Ottawa University plots course with academic strategy

Prospective students walk around the main Ottawa University Arizona building in Surprise March 25 at an open house. [Submitted Photo]
By Richard Smith, Independent Newsmedia

Late February is not an ideal time to announce the debut of a university, at least in terms of attracting students for the next fall.

Ottawa University Arizona was unveiled Feb. 17 and knew attracting students for purely academic reason on such a short turnaround would be difficult.

That is what school officials have heard from enrollment advisors making contacts at local high schools.

“Right now I think we’re dealing with a lot of students who have already made their decision,” OUAZ Provost Dr. Dennis J. Tyner said.

The university planned for this by starting all 19 sports, with the exception of football, in 2017-18. A majority of the up to 300 students in the initial enrolling class will be student-athletes.

They, and the academics-focused students, will include a decent representation of transfers from other universities and community colleges.

That could make for an interesting first semester mix, although semester is not really the correct term in this case.

A traditional 16-week term with four or five classes is only one option Ottawa offers.

“We started with the idea that ‘who said a semester is the right way to study,’” Dr. Tyner said.

The university’s FlexTerm academic calendar allows students to choose class formats that run for four weeks, eight weeks, or the 16 weeks. Students on the shorter terms will concentrate on one or two classes.

The FlexTerm calendar encourages students to tailor their educational experience and investment while also interspersing their classroom learning with internships, service learning, international experiences and cross-cultural study programs. It also allows students to accelerate toward graduation in less than four years or to combine master’s degree studies within their educational plan.

“There’s not a lot of students who can easily handle five courses at one time,” Dr. Tyner said. “There are a lot of people who hear that and it really resonates with them.”

He said Ottawa intends to offer course work in all four of its colleges — arts and sciences, business, education and health and applied sciences — but not every degree program will start in the fall. For example, engineering will need to wait a year for labs and other facilities to be set up adequately.

All generalized course work will be offered beginning in August. Signature programs like biology, business and exercise science will be offered from the first day.

Surprise is working with its new hometown college to orient some of its degree programs to the skill sets the city believes will be a necessity to grow its economic base.

“The city has target industries in business services, healthcare and advanced manufacturing and we will work with the university to align new programs that meet the training needs of these industries,” Mike Hoover, economic development manager, stated in an email.

The priority deadline for applications has expired, but Ottawa University Arizona is giving back to its home town by offering a high achiever scholarship to senior students who are residents or attending a high school in Surprise, who excel academically and show engagement in extracurricular activities.

Winners of this scholarship receive full tuition per academic year for up to four years.

“They’ve been wonderful. The city has been amazing and we want to reciprocate,” Dr. Tyner said.

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