LA GRANDE – Eastern Oregon University’s Board of Trustees approved new academic programs in Agriculture Entrepreneurship and Special Education at its regular meeting on Feb. 18.
Provost Sarah Witte introduced both programs to the board. Students who major in Agriculture Entrepreneurship through the College of Business can choose to earn a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Applied Science, either online or on campus. The degree is designed to be transfer-friendly and equip farmers and ranchers with skills to leverage modern tools.
“Agriculture Entrepreneurs must rely upon planning and decision-making processes that coordinate and balance the social, economic and environmental demands on the natural resources of their community and region along with the unique challenges and issues in agriculture production and supply chains,” Witte said. “Degree programs addressing this emerging field must operate in the nexus of business management, public policy, science and technology, and agriculture.”
Meanwhile, the College of Education seeks to address a high demand for special education professionals in rural areas. The new undergraduate program offers a highly efficient curriculum that will allow graduates to enter the workforce with their initial licensure to teach special education in just four years.
The 75-credit, comprehensive program combines coursework in core study areas with structured in-person and online student teaching experiences. Currently the only other program of this type in the state of Oregon is located at Portland State University, hundreds of miles from the high-need counties on the eastern side of the state.
Legislative happenings also typically draw university stakeholders from far-reaching ends of the state, but with COVID-19 protocols the 2021 session is in full swing online. Vice President for University Advancement Tim Seydel reported that lawmakers anticipate presenting up to 4,000 bills.
Seydel presented a slate of priorities that EOU and higher education institutions across the state plan to focus on, including equity and inclusion efforts, Sports Lottery funds, and capital repair and renewal investment. EOU is particularly involved in bills that seek to offer in-state tuition for Pacific Islander students, improve rural behavioral health education and services, and support the newly launched Rural Engagement and Vitality (REV) Center.
“We continue to be a voice in the capitol that informs legislators directly about the good work happening at universities,” said EOU President Tom Insko, who also chairs the Oregon Council of Presidents in collaboration with peer universities.
The board’s new Ad Hoc Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) presented initial recommendations. Committee Chair Karyn Gomez said the group plans to review current DEI activities at EOU and discuss the role of a governing board in setting the tone and goals of university DEI work. The committee will make recommendations to the full board at a future meeting.
Trustees approved the fiscal year-end report, and reviewed progress toward the university’s strategic goals in 2020. Insko pointed out that, although it was an unusual year, it tested leaders’ commitment to EOU’s stated values, goals and mission.
“Responding to a global pandemic is a good way to reflect and identify whether we made decisions consistent with those foundational documents,” Insko said. “I found that we were continually asking about the mission, values and how that guides our decision.”
Shared governance leaders from Faculty Senate, University Council and the Associated Students of EOU updated trustees on recent projects. The EOU Foundation Board President also reported its renewed mission and strategic plan. Trustees approved updates to the university’s Pandemic Resumption Plan, and discussed the shift in focus to vaccination planning.
Full minutes and meeting materials can be found at eou.edu/governance. The next regular Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for May 20, 2021.