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NICEVILLE, FL --- Tricia Brunson, Executive Director of the Niceville-Valparaiso Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, has become the first student accepted to the new Bachelor's degree program at Okaloosa-Walton Community College.

"We are so pleased that Tricia is officially student 'number one' in our management degree," said Dr. Bob Richburg, OWCC President, at a brief recognition held in the college's admissions office. " The start of bachelor's degree programs will forever change the college. Now, one of our own local leaders is part of this important moment in the college's history."

Brunson noted that she plans to pursue the option for a customized program of study in management as part of the new OWCC Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree in Project and Acquisitions Management.

" I am excited about this opportunity and honored to be the first student in the Bachelors Degree Program," said Brunson." I have looked forward to continuing my education and am absolutely thrilled to be able to pursue this degree through the college based right in my hometown! The leaders at OWCC have been wonderful in anticipating and responding to the needs of our community."

Chris Bishop, OWCC registrar and director of admissions, noted that 39 students have been accepted into the BAS degree program thus far. " We've had quite a flurry of interest since we recently opened admissions to this baccalaureate program," said Bishop. The program begins in August with the OWCC fall term. Admissions materials are now available on the OWCC web site at For information contact 729- 4900.

The baccalaureate program in Project and Acquisitions Management offers four tracks of specialization so that students may tailor a degree to meet individual career goals or job requirements. Students may also work with an academic advisor to customize a program of study for another area of emphasis within the degree. Specialization tracks include: Acquisitions, Project Management, Quality Improvement, Training & Development/Human Resources and the customized option.

Coursework for the accredited BAS degree program is designed with the working student in mind and will be offered in a flexible, non-traditional format. Approximately 50 percent of the instruction will be offered as distance learning, with another 25 percent structured as "blended" classes (part traditional classroom and part nontraditional format). Classes will be available evenings, weekends and in concentrated "fast-track terms".

The official process for OWCC to become a 4-year college began in December 2002 when the college submitted proposals to the Florida Board of Education for O-W to offer two bachelor's degrees - Project and Acquisitions Management and a Nursing degree.

In April 2003, OWCC received approval from the State Board of Education to develop its own bachelor's degree program in Project and Acquisitions Management and to develop a joint degree program with the University of West Florida for an Okaloosa County based bachelor's degree in Nursing, with OWCC authorized to offer upper division courses in nursing.

Offering bachelor's degrees also required approval from the Colleges accreditation agency, the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Accreditation was granted in December 2003 and OWCC was approved as a four-year degree granting institution - approval which also requires that the college change its name.

Due to the accreditation requirements, OWCC must drop the word 'community' from its title, as 'community college' refers to a two-year degree granting institution. The official name change to Okaloosa-Walton College is now pending in the Florida Legislature and O-W officials anticipate switching to the new name on July 1.

Other than OWCC, three of Florida's other 28 community colleges have been authorized to offer 4-year degrees; St. Petersburg College (formerly St. Petersburg Junior College), Miami-Dade Community College and Chipola Junior College.

A new joint program for a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree, in partnership with the University of West Florida, will also begin at OWCC in August. All coursework will be available in Okaloosa or Walton Counties with O-W providing upper division instruction (3000 and 4000 level courses) for a majority of the clinical courses as well as for a portion of the theory classes. The nursing degree will be issued by UWF. The nursing program is limited to 24 students annually who are current Registered Nurses and who desire to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing.

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