Nearly nine months after the start of the pandemic, the most destructive fire in Oregon’s recorded history swept through the Rogue Valley. The Almeda Fire destroyed more than 2,600 homes, bringing several federal, state and local relief agencies to the area.
However, no one agency could help organize and coordinate all the relief efforts. That’s when students and faculty at Southern Oregon University stepped up.
At that time, SOU had recently, but quietly, launched its micro-credentialing program. One of the programs, Value-Based Leadership, had several students already working with local agencies as the region worked to provide relief to those affected by the pandemic. These key connections allowed the local and regional agencies to respond to the disaster quickly and help get the Rouge Valley back on its feet.
“When the fires happened, we had this team already ready to go. That was just by chance, too, because it had formed as part of the COVID-19 relief effort,” said Daniel DeNeui, Interim Associate Provost and Director of Graduate Studies at Southern Oregon University. “We found we could leverage that infrastructure because we had a ready-made process with the Value-Based Leadership micro-credential.”
Today, SOU is focused on growing its micro-credentialing program to offer students a high-quality, stackable education that allows them to showcase and articulate their skillsets. In essence, micro-credentials break traditional degree programs down into smaller, more specific components. Most of the credentials require approximately 12 credit hours, which can stand alone or be counted toward a student’s degree requirements. Like most institutions offering micro-credentials, SOU awards digital badges to those who complete the mini-certifications. Digital badges can be shared through social media or added to email signatures or electronic resumes to allow prospective employers to easily understand the applicant’s skill set. With this program, employers can be confident that a student has experience within a particular area of expertise, like social media management or digital security.
SOU’s micro-credentials cover a wide range of individual skillsets and competencies ranging from community planning and professional writing to project management and data visualization. The university is actively adding new programs, working with faculty and local industry to develop the curriculum.
“Micro-credentials provide our students another very useful tool to demonstrate their academic and occupational abilities,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Employers are increasingly looking for particular skills, along with broad knowledge and the ability to innovate. These micro-credentials certify students’ mastery of very distinct areas of study and can be equally valuable to undergraduates wanting to strengthen their degree programs and to adult learners looking to boost their careers.”