Lighting the Path Ahead

A Focus on Education

Successful businesses almost always have a mission statement that articulates the company's direction. Smart business owners use this statement to remind their teams about why their company exists. The mission statement serves as a “North Star” that keeps everyone clear on the direction of the organization. 

Public institutions of higher education are no different in this regard. At OSUIT, our mission statement reminds our employees of our core mission and keeps us focused on how we are to expend our time and resources. If you were to refer to our college catalog, or to most of our important documents, you would find the OSUIT Mission Statement… “OSUIT’s mission is to serve as the lead institution of higher education in Oklahoma and the region providing comprehensive, high-quality, advancing technology programs and services to prepare and sustain a diverse student body as competitive members of a world-class workforce and contributing members of society.” 

Our commitment to this mission is reflected even in our academic calendar. Allow me to explain.  

Q: Why does OSUIT not cut back in the summer, with a lighter summer school schedule, like most colleges?

A: From my years as a college/graduate student to my career in higher education, I have spent nearly forty years of my life on various college campuses—ten to be exact. I’m quite familiar with the traditional (fall/spring) semester system used at most U.S. institutions of higher education. It divides the calendar year into two equal terms of 16 to 18 weeks each, and sometimes allows for abbreviated summer offerings of varying lengths. This system was adopted in the United States over two centuries ago and was based on the requirements of an agricultural-based society. Rural families needed their sons back on the farm during the growing season, so most colleges started after harvest and concluded before planting so students could be at home when their families depended on them.  

But as I explained last week, OSUIT was founded in the 1940s around the training needs of returning WWII veterans wishing to reenter the civilian workforce. These veterans needed a quick turnaround time from being discharged from military service and being gainfully employed in the private sector. Having summers off simply made no sense for this population, so OSUIT initially adopted a year-round training model that was later delineated as a trimester system. 

Today, OSUIT operates three fifteen week sessions throughout the year effectively using all twelve months in the calendar—just like industry. We believe this better prepares our students for the rigors and expectations of the real world. Just think about it, besides education, what industry essentially shuts down for three months and offers their employees a summer vacation? I can’t think of any. So, why are most colleges still fostering this expectation among their students? The trimester system not only helps OSUIT to be more efficient, it actually allows students to complete their degrees in a shorter amount of time.

This briefing about your local college will continue next week as I talk about the intensity of the technical training at OSUIT. Your questions and comments are encouraged at osuit-president@okstate.edu

--- Dr. Bill R. Path is president of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and board member of Okmulgee Main Street Inc. 

 

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