The first group of students of Walla Walla Community College’s bachelor of applied science in agricultural systems program has graduated.
Six students — Levi Allen, Chase Aeschliman, Bailey Bromiley, Paula Corona, Tate Gabriel and Sydney Taylor — have all became the first to earn their four-year degrees at WWCC.
The professional degree is available to students who have already earned their associate of applied science degree and wish to turn it into a four-year degree without having to make up the credits required to first earn the transferable associate of arts and science degree.
Cynthia Walker, the community college’s assistant dean of workforce education, says because associate in applied science degrees don’t transfer like regular associate degrees, many students who earn them will not return to school. The degree provides an option for these students.
Taylor, 24, is one such person. She earned her associate degree and started a job at Agri Beef Co., working in animal health.
While she credits that degree for helping her to get the job, she said she felt she quickly reached her ceiling with the company. So, two years later, she returned to Walla Walla Community College to bachelor’s degree.
“From where I was at, I had to work a lot harder to work my way up into management, and that is why I decided to get my bachelor’s degree,” she said.
She now works for Nutrien Ag Solutions in a position that requires a four-year degree.
Community colleges in Washington have been allowed to offer the four-year degrees since 2007. WWCC added the program in 2018 in two areas: applied management and entrepreneurship, and agricultural systems.
Walker credits community college President Chad Hickox with bringing the program to Walla Walla.
“He’s the one who thought that it was a good program for us, and he made it happen,” Walker said.
Erin Anders is the instructor of the upper division classes in the program. She said the two years spent in the program builds on what is learned in the two years spent in the associate program.
“We take all the basic knowledge and learn how to apply it,” Anders said.
Next year, the school will see its first graduating class in its applied management and entrepreneurship program.
Cristie Crawford, WWCC educational and career navigator for the bachelor programs, says about 50 students will work on their four-year degrees between the two programs this fall.