Student, staff examine several positive aspects of attending a small rural college
Nestled far away from major cities and tucked between two river bends, Umpqua Community College is unquestionably rural; just look at the family of deer munching on the lawn or the mob of wild turkeys in the school parking lot.
Rural living has it challenges and perks; rural education is no different.
According to Rural.edu, there is “a crucial relationship between good schools and thriving communities.” Can a school, removed from the resources and funds of a large city still be good? UCC students and staff took some time to consider what they appreciate about this rural school.
Why choose a small rural college?
The programs and online class options
Because of its rural location and temperate climate, UCC can offer programs not readily found throughout Oregon, such as viticulture and enology program or forestry engineering. The school also offers a wide range of classes online and Zoom, with some students attending from around the globe.
“I think the Zoom classes are awesome perks of being here. I live an hour and a half away, with only a few classes to finish, so thank God for Zoom; without these classes, I would have had to transfer schools,” said second-year student Tayla Griffin.
Five miles from the largest city in Douglas County, Roseburg, UCC sits adjacent to the Umpqua River, surrounded by local flora and fauna. The trees surrounding campus are colored with moss and lichen, displaying a kaleidoscope of greens. The shriek of raptors and the shadows of vultures soaring overhead are all common on campus.
“I love the aesthetic of the campus. It’s beautiful here,” veteran student James Frost said. “I think our ties to nature and being in between the towns make it particularly well located.”
The one-on-one attention is of one students’ favorite positives of being at UCC. Academic advisors and school programs have a significantly smaller student load.
“One of the best benefits of attending a rural college is that the classes tend to be smaller, meaning instructors have better ability to work one-on-one with you,” said Bryanna Mandes Paradice, Transfer Opportunity Advising Specialist. “Rural campuses also tend to have a strong sense of community like we see here at UCC.”
“I’ve tried college a couple times; here at UCC has been the most quality and attention I’ve received,” said second-year student Hector Cardenas. “I’m really grateful for UCC. I will be graduating with my associates at the end of spring, and that was not something I could have envisioned pre-pandemic.”
Jennifer Driskall, Transfer Opportunity Program advising specialist, said in an email, “We are smaller which means we have the ability to spend more time with each student and build trusting relationships.”
Caring instructors and staff
The reality of bigger salaries in bigger cities may deter some potential instructors from being at a school like Umpqua, but what that has meant for students here is professors are more passionate about the students. Unlike large universities, no instructor is here just for research; instructors here are more likely to be on a first-name basis with their students.
“You’re more likely to get quality instruction here,” Frost said.
Math professor Mary Stinnett, who has previously taught at Lane Community College, finds the relationships she can form here at a smaller school to be a big perk. “I like to be able to see my students grow in their academic goals over the years, to see them at their workplace after they graduate. To kick their butt if they slack or cheer them on to victory!” wrote Stinett in an email.
This sentiment is echoed by others.
“I think that staff and student services are much more approachable at a rural college, especially for those students who may not be acclimated to being a college student,” Paradice said.
Driskall said “I very much feel that most of my students are like extended family. I truly care for each of them and love to watch them grow and pursue what they initially thought was unobtainable. It is hard to hold back the tears sometimes when you watch a student complete their degree here and move on. It is such a wonderful experience to share with them.”
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