Heritage University near Toppenish is focused on meeting the needs of today's students.
That's according to Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Curt Guaglianone, who this past Monday was the featured speaker at the Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club meeting.
He said "21st Century at Heritage" is the focus of Heritage University staff because many of today's students live in a digital world and the university is trying to keep up with the pace of technology.
To meet the students' needs, said Guaglianone, academia must use strategies of providing a quality education, integrating technological advances.
"My real claim to fame is that I'm a learner...I am interested in learning from the community how the university can meet the needs of the market," said Guaglianone.
That is why the university is seeking community input. He said he and the university want to make certain the curriculum available to students is relevant.
That is particularly important to Heritage University because its student population is commuter-based.
"Sustainability is another goal of the university, which primarily serves the underserved populace with a higher education," said Guaglianone.
He said students attending the university are primarily residents of the Yakima Valley region. There are students attending classes at the university's satellite campuses, but most of the students attending Heritage University are people who have chosen to stay home to care of their families and meet other responsibilities.
Heritage offers arts and sciences programs, as well as education and psychology programs.
Education programs are the most popular among the students attending the university, according to Guaglianone.
He said the graduate programs include Master of arts and Master of education degrees.
Guaglianone said the university is expanding its certificated programs and he believes those programs will best fit the needs of the community.
Heritage's faculty to student ratio is 9:1, which gives the students the ability to develop relationships with those providing them with their education. Guaglianone believes that is important to the students and the faculty because students typically appreciate the ability to network, and the faculty at Heritage University is dedicated to the success of those enrolled there.
"People who join our faculty have to really want to be there because the environment is different from other universities," he said.
Guaglianone said the biggest obstacle for the university is "...getting students into work pipelines, which makes the university look to the future."
Explaining, he said often students want security in the knowledge they will have employment once they earn their degrees. So, the university is developing its own strategies for connecting students with future employers.
Other programs on the horizon at Heritage, said Guaglianone, include a physician's assistant program, a Masters in medical science, bilingual education, counseling, Masters of business and management, and health care programs.
The physician's assistant program is awaiting approval and Guaglianone said the university hopes to offer it to students in 2014.
The other programs, he said, are being implemented to "bridge the gap" and to make such programs more easily accessible to those seeking higher education locally.
"The faculty is amazing because they all have the goal of serving the students," said Guaglianone.
He explained that dedication was evident when the staff at the university pulled together this past summer following a fire that destroyed the campus cafeteria and hub, including its communications system.
"It made it difficult to live by the '21st Century at Heritage' focus, but everyone worked together," Guaglianone said.