Bruce Shepard, Western Washington University president, visited Olympic College’s Poulsbo campus yesterday to discuss the possibility of bringing a bachelor’s degree program to Kitsap County.
Shepard met with Olympic college president, David Mitchell and vice president of instruction, Mary Garguile, as well as North Kitsap business and community leaders.
On Dec. 6 from 11 a.m. until around 2 p.m., the focus group met to discuss the possibility of a partnership between Olympic College, Western and the North Kitsap community.
This most recent meeting was the second between Western and Kitsap County representatives. The first meeting, in October, included Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson and county commissioners.
Steve Swan, Western’s vice president of University Relations, said the session was an information gathering meeting. Swan said the university wanted to hear what business leaders in the area felt was needed.
“We’re just in a stage of doing due diligence to see if what we have to offer is a good match for what we recognize is a potentially underserved area in terms of four year higher education,” Swan said.
At the same time as Western is holding meetings, the university is performing a survey to determine if the proper needs and resources are present in the area. Swan said the school will continue to do research before making a commitment either way.
According to Swan, if Western feels the needs of the area match up with its goals and resources, the school would like “to make something happen as quickly as possible.”
Olympic College president David Mitchell said it all depends on whether Western’s survey finds there is a great enough industry and student demand. If that demand is found, Mitchell thinks a partnership between Olympic College and Western is “very likely.”
Olympic College’s Poulsbo campus would be the jumping off point for Western into Kitsap County if the school decides to move into the area.
Mitchell said Western hopes to use the Poulsbo campus as a springboard into the west side of Puget Sound. He said the school hopes to serve both the Kitsap and the Olympic peninsulas through Poulsbo.
“I think we all look at it as an opportunity to provide more bachelors degrees,” said Jennifer Hayes, Olympic College communications director.
Olympic already has an engineering partnership with Washington State University. Olympic College students can take pre-engineering courses, apply to WSU and finish their degree through WSU without leaving the Puget Sound.
“One of our goals for the college is to increase the bachelors access here in the peninsula region,” Hayes said.
At this point, all parties say they are optimistic about the possibility of Western’s arrival in Kitsap County.
If Western deems the Kitsap Peninsula a good fit, it is certain to help Olympic College move closer to its goal of bringing greater baccalaureate access to the west side of the sound.