If you’ve been thinking of getting a four-year business degree without leaving home, Walla Walla Community College’s new Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Business and Entrepreneurship was made for you.

“Our new program will begin in September 2019, and offers a business degree that a student can get here at the community college without having to transfer to a university,” says Cindy Walker, Assistant Dean of Workforce Education and Applied Bachelor’s Programs at Walla Walla Community College (WWCC). “People ask me what makes this different from a university business degree,” she continues. “In the BAS program, a student won’t spend as much time in general education classes, leaving more time for business-related courses emphasizing applied skills.”

Cristie Crawford is the program’s educational and career navigator. She describes other advantages to the new program. “People want to come here for the location, lower cost, small class size, and flexible schedule, which allows them to take classes while working. 

An applied program allows students to integrate their classes and their community. Students who get the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Business Administration degree land great jobs and earn a living wage, but once they get to the point where they either want to take on more responsibility or start overseeing other employees, that’s when their employer wants them to get more training. So these applied management classes allow to them to move up, expand their role and increase their salary.”

Students who have already earned an AAS in business will be prepared to move directly into upper-division classes. The program has been designed for working adults who can’t necessarily go to college full time. Students will be able to enroll part time if they wish to allow them to continue to work while getting an applied Bachelor’s degree.

To make this possible, all of the upper division courses will be held in the evening with several hybrid courses where parts of the curriculum are offered online. Eventually, there will be some online-only courses.

The entrepreneurship portion of WWCC’s program is unique in that it is aimed specifically at students who want to start a small business. “A lot of students who want to start a small business aren’t necessarily skilled in business, they’re skilled in the area of their expertise. They have a passion for their profession, but they still need business knowledge to turn that into a successful business,” Walker says. 

Students learn basic business theory and skills when they study at the AAS level. At the upper-division level, the program focuses on acquiring more professional skills such as logistics, organizational management and human resource management. The college anticipates that some students will be returning to school to gain skills in order to move up the management ladder in a large organization. Other students may already have their own businesses. These students may be coming back to school to acquire more advanced skills to help them grow their businesses.

As Crawford explains it: “An important part of our new Bachelor’s degree is that it allows students to make connections with people in the industry in which they want to work. These connections will be beneficial to a diverse group of students: those who want to start a new business, those who need connections within the community to get their first job, and those who are already working and want to be able to advance within their current company.” 

 “A Capstone project is a required part of the BAS degree.” Crawford adds. Students will choose a project related to the specific industry in which they would like to work. And they can base it on starting their own business, or working at the management level, or anything in between.”

Walker and Crawford have already connected with the Chamber of Commerce and the Walla Walla Small Business Development Center (WSBDC). Both organizations will assist students in finding opportunities to base their Capstone projects on real-world situations at local companies.

Paul Bowen is the business adviser at WSBDC, and previously taught business courses at WWCC. “This new program will open more avenues for students seeking an opportunity to either successfully run their own business, and for those students seeking vertical growth potential within an established organization as an employee,” he says. “In addition to benefiting the students, I believe this program will bring higher success and growth rates to businesses throughout our community, as these students enter the business world equipped with tools to help employers in the valley thrive.”  

Still in the planning stage is developing concentrations within the program. For example, the program may offer a concentration in agriculture-related business, where the focus would be on the economic part of the agriculture system, such as administering farm loans or working in the world of farm credit services. Another possible concentration, winery management, would be related to the enology and viticulture program.

“Who knows where the path to success in business and entrepreneurship will take our students,” says Walker. “But students now have the opportunity to get on the path at WWCC.”

Abra Bennett is writer in residence at Walla Walla Community College. She can be reached at 509-527-3669 or via email at abra.bennett@wwcc.edu.

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