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College of Southern Idaho (CSI) students are the latest to benefit from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s growing distance-education program.

The community college in Twin Falls, Idaho, offers an associate’s degree in Human Services. Many of their graduates have an interest in pursuing a bachelor’s degree, but the nearest baccalaureate college is more than 100 miles away.

Mary Christy, of CSI’s Human Services department, went looking for a solution and found one in UW Oshkosh’s highly successful human services online bachelor’s program.

The program, already partnered with institutions in Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin, had exactly what CSI students were looking for: respected professors, an established online track record and — uncommon among human services degree programs — a focus on leadership preparation.

CSI faculty and staff worked with UW Oshkosh’s Center for New Learning and the Department of Human Services and Educational Leadership to establish program guidelines and credit-transfer criteria. The program enrolled its first Idaho students in the spring.

Lynn Brandt, Center for New Learning student services coordinator, said the program is tailor-made for schools like the College of Southern Idaho.

“Like many community colleges, the College of Southern Idaho has a high percentage of adult learners, who tend to be place-bound,” she said. “The lack of a nearby baccalaureate program limited their opportunity for educational growth, but with the addition of the UWO online program, they’re now able to complete their four-year degree entirely in Twin Falls — right down to a required internship. It really is a model application of distance education.”

The program benefits UW Oshkosh, as well, said Penny Garcia, chair of Human Services and Educational Leadership.

“First and foremost, we’re able to offer a UWO education to more students in more places than ever before. Second, we’re enhancing our reputation,” she said. “As more institutions join us in this successful program, still others become aware of our good work. And third, the program keeps UWO on the leading edge of distance learning. Our faculty and staff continue to develop and refine the online classroom experience, positioning us strongly for future growth and success.”

As the University’s distance-ed program continues to expand, expect to see more partnerships like these … and more Titans T-shirts in places like Twin Falls, Idaho.

John Watters contributed to this story.