On a low ridge flanking the library at Central Oregon Community College’s (COCC) Bend campus, there’s a small clearing amid a grouping of young conifers where learning is deeply rooted. The spot is the primary classroom of the Outdoor Leadership program, and it serves as an open-air lecture hall for studies of sustainability, ecology and outdoor skills, while doubling as a workshop for planning field expeditions.
Students set up camp chairs around a white board to learn about risk psychology and wilderness first aid. They might discuss an upcoming canoe trip, maybe master a Prusik knot. It’s fertile ground for discovery.
Jessica Russell, an associate professor in the Outdoor Leadership program, is excited to utilize this special classroom following a pandemic-altered year. “We plan on running a normal sequenced Outdoor Leadership program starting in the fall,” she said, adding that the program is limited to 24 students. “But we’ll require students to follow all current health and safety guidelines, indoors and out.”
COCC’s fall term, in fact, will look a lot more ‘normal’ across the board. “About 50% of our fall term classes will have an in-person component,” said Betsy Julian, vice president of instruction. “Some students will be mainly in-person — such as welding, machining, automotive, several of the health-related programs, aviation — while others will be able to take classes in-person or online.”
Though fall classes are still a ways off (the term begins Sept. 20), many students utilize summer term at the college — with an admissions deadline of June 13 — to take prerequisites for both cohort-style programs, like Outdoor Leadership, and for other degree and certificate programs, such as the Computer and Information Systems (CIS) degree in Networking and Cybersecurity.
“We have a number of classes this summer that can help students who haven’t been in school for a while hit the ground running,” said Ken Swartwout, associate professor of CIS. “Summer term is the perfect time to remember what being a student is like and hone your study habits for the fall.”
“In addition to ‘classics’ like CIS 120 (computer concepts) and CIS 131 (software applications), which are offered every summer, we are offering CIS 124 (IT fundamentals),” he said. “The latter is a good entry point into any CIS degree.” These classes are also pertinent to degree readiness for COCC’s unmanned aerial systems (drone) aviation program, Swartwout noted.
The Networking and Cybersecurity degree has aimed a larger focus on the growing field of cybersecurity in the past few years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s a job category expected to surge by 31% between 2019 and 2029. Classes in the CIS program are conducted in a convenient online format, set up that way even before the pandemic.
Another growing field, Health Information Management, is also staged online at COCC, with its prerequisites available this summer. For future students of this two-year cohort program — who train to be medical coders, billing professionals and insurance specialists — the requirements are: AH 111 (medical terminology), WR 121 (academic composition) or BA 214 (business communications), and CIS 120 (computer concepts). It’s an education that yields more than technical know-how.
“I have never thought of myself as ‘management material,’” shared Valerie Anderson, who graduates this June. “But health information management calls for not only management-related positions, but also for the skills that come along with being in management, such as learning confidence, emotional intelligence, how to be a leader, personal strengths versus weaknesses and implicit biases.”
Anderson plans to work in medical billing and coding and complete her bachelor’s degree along with registered health information administrator credentials. “I am excited because there is so much room for movement within the field,” she added. “I don’t have to stick to one thing for the rest of my life and I can make a positive impact on my community.”
Also hoping to make a difference in his community is Eduardo Romero, whose path to an academic finish line this commencement required some incredible experiential learning — including challenging snowbound expeditions — with the Outdoor Leadership program. “I came into the program with a lot of the technical skills needed outdoors, but I didn’t know how to manage groups of people and how to guide them,” he said. “I became more confident with myself and working with others.”
Now focused on creating programming to help diversify the outdoors, Romero is an intern at Vamonos Outside, which helps introduce Latinx children to the great outdoors. “There’s a lot of work to do here in Bend, and I’m eager to get started.”
For information on summer term classes for these and other programs — to get started with your own journey — visit cocc.edu or call 541-383-7700.