Peninsula College’s debut of nine new programs next fall is among the slate of change that president Suzy Ames has spearheaded since arriving on campus last July.
What has surprised her most during the short time she’s been at Peninsula College, Ames said, was how the community’s willingness to embrace change made the task much easier than she had anticipated.
“I grew up and spent my whole career on I-5, and it is so hard to get the attention of anybody,” Ames said. “And here, in less than a year, I’ve been able to partner with more than 20 nonprofits who will provide wraparound support services to our average students and my team, and I have been able to partner with companies representing five different industries.
“People in his community just come to the table with a willingness to say, ‘yes,’ and ‘we’ll figure it out.’”
The nine new programs are certificate programs in natural resources, automotive technology, virtual office assistant and media technology; bachelor of applied science concentrations in human resources management, IT management, tribal management and entrepreneurship and marketing; and a bachelor of applied science degree in behavioral health.
The new behavioral health degree meets a number of demands, Ames said, by being a flexible program attractive to students who want to pursue a career in a field that has a scarcity of providers on the Peninsula.
“They will learn how to actively listen, learn techniques on how to calm someone down if they’re stressed out, how to effectively deliver advice and strategies to people who are in crisis,” Ames said.
It is a 2+2 program where students can earn an associate of arts degree in two years that leads to a job, but also have the ability to return to Peninsula College for another two years to earn their bachelor’s. Or, they could choose to study at the college for four straight years and earn the degree that way.
Ames said students in addiction studies, medical assistant and nursing associates degree programs were “prime candidates to go into this bachelor’s degree program.”
With additional study and training, a student earning a bachelor’s of applied science degree in behavioral health could become a behavioral therapist or a licensed social worker.
As soon as Peninsula College receives final approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, students will be able to register for courses leading to a bachelor’s of applied science degree.
Peninsula will be one of just five of the 34 State Board of Community and Technical Colleges in the state that offers a bachelor of applied science degree in behavioral health. (The others are Centralia College, Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland, Seattle Central and Spokane Falls Community College.)
Developing applied bachelor of science degrees don’t just help students and communities, it also helps community colleges by helping curb years of declining enrollment. According to the SBCTC, community and technical college enrollment across the state dropped 25.3 percent from fall 2018 to fall 2022. During that same time period, enrollment in applied bachelor’s degrees rose by 28 percent.
That matters when community and technical colleges rely more heavily on enrollment for funding from the state Legislature than do the state universities.
The dental hygienist program the college had initially hoped would get underway this fall will now most likely start in fall 2025, Ames said.
“The approval process from the dental accrediting body is extremely arduous,” Ames said. “They only meet twice a year, so meeting their timelines with all the requirements is a significant process.”
Also in the future is the possibility of a veterinary technician program.
“We are working on figuring out what it would take to start it,” Ames said. “But there’s wonderful interest from our local animal shelters in partnering with us.”
But there is still a great deal Ames said that she would like to accomplish at Peninsula College.
“I’d like us to have a deeper connection to the high schools,” Ames said. “Our high schools are really struggling post-COVID, and I’d love to find a way to partner with them to find a path to college.”
PC launches Natural Resources Program
A certification program that meets the growing need for natural resources professionals on the Olympic Peninsula will soon be available for Peninsula College scholars.
In partnership with community funders, including $105,000 from locally based forest products company Merrill & Ring, Peninsula College announced its first-ever Natural Resources Program scheduled to begin in the fall.
The one-year program aims to answer the call from regional employers eager to hire STEM-educated natural resource professionals for careers in forestry, conservation, fire science and other related fields.
Merrill & Ring contributions come directly from its shareholder groups, which include RD Merrill Co, The Pillar Fund and The Mather Fund.
Shareholder groups noted in a statement: “We are excited to partner with Peninsula College and help foster future generations of natural resource experts. The Natural Resources Program allows Olympic Peninsula residents to learn about resource management and stewardship within their community, creating a home-grown skilled workforce that will benefit the economy, local resources, and the region.”
The one-year course includes forest ecology, water quality, fisheries, fire science, and wildlife habitat management classes. In addition, the program will consist of in-class learning, lab sciences, outdoor learning and internship opportunities.
The program is in response to the increasing demand for natural resource management technicians. A labor report shared by Peninsula College reveals Clallam and Jefferson counties as “hot spots” for forestry and conservation careers.
“Peninsula College is committed to providing skilled trades and workforce programs that help create more equitable communities,” Peninsula College president Suzy Ames said.
“Launch of the Natural Resources Program will help prepare students for jobs that support and sustain the natural environment while helping residents obtain living-wage jobs.”
The first Natural Resources Program classes will begin in Fall 2023 at the Forks campus. The program’s inaugural cohort will consist of 24 students.
Enrollment for the program began May 30 for current students and June 2 for new or returning students. Classes can be stacked into one or more natural resources certificates, with the ability to earn an Associate of Applied Science Transfer degree.
To learn more about the Natural Resource Program enrollment, visit pencol.edu/admissions.