Aviation and engineering might have something in common.

Leaders at Ottawa’s two higher education institutions — Neosho County Community College and Ottawa University — said they are looking at possibly adding those programs to their offerings.

Neosho, 900 E. Logan St., has been in discussions with Ottawa-based Hawkeye Helicopter about the possibility of offering pilot training, Tony Brown, assistant dean for outreach and workforce development at Neosho, said. 

“I think they are very interested in seeing us offer an aviation program to train pilots that they could possibly hire in the future,” Brown said. “It’s something we are taking a look at.”

While the aviation proposal has not taken wing just yet, Brown said Neosho always is looking for ways it can expand and tailor its offerings to meet the needs of the communities it serves.

“Our welding certificate program is doing very well,” Brown said. “The welding program is centered in Garnett, but we would like to emulate it here [in Ottawa], and we’re looking at possibly offering a HVAC program.”

Ottawa University is considering expanding its programs to include engineering, Terry Haines, provost of the university’s residential campus, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa, said. OU faculty members are in the process of evaluating the program during the next several weeks to see if it’s the right fit for the university’s Ottawa campus, he said.

“Engineering is something we are very much considering,” Haines said.

Programs

Haines, who also is the greater university’s provost and chief academic officer, talked about other recent program additions and expansions.

“We brought in nursing as an online program, and we’ve added marketing, business economics, actuarial sciences, and we’ve redesigned our MBA program,” Haines said. “We have aspirations for a number of other programs in our research. We have a new marketing department that is doing careful analysis of the communities we serve ... we’ve been trying to be creative in such a way that we can best serve the communities we are nestled in.”  

Founded in 1865, Ottawa University is a not-for-profit educational institution with a residential campus in Ottawa; adult campuses in Overland Park, Arizona (Phoenix, Chandler and Surprise), Indiana (Jeffersonville) and Wisconsin (Brookfield and Oak Creek), as well as Ottawa University-Online.

Neosho, based in Chanute, has built a strong nursing program with a state-of-the-art medical training facility at its Ottawa campus, Brown said. Students who have been through the college’s nursing program work in all facets of the profession — from hospitals to clinics to assisted care facilities — throughout the region and the country, Brown said.

He relayed a story about a student who went through the Neosho nursing program and now works as a nurse in Texas.

“[The nurse’s employer] said they were very impressed with the training she received here and would like to have more nurses [from Neosho],” Brown said. “We are very proud of our nursing program.”

Once students complete the introduction to nursing course at Neosho, the next step is the foundations of nursing, Mary Lisa Joslyn, nurse course coordinator at the college, said in a previous interview.

“These are all the patient normals — this is what you expect with your patient — that’s the foundation in nursing [course],” Joslyn said. “Then the students move on to a higher complexity, in nursing care of the Adult 1 and Adult 2. And then they end with their advanced med surge at the very end of the program — that’s all the abnormals, the very sick. And so we start with what’s normal and generally expected and then we add on with each semester.”

Upon completion of the two-year program, students would receive an associate’s of applied sciences in nursing degree. The community college also offers a certified nursing assistant certificate program, Joslyn said.

“We are classified in Kansas as a bi-level program,” Pam Covault, Neosho’s nursing director, said. “When finished with the first level, students sit for the PN [practical nurse] national exam. They have to pass that exam to continue in the program. We’re really a RN [registered nurse] program that has the PN option.”

Neosho’s teaching and learning center, with its banks of computers, groupings of comfortable couches and chairs around the fireplace, make for a cozy and inviting learning atmosphere, faculty and students have said.

Ottawa University’s education program always has been one of its strengths, Haines said.

“We have hundreds of graduates in this area and thousands in the region — teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers and educators and government people that have left our doors and gone out and made a huge difference in the world,” Haines said. “I can’t visit a high school in this region without finding one or two or four or 10 graduates. We are nearly 150 years old, and education has always been one of our strongest programs. We have very supportive alumni, and if you put our tentacles out, you would find us in most professions.”

Community outreach

Neosho and OU are about more than academics, Brown and Haines said. The institutions also want to play a vital role in the community through volunteer work and other outreach programs. Neosho and OU also have made their facilities available to the community.

