The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 26, 2011

NEO receives $2 million grant for online degree offerings

By Roger McKinney

MIAMI, Okla. — A second $2 million Indian Education Grant will allow Native American and other students at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami to obtain online associate degrees in three career fields.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Rachel Lloyd, project director of the U.S. Education Department Title III grant. In a phone interview Monday, she said the grant was highly competitive.

She said the grant will allow the college to offer online degrees in hospitality management, criminal justice and early childhood education. The college also is working on agreements with area universities so students can use the degrees to pursue bachelor’s degrees in the career fields.

Lloyd said the degree in hospitality management will make graduates attractive to hiring managers at area tribal casinos and hotels, and also at hotels not connected with tribal casinos.

The criminal justice degree also may be used to pursue jobs in casinos and in police agencies around the region.

Lloyd said the early childhood education degree is being offered because there is a shortage of early childhood teachers, and a high percentage of the college’s American Indian students are parents.

The programs were identified based on projected growth statistics from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and through discussions with local tribes.

The program is open to all students, but American Indian students will be the focus, Lloyd said.

The grant will include money for equipment to offer high-quality streaming video for the online courses, Lloyd said. It also will be used to purchase laptop and tablet computers for students’ use.

As part of the project, smartphone applications also will be developed, Lloyd said.

The grant also will fund four full-time positions: a distance education developer, an online technology specialist, a project analyst and assistant, and a program director.

Lloyd said the funding will support online access around the clock to master’s degree and doctorate level professors.

“Students are fearful of getting into an online class and not having the proper support,” Lloyd said.

She said the project will use the most up-to-date technology.

“We want to be forerunners in social media and mobile technology,” she said.

Training in the mobile technology will take place in December.

College President Jeff Hale applauded the plan in a news release.

“Our intent is to be able to make new technology, whether it is the iPads or the smartphones, more readily available to our student and faculty populations,” Hale said. “When you think about the possibilities created via a $2 million grant, I think the college and local tribes can cover a great deal of important territory.”

The grant was announced by the office of U.S. Rep. David Boren, D-Okla.

John Froman, chief of the Peoria Tribe, said in the news release that it was wonderful that the tribes could team up with NEO again on the new project.

“The new grant provides opportunities to our native population at the college by providing the students access to advanced technology, thus bettering their chance at obtaining jobs in hospitality, law enforcement and other fields in the work force,” he said.

NEO center

IN OCTOBER 2010, NEO was one of seven schools nationwide to receive a Title III grant to establish a Native American Success and Cultural Center on campus.