NSU, Connors Combine Resources in Muskogee

Northeastern State University and Warner-based Connors State College recently combined their efforts in Muskogee in a move that representatives say will offer northeastern Oklahoma residents opportunities for higher education.
Students in Muskogee have attended lower-division classes at Connors, a junior college, and upper-division courses at NSU since the early 1990s, but access to those classes and the transition from one college into the other will be made easier when the two combine their downtown Muskogee sites into one campus.
On Dec. 18, NSU-Muskogee broke ground on an 8,000-10,000 SF building, funded through a $2 million Oklahoma Capital Improvement Authority bond awarded to Connors, that will house a book store, library, child development program and administrative offices. Tulsa’s Oakridge Builders Inc. is the construction project manager.
Connors students will attend classes in the new facility, as well as on NSU’s existing campus, which is comprised of two buildings, built in 1993 and 2001, with a total 70,000 SF of classroom and laboratory space.
Donnie Nero, president of Connors, said the college wasn’t sure yet what would happen to its downtown campus.
“That property belongs to the institution,” he said. “Our plans are to at least look at the possibility of sale or a rent/lease option, because we understand there may be some interest from some people in coming in and occupying it.”
Nero didn’t say who those people might be. He did say the Connors Two Rivers Port campus, near the Muskogee turnpike, will remain open.
Nero said the discussion over combining Connors’ and NSU’s resources in Muskogee began with NSU’s past president, Larry Williams.
When the current present, Don Betz, in office for about six months, signed on at NSU, he was supportive of the idea, Nero said.
Nero said Connors was looking to expand in Muskogee but, when considering the costs of building and staffing a new campus, couldn’t afford to do so on its own.
“NSU’s population takes most of its classes at night, so there’s plenty of room to serve our students in the daytime,” Nero said.
Betz said, between the two institutions, they’ll be able to offer students degrees in 23 programs. The colleges are especially excited to offer additional health care degrees, as well as advanced degrees.
“It’s absolutely essential that health care be as good as it can be and as local as it can be,” Betz said. “There is a clear need for health care professionals in a large number of health care professions. What Dr. Venneman is doing with NSU and Connors is to create hub for the education and continued training of these key health care professionals for this region.”
Martin Venneman, dean of NSU’s College of Science and Health Professions said NSU has been working closely with the Eastern Workforce Investment Board Health Care Coalition and the Oklahoma Health Care Workforce Center to identify and address the needs of Oklahoma’s health care work force.
The two campuses are already collaborating on their career ladder nursing program, in which students earn licensed practical nursing or registered nursing degrees through Connors and then move on to NSU to earn their bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
Venneman is working on the curricula for master’s degrees in nursing and occupational therapy, with the hopes of churning out more health care professors.
Connors nursing program will begin offering its classes as NSU-Muskogee as soon as January of 2010. The colleges’ intention is to have all of Connors’ courses offered on NSU’s campus by January 2011.

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