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Released October 26, 2004

AGREEMENT ALLOWS COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS
TO TAKE AFROTC CLASSES AT SOUTHERN MISS

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 10 years.

"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," Fletcher said.

"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."

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Comments and suggestions are welcome; direct them to usm_mpr@usm.edu.

November 23, 2004 9:23 AM