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Senate Education & General Government Committee

Testimony regarding SB442 02.23.09

Senate Education and General Government Committee
Testimony: February 23, 2009
Christopher G. Maples, President, Oregon Institute of Technology

Chairman Hass, Vice-Chair Morse, Sen. Bonamici, Sen. Kruse and Sen. Metsger, my name is Chris Maples, and I am President of Oregon Institute of Technology. Thank you very much for this opportunity to share with you my perspective on Senate Bill 442. This is my second opportunity to testify in the Capitol this month, and I am extremely appreciative to be part of the discourse on state government.

First, I would like tell you a bit about myself. I am new to Oregon. I became president of Oregon Tech in October 2008, and most recently spent five years as the executive vice president of research at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada. DRI is the lone research institution in the Nevada system of higher education, and its faculty members generate their own salaries through grants. Faculty members also do not receive tenure. That entrepreneurial approach to higher education was an excellent complement to my own undergraduate education, which was at a smaller, public institution with an applied, hands-on approach to learning and teaching - much like Oregon Tech.

Please allow me to give you a brief overview of Oregon Tech and its service to the people of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest region. Oregon Tech provides technology-based educational opportunities at the undergraduate level at seven locations in Oregon and at The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. Our main campus is in Klamath Falls, where the institute was founded in 1947. In 1983, we began delivering upper-division coursework in the Portland metropolitan area, and Oregon Tech now has four campus locations in Portland and adjacent communities. We have a respiratory care program in Medford in cooperation with Rogue Community College, and a dental hygiene program in La Grande in partnership with ODS and Eastern Oregon University. Currently, Oregon Tech's sole graduate program is Manufacturing Engineering Technology, which is offered in Klamath Falls, Portland, and Seattle. Our programs with Boeing in Seattle and our Dental Hygiene Program in La Grande with ODS and Eastern Oregon are excellent examples of the collaboration and private-public partnerships that we value at Oregon Tech.

Oregon Tech is known for its readily-employable graduates. Each program has an industry-advisory council, which works to ensure that our curricula are immediately relevant to industry. In addition, Oregon Tech is known for the rigor of its undergraduate offerings, which also prepare our students for success in graduate and post-graduate institutions. In a survey of 2006 graduates, 98 percent of those who replied to our survey either were employed or in graduate school six months after graduation.

Oregon Tech has an enrollment of about 3,300 students at all locations. The hallmark of the Oregon Tech experience is a personal approach to education. Our student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1, and every student must complete an applied project, in many instances research based, before graduating. Our faculty members know their students, and our students are able to focus their interests on meaningful learning experiences. This term, we unveiled Oregon Tech's tagline: Hands-on education for real-world achievement.

The institute is well known for its programs in healthcare, engineering, management and applied sciences. The late Dr. Martha Anne Dow, Oregon Tech's fifth president, had a background in microbiology and a drive to create a center of excellence at the institute that would focus on allied-health programs. In many cases, Oregon Tech offers the only bachelor's degree in one of several different medical imaging specialties north of San Diego and south of Seattle. In the instance of vascular technology, Oregon Tech offers the only bachelor's degree west of the Mississippi River.

You might be asking yourself if bachelor's degrees are necessary in these professions, and I have a straight-forward answer: YES! In many instances Oregon Tech graduates become the managers of imaging departments, because of the breadth of their knowledge in these fields. Employers know that Oregon Tech graduates come to them with three quality years of classroom and laboratory experience, capped with a senior year spent in a clinical setting.
As an aside, Oregon Tech has specifically moved away from delivering associate degrees, as that is the role of our community college partners. Oregon Tech's rigorous programs are best delivered in a four-year, bachelor's degree setting. However, our mission statement specifically states that Oregon Tech will deliver "world-ready graduates". Should our programs need to move into a graduate realm to meet professional standards, such as what we are seeing with civil engineering, we must be prepared to meet the need of our graduates' employers.

The legislature deemed Oregon Tech home to the Oregon Center for Health Professions in 2005. We use this designation to represent the healthcare programs we offer throughout Oregon. Oregon Tech is now completing the Martha Anne Dow Center for Health Professions, which is the building in Klamath Falls that houses our programs there. I would like to thank you for the support we've received from the legislature for the Center, including a $10 million Article XI-F bond, a $9 million Article XI-G bond, and a $1.5 million Healthcare Policy Package.

The Martha Anne Dow Center will completely open next fall, but now houses all of our imaging programs in the first wing. The second wing will be home to OHSU's nursing program and two special computer-simulated modules. Toshiba America Medical Systems has helped us equip the Center with state-of-the-industry instruments in several areas. Toshiba's partnership found them donating to Oregon Tech the only simulated MRI and CAT-scan equipment in use nationally for education.

Healthcare education is only one of Oregon Tech's centers of excellence. In 2001, the Oregon Legislature designated Oregon Tech home to the Oregon Renewable Energy Center. This built upon the work of the Geo-Heat Center, an international clearinghouse for geothermal information, which had been established at Oregon Tech in 1974. By spring 2005, Oregon Tech had become the first university in the United States offering a bachelor's degree in renewable energy. The program offers a synthesis of electrical, computer and mechanical engineering, all addressing power production through renewable, sustainable sources.

In January, we broke ground for a deep, high-temperature geothermal well on the Klamath Falls campus. We've used geothermal technology to heat and cool the campus since 1964, but now we are moving forward to produce our own electricity. With the applied nature of our pedagogy, our students will use the power plant as a working laboratory. This spring a low-temperature power plant will be in place, utilizing existing resources, which also will augment our students' preparedness to meet the needs of industry.

Being a small institution, Oregon Tech is able to be flexible and nimble to meet the needs of employers, such as The Boeing Company, and the needs of Oregon's citizens, through our centers of excellence and readily applicable degree programs.

I hope this gives you a feeling for Oregon Tech's unique niche across the state of Oregon and in the Pacific Northwest. As noted earlier, our philosophical approach to education - small classes, rigorous programs, dedicated faculty, applied fields of study - is embodied in our new tag line: Hands-on education for real-world achievement. I thank you for this opportunity to share with you some of the accomplishments of Oregon Tech. I would be happy to address any questions you may have.

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