HATTIESBURG - Community
college students who want to start their careers with the Air Force
a littler earlier can now do so, thanks to an agreement initiated
by The University of Southern Mississippi.
Southern Miss' Air Force ROTC program has developed
a cooperative agreement with Pearl River Community College and Mississippi
Gulf Coast Community College that will allow their students to take
classes both online and at the Hattiesburg campus. Southern Miss
has had a similar agreement with Jones Junior College for about
"The Department of Aerospace Studies has taken
the initiative to establish 'cross-town' agreements with these schools
that will allow these future leaders to attend AFROTC classes here
at Southern Miss while remaining students at their school,"
said Capt. Leigh Ann Fletcher, assistant professor of aerospace
studies at Southern Miss.
"These agreements provide a threefold benefit:
Students can now participate in AFROTC and compete for scholarships
and commissions; AFROTC can now benefit from the addition of these
terrific students; and Southern Miss is almost guaranteed a transfer
student when they reach their junior year."
Fletcher saw the need for such a program while recruiting
students at college fairs and elsewhere.
"I meet a lot of students who tell me they'd
like to join (AFROTC), but they don't want to have to drive all
the time," Fletcher said.
Now they won't have to. With help from the university's
Learning Enhancement Center, the Title III-A Faculty Mentor program,
and Dr. Taralynn Hartsell's distance education courses, Southern
Miss AFROTC is using technology to reach more students and "bring
them to class" through the Internet, WebCT, and Interactive
Video Network. Online classes for community college students will
be available by fall 2005.
"Online education is a tool that has proven to
be a very appropriate medium for portions of the AFROTC program,
and though AFROTC courses can never be delivered solely over distance,
they've have made the program available to many more college students
in southern Mississippi with the supplemental integration,"
"Thanks to these innovative developments, they
are expanding their course outreach to Pearl River Community College
and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, critical (Southern
Miss) feeder schools that have students who are interested in the
Air Force and ROTC and recognize the call to serve, but they've
never had the opportunity to attend AFROTC because it is not offered
at those schools."
The curriculum will include four classes--each including
a lab--taken one course per semester until the student receives
his or her associate's degree. After that, students can transfer
to Southern Miss or another AFROTC program at a four-year college
and apply for scholarships.
Fletcher said at any given time, the AFROTC program
at Southern Miss includes about 60 students and commissions about
10 students each year as second lieutenants in the United States
Air Force. Through this agreement, the number of students enrolled
at any given time could double or triple, she said.
"We trust this program will benefit all those
who decide to take advantage," said Dr. Adam Breerwood, dean
of student affairs at Pearl River Community College. "We believe
in giving our students every opportunity available, and we look
forward to working with The University of Southern Mississippi and
the U.S. Air Force ROTC."