Alumni College," which will allow them to take courses for the rest of their lives without having to reapply for admission. They also may seek new minors that will appear on their transcripts and have a lifetime e-mail address at the university.

Oregon State officials say the college may be the first of its kind in the nation.

"The Alumni College is a concept with its main goal to provide lifelong learning for our students," said Joy R. Hughes, associate provost for information services at OSU. "Through it, we can assist our students in their career mobility and provide a service to Oregon business and industry."

Among the highlights of the Alumni College:

- OSU has established a number of statewide degree programs, "cutting edge" minors and certificate programs designed especially for alumni (though open to others);

- Innovative technologies will deliver these courses to the homes, businesses and regional centers of alumni. Among the technologies: video workbooks, CD-ROMs, the World Wide Web and satellite-based courses;

- Alumni will have "living transcripts" - the ability to complete second majors or minors that will automatically show up on their transcripts, facilitating career advancement and mobility;

- Beginning with this year's commencement, every OSU graduate will be automatically inducted into the Alumni College and never have to re-enroll to take additional classes. They also will have a lifetime e-mail address at the university.

Hughes said she hopes the creation of the Alumni College will encourage former students - who graduated from OSU or elsewhere - to update their skills by earning a second major or minor.

"While students may certainly return to the Corvallis campus to gain new credentials, our goal is to help educate them through new degree programs offered off-campus," Hughes said. "These programs span a wide range of disciplines that include nearly every college at OSU.

"Through innovative technologies, they will be accessible to Oregonians who don't reside close to Corvallis," she added.

Hughes said she envisions a seamless, lifelong learning environment at OSU, where former students can quickly and effortlessly take courses to update their skills, or even seek new career directions. As part of those efforts, the university is offering lifetime e-mail, to help students stay connected.

"After graduation, alumni will maintain their e-mail address," Hughes said. "They can still hear from their college friends and favorite faculty because we will forward all e-mail they receive to their new address."

In conjunction with the Alumni College, OSU is planning to offer nearly a dozen new statewide degree programs that mirror Oregon's needs entering the 21st century. Among the offerings: software engineering, environmental engineering, natural resources, multimedia and health care administration.

Oregon State University has more than 120,000 living alumni and an estimated 70,000 are living in Oregon. For more information on the Alumni College, call 1-800-235-6559.

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Joy Hughes, 541-737-0739