November 01, 2007

SIU-Olney Central College effort benefits students

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University, in conjunction with Olney Central College, today (Nov. 1) opened another SIU System Service Center aimed at helping students achieve their higher education goals.

The center, operating on the OCC campus in Olney, will better integrate and expand education opportunities for area students by streamlining cooperation between OCC and the SIU system, officials said.

The OCC site is the fifth of seven planned for various local colleges in Southern Illinois. Earlier today, officials opened another service center at Rend Lake College in Ina. This summer, the University also opened centers at the Southeastern Illinois College campus near Harrisburg. John A. Logan College in Carterville and Southwestern Illinois College's Red Bud campus.

The new centers represent an innovative partnership between the University and area colleges that will help students pursue their goals in several ways, said SIU President Glenn Poshard.

"We are grateful to OCC President Jackie L. Davis and his outstanding staff for their hard work and willingness to partner with us," Poshard said. "These centers exemplify our longstanding commitment to serving the needs of our entire region. I consider myself an example of how education can transform a life, and this innovative approach is yet another tool OCC and SIU can use to help our students achieve their educational and career dreams."

Workers at the service center will advocate for the University, OCC and students. They will broker student services and act as ombudsmen and liaisons between the schools for both students and faculty. They also will create innovative new approaches to help students and the schools work together for common good.

The service center also will assist with the existing "2 plus 2" program, designed to help students make efficient use of their community college education so that credits easily transfer to SIU. Under the program, SIU counselors monitor such students and provide ongoing feedback on their transcripts to facilitate their continuing education at the University.

Service center workers will help students who want a bachelor's degree to easily make the transition from OCC to the SIU system. They also will assist students with dual enrollment, taking classes at both OCC and SIU at the same time, if necessary. Officials also are exploring giving dual-enrollment students the option to use SIU facilities and participate in SIU programs on a fee basis prior to their arrival on campus.

SIU, OCC and the local Regional Office of Education also are exploring offering SIU classes on the OCC campus at night and on weekends. The service centers also will help coordinate that effort and assist students with enrolling in those classes.

Ron House, director of the centers at both OCC and RLC, said the effort will enrich both students and communities served by SIU and the colleges.

"The mission of both centers is to create a link that will facilitate students transferring to the University after they finish their classes at the local colleges," said House, a three-degree SIU graduate with a long career in Southern Illinois education. "The folks at SIU are well tuned into these centers and will give excellent service to students who make inquiries. It is a seamless operation.

"In addition, once these centers are going at full speed they will provide a vital link between the communities and their colleges," House said. "They will take an active role in thing like economic development, community service and community development. It is about more than attracting students."

SIU officials hope the service centers also will increase the University's visibility within the region, encouraging local students to consider its programs in conjunction with local community colleges. It also will help the University identify students who express an interest in attending SIU early in their higher education career, allowing SIU counselors to help them achieve their goals.

Davis said the center will help OCC and its students achieve their educational goals.

"Creating a clear pathway for students to matriculate from community college to the University is proof positive of SIU's commitment to meeting the needs of students in Illinois' smaller communities," Davis said. "Olney Central College is proud to be a partner with Southern Illinois University in this endeavor."

The center is located in the student services office at Wattleworth Hall. It is open at various times during normal business hours and by appointment. Call 618/395-7777, Ext. 2037, for more information.