After months of work, classes for Odessa College’s bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree in leadership and management are underway.
The second installment of automation will start in the fall.
Two-year schools, such as Odessa College are allowed to offer four-year applied baccalaureate degrees under the provisions of Senate Bill 2118, which passed the Texas Legislature in June 2017, and becahme effective immediately.
The legislation allows two-year colleges to seek permission to offer bachelor’s degrees in high-demand, workforce-oriented fields.
Oscar Gonzales, department chair for business professions, or the directly responsible individual, said the interest level has been “pretty significant.” He had 27 students enrolled, but expected another one for a total of 28.
Armin Rashvand, department chair of engineering and technology, or DRI, for automation said they opened the admission process Jan. 15. Rashvand said it’s going to be a selective program and there are 20 students interested.
Gonzales said he has been working on his leadership and management curriculum for seven or eight months. The same is true for the automation courses.
“We are doing open education resources that to where we can tailor the class where it’s industry and community specific and address those challenges vs. being restricted to a textbook. The information’s more current. The way innovation and technology are changing so rapidly, we want to make sure to keep that as fresh and current as possible,” Gonzales said.
The degrees are an additional 60 credit hours beyond an associate degree, so it would take about two years to complete, Gonzales said. They are offered in eight-week terms — one class at a time — which he said makes it a little easier for students to focus on the material.
“We have some that are transitioning straight from their associate in May into the program. We also have some that are already in the workforce. We have an agreement or arrangement with the City of Odessa. They have a certificate program and those courses actually transfer as part of the associate and BAAS program,” Gonzales added.
Cristian Armendariz, 21, earned an associate of arts degree in occupational health and safety in December. He works as a safety instructor at TTC Safety Inc. in Odessa.
“It’s just basically to better myself and my education and further my path down into the safety field,” Armendariz said of his decision to go for a four-year degree.
He said the material in the class is new to him in that it’s more related to business than safety.
“I guess it’s opening up a new path for me because it’s showing me the business side of things and how to be a leader, or a manger for example; how to be more creative,” Armendariz added.
Many of the students in the instrumentation technology program were interested in the automation BAAS, so they already have an associate degree in that, Rashvand said.
“But we do have some other students that they already have bachelor’s degree in different types of engineering, like electrical or industrial. … They say they’re interested as well because they never had this chance to have more hands-on while they were doing their bachelor’s, so this is focusing on hands-on as well as theory,” Rashvand said.
He added that because his courses are going to be more hands-on they are not able to take advantage of open educational resources as much as the leadership and management program.
“But we are trying to find where we create our own curriculum for that. Right now, we’re focusing on meeting the industry needs,” Rashvand said.
He said that cyber security also was added.
Vice President for Instruction Valerie Jones said this piece was included so they can build automation systems that are secure from Ransomware. According to the Trend Micro website, ransomware “is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files unless a ransom is paid.”
Jones said the faculty in both programs have put tremendous focus in the most current trends.
“… In both fields, it changes so fast they have to be able to keep that relevance,” Jones said.
To that end, Gonzales said one of the principles he’s going to teach is futuring “where you kind of continue to look ahead, even looking at outliers that may influence things like for example cell phones.”
He said both he and Rashvand want students to enter the workforce fully prepared and able to anticipate what’s coming.
Gonzales, Rashvand and Jones anticipate hiring more faculty with PhDs. Rashvand said they have hired someone with a PhD in electrical engineering.
“We were fortunate on the start up of this because we have had PhDs on staff as faculty in the different areas like in our physics and Oscar in business. We had doctoral credentialed faculty already. That allowed us to move at the pace that we did. As we flesh that out, we will intentionally bring on additional PhDs,” Jones said.
She added that Gonzales and Rashvand, who have been at OC since 2017, will be teaching associate and bachelor’s degree level classes. They also take on students at OCTECHS, the early college high school on campus.
“It is not an easy process. There was a lot of extra work to do. They have just continued to step up to that plate. When they talk about working on curriculum for eight months, they’re not kidding. … If they’ve complained, it’s not been within earshot. They really are excited about bringing this to the students,” Jones said.
Rashvand and Gonzales said they both enjoy teaching the high school students.
“You see them grow and develop,” Gonzales said. “Quite a few of them are looking into … staying with the program and following through with the BAAS. …”
Jones said she appreciates that they both want to teach the younger students.
“I love that they’re both saying that because this is their choice. They have the power as the DRI to assign those other classes to other people and to cherry pick,” Jones added.