Kevin dreams of being a successful businessman. He is determined to make a difference in the small southern community from which he came. He has heard the faculty, administrators, and staff at OAU constantly talk about the joy and value of service and has come to actually believe that there is something to this "service thing."
This represents a change for Kevin. When he first arrived at OAU, his plan was to get his education, graduate, get a good job in a Fortune 500 company, make some money and get a nice car, a house, a boat, etc. But he has changed. He still wants to be successful. Only now he wants to succeed to help others. He plans to return to Amory and start a business where he can employ disadvantaged youth. He is planning now because one of his classes requires that he develop a business plan that he can implement later.
As a result of observing OAU operations, Kevin has developed a new interest in knowing about organizations how and why they work. His understanding of how OAU operates was deepened by his experience last summer as an Administrative Intern. In that role, he was able to observe the organizational infrastructure of the University. Further, as President of the Business Club, he has opportunities for other experience, responsibility, and leadership training.
When he first arrived at OAU, Kevin struggled with low self-esteem. His parents were poor; his father had a problem with alcohol, and his English was not what it should have been. Well, all that is different now. He's not perfect, but he has come to believe that through Christian principles, self-confidence, the attention of caring teachers, and a lot of extra time at the Center for Academic Achievement (CAA), he can successfully overcome his deficits.
Kevin is also impressed with the extracurricular activities and sport programs. They include everything from basketball to tennis, to scuba diving, and golfing. In each area, however, there is a studied effort to emphasize a Christian, non-competitive approach. Teamwork, fair-play, and self-control are emphasized over winning and beating the opponent. At OAU the re-creative aspects of physical activity are the main thing. Clearly, OAU approaches sports and physical education with a different attitude from other institutions with which he is acquainted.
Teaching and Learning
Kevin also knows about the OAU Excellence in Teaching (ET) program that was started five years ago. ET is all about faculty development and emphasizes new ways for faculty and students to collaborate for excellence in learning. It has plainly defined standards for students and teachers, teacher preparation, and a component that involves ongoing personal and professional development.
At OAU, courses are taught by faculty who are recognized for their knowledge and skills, and incentives are offered for effective teaching strategies. The approach advocated in the ET program clearly creates a setting where both teacher and student can succeed. This program is one way the University supports the professional development and innovativeness of teaching methodology.
Kevin senses that the faculty and staff at OAU are challenged and adequately compensated. He understands that though they may not get comparable dollars, their benefit package is equal to or better than those offered at other institutions. As a result, they enjoy working at OAU and give their best service because they know that they are making a difference.
In short, the OAU education program is a success. Kevin recalls reading a number of articles about it in the new Dateline and the revised quarterly OAU Magazine. OAU academic programs have received local and national fame.
Educational associations in Huntsville, The College Fund/UNCF, National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO), and the National Commission on Teaching and America's Teaching have highlighted OAU's ET program as a model. This has, in turn, resulted in OAU receiving additional funding for other programs that integrate the best in academics, values, educational innovation, and interactive technology. The success of this program has not been lost on the SDA Church, either. It has used the ET program as a model for other schools in the Adventist educational system.
A successful program offered by OAU provides adult education degrees. Leadership Education for the Adult Professional (LEAP) was established more than a decade earlier. LEAP is a dynamic opportunity for adults who have not earned a college degree. It is so convenient that Kevin thought about trying to get his parents involved in the LEAP program. (Neither of them has a college degree his mother has completed one year of college, and his father has recently completed the GED.) In LEAP, students can take evening classes on site, attend periodic intensives on campus and at other sites around the country, complete classes on the Internet, or by correspondence.
The bottom line is that because of this special program, the acquisition of a college degree is now within the grasp of thousands of adults. Kevin plans to send literature to his parents about the program. Come to think of it, if they enrolled in LEAP, he would get recruitment credit on his account. "Every little bit helps," he thinks to himself with a smile.
Further, there are many partnerships and articulation agreements with SDA and non-SDA institutions in academic areas, service learning sites, and through distance education. OAU's vision to be proficient at distance learning and involved in educational consortiums in order to be positioned when and where learning and scholarship occur is happening.
These and other successful programs at OAU have been promoted and marketed so effectively that there is a waiting list to attend OAU. Students are now flooding the Office of Enrollment Management with applications on the Internet, phone, mail, and any other way they can get them in.
Kevin muses to himself that he is glad he got into OAU when he did. He was accepted even though his GPA was not exceptionally high because of OAU's unique acceptance policy. It selectively allows admission to students who may have experienced academic challenges, while simultaneously encouraging and maintaining high academic standards.
As a result of the degree programs and innovative special intensives, the OAU experience, and a comprehensive international recruiting and partnership initiative, OAU has a diverse student body, including students who are Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian, as well as international students from approximately 40 countries. Kevin especially likes this diversity because it gives him opportunity to interact with people of other backgrounds. He has developed some strong friendships with several Hispanic-American students attending OAU.
Even though Spanish or a second language is required of most majors at OAU, Kevin took Spanish classes, not because they were required, but as a way to improve his marketability and better understand his new friends. This exposure and the diversity emphasis have not only helped him with ethnic sensitivity, but he also better understands issues relative to gender, age, international culture, learning differences, and persons with different physical capabilities. He now understands that the ability to speak and relate to diverse groups is essential to success in the 21st century.
One program that especially appeals to Kevin is the Diversity Educational Exchange Program (D.E.E.P.). This creative exchange program started about seven years ago and was designed to encourage crosscultural experiences. In the program, students from OAU exchange campuses for one semester with students from a different ethnic group.
The multi-disciplinary approach to teaching has strengthened Kevin he actually learns better. During his orientation session and in numerous other meetings, he has come to realize that the OAU Man/Woman is not just another graduate. There is a clear expectation of them.
The OAU graduate will present a complete package of academic achievement that includes proficiency in critical thinking and reasoning, spoken and written communication, and quantitative analysis and scientific literacy. She/He will exhibit professional skills and character-building values, along with social and cultural abilities as a result of the inclusive general education core at OAU.
Also expected of OAU graduates is that they will have respect for spiritual values, personal commitment to service, a high standard for moral and ethical behavior, and a love for life-long learning.