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SOU grant targets hazard plan

Southern Oregon University has received a pair of grants worth $300,000 — one to prepare for disease outbreaks and other emergencies and the other to get 20 lower-division classes online.

A $250,000 grant will "develop an inclusive all-hazard management plan ... create emergency management materials, provide training to staff, faculty and students and will engage community partners in an active, all-campus exercise and post-analysis," according to a memo from the U.S. Department of Education, which gave the grant.

SOU activities will include communication and active "verbal de-escalation techniques, infectious disease prevention and response, fire, earthquake and flood evacuation," it added.

The drills will include senior campus officials, as well as the commuter resource center, multicultural student union and disability support office.

The grant will pay for two part-time jobs. It runs from July this year through the end of 2010. It was provided through the Emergency Management for Higher Education Program, which gave similar grants to 20 colleges and universities.

"This is a great opportunity to work with other emergency agencies in the Rogue Valley and improve our emergency preparedness," SOU Vice President for Finance and Administration Craig Morris said in a news release.

A $50,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will allow 20 general courses online in such areas as business, art history, criminal justice and communication and writing, said Jennifer McVay-Dyche, SOU's distance education director.

"The demand for online courses is typically from non-traditional students and busy, working professionals — and the 18- to 22-year-old group expects it because they grew up with the Internet," said McVay-Dyche. "It's also cost-effective because of gas prices."

The online instruction will be developed over the next year and will be in place for the fall term of 2010, she said.

The Sloan Foundation is "dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education (and helping) the collaborative sharing of knowledge and effective practices to improve online education in learning effectiveness, access, affordability for learners and providers, and student and faculty satisfaction," according to its Web site, www.sloan-c.org.

"We're quite pleased," McVay-Dyche said. "It allows us to expand our offering quickly. We've seen a 32-percent growth in online enrollment just in the last year.

She noted that SOU already offers two degree-completion tracks online, in the areas of business and criminal justice.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.