Sponsored by Oregon Business

Digging deeper in Klamath Falls

| Print |  Email
Archives - May 2009
Friday, May 01, 2009



Photo by Jamie Lusch

Last year, the Oregon Institute of Technology became the first university in the nation to award degrees in renewable energy engineering. Now the Klamath Falls-based school is on its way to becoming the world’s first geothermal-powered campus, with a 1.5-megawatt geothermal power plant due to be completed by the spring of 2010.

The often overlooked polytechnic institution has eight campuses spread throughout Oregon and Washington, collaborations with Boeing, OHSU and ODS, and perhaps most importantly in these job-scarce times, a 98% placement rate, with average starting salaries for graduates hovering around $50,000.

Chris Maples, a paleontologist by training, took over as OIT president last October.

Are you seeing an increase in admissions in this economy?

We are. The majors that we have in the allied health sciences and engineering areas are about as recession resistant a group as one can find.

Have you had to adjust scholarships or financial aid given the loss of education funds in most families?

There also has been a corresponding loss of scholarship money in every foundation in the nation. So we are trying to adjust the best we can to meet the influx of new students and the declining budgets. We are pretty smart about how we hire faculty.

We hire a number of adjunct faculty who bring wonderful expertise into the system and get paid virtually nothing to do it. I recently had an adjunct faculty member tell me that he works at his company to support his teaching habit and there’s a lot of truth in that. We couldn’t function without them. These are people with real-world experience and knowledge to impart to our students. It’s not just theoretical, it’s not dated information, it’s the real thing.

We have Boeing people, we have Intel people; we have all sorts of people from all types of sectors. And some of our areas are growing like mad, even in a time of declining budgets, like our renewable energy engineering program.

Weren’t you the first in the nation to offer that degree?

We were. And we’ve gone from three or four students choosing that major to 118 in the program’s first four years.

And now you’re launching your own renewable energy experiment.

We’re already starting the drilling process, to go very deep to tap into hot water several thousand feet down underground. The goal is to put enough of a power plant on site that it will generate not only our needs but the needs of Sky Lakes Medical Center across the way, and to make the excess power available to any green development that might be occurring around our campus in Klamath Falls. It could make a great green business power opportunity.

It’s really a nice deal, and there are a number of companies that would really like to set up somewhere where there is green power for them to work from because that would match the overall company philosophy. Between that project and our new renewable energy engineering graduates coming out with their specific expertise, we think this could really take off and go.


More Articles

The Cover Story

The Latest
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
100515-cover1015-news-thumbBY CHRIS NOBLE

As we worked on the October cover, it became evident that Nick Symmonds is a hard man to catch — even when he’s not hotfooting it around a track.


The God complex

Linda Baker
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
093015-zydellren-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

The media coverage about Pope Francis must have put me in a Biblical frame of mind. Because after touring the latest phase of the South Waterfront development, a mind boggling 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space that will spring up north of the aerial tram over the next few years, I couldn’t stop thinking about the massive project as a modern day creation story.


5 questions for Ruby Jewel creator Lisa Herlinger

The Latest
Saturday, October 24, 2015

What's it like working with your sister and how do you compete in Portland's crowded artisan ice cream space?


Have a baby and keep a job? It won’t be easy in Portland

The Latest
Friday, October 02, 2015
100115kimblogthumbBY KIM MOORE

Our intrepid (and expecting) research editor finds the child care search involves long waiting lists, costly fees and no certainty of securing a place before she goes back to work.


Straight shooter

Linda Baker
Thursday, October 08, 2015
100815-bradleyBY LINDA BAKER

In an era dominated by self-promotion and marketing speak, John Bradley, CEO of R&H Construction, is a breath of fresh air.


Company Present Accepted

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

’Tis the season of giving — and that goes far beyond trees drowning in Lego sets and ironic knitwear. Santa Claus knows corporations are people too, in need of gifts to warm the hearts (and stomachs) of even the most Grinch-like CFOs.


Roll On

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The myth of a freight-dependent economy.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02