“We take the community part of our name very seriously,” Brown said. “Serving the community is our mission and purpose.”

In addition to assisting with a number of volunteer projects in the community, Neosho’s modern auditorium is used by dozens of groups, Brown said. The auditorium has served as a gathering site for business meetings, annual meetings and other such events as the community’s monthly First Friday Forum, which features a different speaker each month.

Ottawa University recently has brought to campus such notable speakers as Arman Aardal, former Norwegian ambassador and OU alum; Barry Asmus, senior economist with the National Center for Public Analysis; and Phillip Anderson, leader in the Greenleaf Institute on Servant Leadership as part of its Hostetter-DeFries Endowed Cultural Event, Norwood L. Jones Convocation Event and Business Symposium.

The university puts on four theater productions per year, a Christmas vespers program, jazz invitational workshop and concert and OU jazz ensembles perform at downtown businesses. Those are but a few of the events and workshops and speakers the university hosts each year, Haines said.

Community outreach also is important to the university, Haines said. Some of that outreach includes volunteerism, internships and job-shadowing experiences, he said.

“We are not a college just in Ottawa, we are a college of Ottawa,” Haines said. “What is so terrific about this community is that it is so embracing of our institution.”

New facilities

The steel framework of the Gibson Student Center should begin to take shape in the coming weeks on the OU campus. Then May 11, the day after OU commencement, the Mowbray Student Union is scheduled to be torn down to make room for the new Gangwish Library. 

Once constructed, the 43,000-square-foot library and attached student center will serve the university community with state-of-the-art technology, student services, dining and conference amenities, Kevin Eichner, OU president, said. 

The second phase, construction of the Gangwish Library, is scheduled for completion in late July or early August 2015, in time for OU’s sesquicentennial celebration, Eichner said. The university, which was founded in 1865, is in the midst of planning activities to mark its 150th anniversary next year. 

“When the library portion is completed, this actually feels like all one building instead of two buildings, and that was intentional,” Eichner said. “The flow between the dining era and the lounge area and the library and the meeting areas and the student activity areas is going to be pretty much seamless. It’s going to be terrific.”

The new library and student center, which represents the largest single building project ever undertaken by the university, OU officials have said, also serves as the centerpiece of the university’s $24.3 million Advancing the Vision Capital Campaign, Eichner said.

Funds raised during the campaign are slated to enhance facilities and strengthen academic programming, scholarships, the endowment, athletics and a number of other areas of the university, OU officials said.

Thus far, the university has raised about $21.3 million in cash and pledges toward the $24.3 million goal, Eichner said in a recent interview.

The university is intent on building the 21st Century classroom, taking full advantage of available technology, Haines said.

“We want students to have the kind of connection with the world they need and deserve on our campus,” Haines said. “Instead of saying, ‘Well, you’ve got to go out into the world,’ we want to bring the world in.” 

OU and Neosho’s commitment to education excellence and the betterment of the communities they serve are evident by their surging enrollment numbers. 

Ottawa University recently reported its enrollment was at its highest point since fall 1975, touching more than 7,000 students throughout its network.

Neosho this year has been named the fifth-fastest growing community college in the United States for its sized institution by Community College Week magazine. 

“We were ranked 14th last year, and this year fifth,” Brian Inbody, Neosho County Community College president, wrote in a column published Jan. 20 in The Herald. “This also makes us the fastest-growing community college in Kansas again. To make its ranking, Community College Week used national data called IPEDS collected by the U.S. Department of Education on a yearly basis.

“I am very proud of what we have done as a college to open our doors to more and more students,” Inbody said. “Through our offerings at Chanute, Ottawa, online and our many sites at high schools, hospitals, as well as our new Eastern Kansas Rural Technology Center in Garnett, we keep expanding, reaching more and more students in the area.”

Neosho’s Brown said everything the college undertakes — from academics to outreach programs — is done with the community in mind.

“It’s really about serving the community,” Brown said. “If we can do our part to help make Ottawa and Franklin County a better place, it benefits all of us.”