Rogers State University in Claremore has undergone quite a bit of change in its 90-year history. Now, it's in the midst of another transition: this time to a four year, freestanding university. The News on Six was in Claremore Thursday for a look at the new RSU.
Rogers State University began as Eastern University Preparatory School in 1909. The Oklahoma legislature established it to prepare children of Native Americans, farmers and ranchers for college. Then came chapter two, when it was renamed Oklahoma Military Academy in 1917.
An on-campus museum tells the story of OMA, which quickly gained recognition as one of the nation's top military schools. Rogers went through four more evolutions, including a merger with and then a divorce from University Center of Tulsa.
This year, Rogers State changed again and became Oklahoma's tenth regional university. "I think where we've got work to do is to make everyone understand our function is changing. Our mission is changing," said Dr. Joe Wiley, RSU President.
RSU will now for the first time offer bachelor's degrees and try to fill a market niche not being met by other area universities. "Our intention is to either develop new programs that are not available in public institutions in the state or deliver them in new and innovative ways," said Wiley.
One way is through what's called "distance learning," offering courses via the Internet and TV. Students can already complete associate degrees without ever visiting an RSU campus. "I think most people have problems with time management for one reason or another and distance learning - the many different options - it's just a wonderful way to get an education," said Diane Lewis, Rogers State University.
Students like RSU's low teacher-student ratio and other advantages. "It's small, but it's big enough to get a good education and I don't have to worry about being far behind if I transfer to a bigger university. And I like it for that," said Alicia Stevens, RSU Student Association President.
Plans call for the pastoral-like campus to expand, making room for new classrooms, labs and dormitories, and new faculty. RSU's greatest challenge now may be funding, a concern echoed by all of Oklahoma higher education. But for now, the view is promising from College Hill, with hope of providing more Oklahomans with the promise of education.