BEND - Oregon State University is significantly expanding its educational offerings in central Oregon with a new facility in Bend, enhanced degree programs and other improvements to meet the higher education needs of this rapidly growing region, officials announced today.

More seminars and workshops, faculty lectures, cultural events, applied research in collaboration with local business and industry, improved Extension services, alumni programs and athletic activities will all be possible through this facility and the new OSU Central Oregon initiative, said Paul Risser, university president.

"This is a response to the growing number of requests we have for additional programs and classes in the region," Risser said. "We intend to fully participate with the University Center and delivers classes at Central Oregon Community College. But our new facility will provide easier access to non-COCC students and professionals seeking credit and non-credit educational opportunities. It will be a place for our staff to work, to hold seminars, and for alumni and community events."

In 1997, OSU was asked to develop a plan to expand the Central Oregon University Center, Risser said. Although that plan was not funded, it became apparent that OSU has many of the programs needed by central Oregon residents.

As one of eight OSU facilities in central Oregon, the new Bend office will serve as OSU's headquarters for the region. While the degree programs and advisers will remain based at the University Center, the new office will be a training facility for non-degree programs and a community center with rooms available for use by community organizations. It will also be a focal point for alumni and athletic events, have OSU admission information, and OSU promotional items for sale.

OSU has been a part of central Oregon since 1914, when the Extension Service was established.

The current expansion was stimulated by the region's growing interest in bachelors degree programs and graduate studies, and by a report published early last year by the Education Team 100, which was formed in October, 1997, to begin shaping central Oregon's educational future.

That report indicated that the primary educational needs of the region were job and industry-related training. It also recommended creating a new entity to offer degree completion opportunities in liberal arts.

OSU has been offering liberal arts courses in Bend through its distance education program since 1981, and now offers four bachelors degrees: liberal studies, environmental sciences, general agriculture, and natural resources. The program includes over 140 courses delivered in a variety of ways - over the Internet, individualized courses with professors, and video and on-site courses held at the University Center.

Since 1991, more than 80 students have graduated with a degree from OSU while living in central Oregon. About 40 OSU faculty live and work in the central Oregon region, with another 20 in Corvallis working directly with distance education students across Oregon. Central Oregon is home to over 2,300 OSU alumni and 380 current OSU-Corvallis students.

OSU Central Oregon will be guided by the knowledge and expertise of an advisory board representing the tri-county area. The board is comprised of education, business, civic, and cultural leaders from within central Oregon, and members will serve as the president's council on local academic needs and community issues.

The OSU Central Oregon Advisory Board members are Knute Buehler, Bend Orthopedic and Fracture Clinic, Bend; Jody Calica, Warm Springs; Claudia Campbell: self-employed farmer, Madras; Jim Carnahan, David Evans & Associates, Bend; Bruce Daucsavage, Ochoco Lumber Co., Prineville; Bob Eberhard, Eberhard's Dairy, Redmond; Bob Grim, High Desert Distributors, Bend; Andy Homan, Bend Police Department, Bend; Loren Irving, Deschutes Pine Sales, Bend; Mary Krenowicz, S. S. Johnson Foundation, Redmond; Matthew McCoy, Central Oregon Community College, Bend; Charlie Miller, Miller Lumber, Redmond; Claude and Jean Nave, retired, Black Butte; Curt Olson, Seaswirl Boats, Culver; Stacie Pirtle, Jeld-Wen, Bend; and Ron Wilkinson, Bend-La Pine School District, Bend.

Melanie Fahrenbruch, OSU's professional development coordinator, will spearhead the university's involvement in central Oregon. Previously, she was a chamber executive in Corvallis and Ft. Collins, Colo. In her current role with OSU, she has been designing professional development training programs for employers statewide.

Fahrenbruch conducted an assessment of the needs of major employers in the region. She will represent the university through links to the region's business, political and civic leaders, serve as a resource to academic and administrative units who either offer or are developing programs in central Oregon, and serve as a liaison to Extension Service staff and offices in the region.

A search for a permanent director will begin soon.

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Paul G. Risser, 541-737-4133