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CWC adds two new bachelor's degrees

May 19, 2021 by Tori Stanek

Two students study with a laptop computer

In fall 2021, Central Wyoming College will include two new Bachelor of Science degree options, one in organizational management and leadership with an option in outdoor program leadership and the other in early childhood development.

The students who follow the Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Management and Leadership pathways can choose business and entrepreneurial leadership, tribal leadership, or outdoor program leadership.

The new programs are affordable and include online, virtual and face-to-face offerings. Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lori Ridgway said the coursework combines experiential opportunities and practical skills to help students pursue local career options.

I believe this will be a huge opportunity to provide advancement for our current workforce and for individuals who do not want to leave Wyoming, but continue to advance their professional opportunities and live and work in Fremont, Teton and Hot Springs counties. ”

Lori Ridgway, director of marketing and public relations

CWC employer advisory groups and market data from Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) helped determine the focus areas of the new bachelor programs. Ridgway said the two sources are critical because they offer region-specific information about the degrees needed to enhance the local job market. 

“Taking advantage of our location in central Wyoming is a must so our graduates have career opportunities,” she said. “The bachelor's degree in organizational leadership and management with the outdoor program leadership option is perfect for this region.” 

To meet the new degree program’s requirements, Professor of Outdoor Education and Leadership Darran Wells said his department expanded its current associate course offerings.

“We've added a number of very exciting upper-level business management courses to the college catalog this year,” Wells said. “Classes like innovation management, business ethics and outdoor program operations will help our emerging leaders build new businesses and guide more established non-profits and commercial outfitters in the growing outdoor recreation and tourism economy here in the West.”

Wells said these new courses apply the same instructional methods that made his associate degree program so successful in the first place. 

“We are maintaining our hands-on practical approach to teaching and learning by creating real-world opportunities for upper-level students to apply new marketing and leadership strategies,” he said.

Wells said offering expanded degree options at CWC is a great solution for the students who start to feel at home in the area and don’t want to uproot after completing the two-year program.

“For years, our associate degree students have complained about having to move on after settling into the thriving outdoor community here at the Alpine Science Institute,” Wells said. “The outdoor lifestyle afforded by our proximity to world-class rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing and fly-fishing makes it hard for students to leave after just two years.”

Having a more advanced degree program available locally will stop making students have to choose whether to settle down here or continue their education, Wells said.

After they complete the program, students have a multitude of career options in front of them.

“The new bachelor’s degree prepares students not only to be competent mountain guides, outdoor leaders, park rangers and wilderness educators but also to manage and administrate businesses and nonprofits in the outdoor recreation and tourism industry,” Wells said. “We are preparing our students for life-long careers that will support their outdoor lifestyle and provide the kind of return on investment that means they won't have to live in that van forever--unless they choose to.”

Like Wells, Associate Professor of Education Dr. Colleen Bartlett expanded her current elementary education curriculum into the new Bachelor of Applied Science degree program in Early Childhood to further develop student skills.

“We wanted to make sure that our graduates have a deeper understanding of how young children grow, develop and learn,” Bartlett said. “We added additional upper-division courses that would address working with special needs children, families, curriculum and instruction, diversity and methods classes for teaching math, science, language arts and social studies.”

Bartlett also said the program includes practicum and student teaching experiences and that her department collaborated with field experts in order to ensure students will be equipped for rigorous careers after they complete the new program. 

“We worked with the Professional Teaching Standards Board to make sure that we put together a program that would allow graduates to apply for a teaching license for PreK through third grade as well as the endorsement in early childhood special education,” she said. 

The degree will provide graduates with career opportunities in areas of high regional demand including child care, public and private teaching, Child Development Services and early intervention early childhood education instruction.

Bartlett said having higher degree opportunities for students who don’t want or are unable to leave the area is one of the biggest assets of offering bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges.

“This will give students a chance to complete a four-year degree in education from wherever they live, because for some students that is the only way they will be able to finish,” Bartlett said. “They will have faculty and staff that are right here in Wyoming to help them in any way we can.”

Ridgway said these expanded degree options not only help students achieve their career goals, but it also gives the college the opportunity to enhance the regional job market.

“There are many students in our region who want the option to pursue a bachelor's degree but cannot relocate to another area of the state or to another state,” Ridgway said. “We are serving a need for those individuals by offering bachelor's degrees in areas where people can increase their opportunities for employment or advancement in employment through education without uprooting their families and moving to another area.”

Bachelor of Applied Science
https://www.cwc.edu/programs/bachelor-of-applied-science/