Fall Enrollment Hits Record High at OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering

12/13/02    Portland, Ore.

The school's student body continues to be diverse and representative of local high-tech industries.

Final fall enrollment figures at Oregon Health & Science University's OGI School of Science & Engineering show the student body has grown by 6 percent. This brings the total number of students attending the school to 588 -- the largest number of students to date at the nearly 40-year-old graduate school.

The boost in enrollment is an interesting sign given the down economy, said Richard Fairley, Ph.D., associate dean of graduate education at the School of Science & Engineering. "It's hard to tell what accounts for the higher enrollment, but it may be related to the fact that more people in high-tech industries are unemployed, or that more high-tech employers are sending their employees back to school, which is typical during a down economy," he said.

In fall 2002 there were 98 new students enrolled in master's or doctoral degree programs. Sixty-five of the 98 new students (about two-thirds) attend school full time and are from such countries as India, China, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Bangladesh and Korea.

International students tend to hear about the OGI School of Science & Engineering through the Internet or word-of-mouth, said Fairley. A typical fall enrollee, Prabha Sundaram is a 24-year-old master's student who previously worked in Bombay, India, at a large systems integration company. Sundaram and her colleagues were "well aware of the best research centers across the world that worked in speech technology." Among the best, she said, are the school's Center for Spoken Language Understanding and Center for Information Technologies, which focus on speech recognition systems useful for education and health, and work to improve the way humans interact with computers.

"I also like the course structure at OGI," said Sundaram. "There is a lot of importance given to areas of specialization, which I think are very important. This helps students focus on their area of interest rather than taking arbitrary courses just to graduate. Students here get to interact with professionals from industry, which again is a huge advantage."

Florencia Ortiz, a 28-year-old master's student from Mexico City, Mexico, stumbled upon the OGI School of Science & Engineering on the Internet. "I was looking for a program related to finance where the computing skills are the most important to performing financial analysis," said Ortiz. "I found OGI information in my Internet search and decided to come to the United States to study."

The other 33 newly enrolled students in the School of Science & Engineering this fall are part-time students from Oregon. Many of them work in high-tech industries in Washington County while they attend graduate school.

For example, Blake Bender, 35, works full time at Intel as a software developer. Bender said he selected the science and engineering school for its excellent reputation in computer science and the ability to take classes in the evenings or during the lunch hour while still working a 50-hour week for Intel. He is studying data intensive systems under professor Lois Delcambre, Ph.D., and said, "I had been meaning to go back to school for a master's degree for some time ... the theory taught in an academic environment is always applicable in a broad sense, and lasts a lot longer than if I sit and read books about the latest programming language."

Of the 588 students enrolled at the School of Science & Engineering in fall 2002, 335 are matriculated students in master's or doctoral degree programs. Four students are taking certificate courses, and 249 students are not matriculated, or taking courses without formally pursuing a degree. Historically (though precise data are unavailable) nonmatriculated students eventually become matriculated students and formally pursue a degree program.

In addition to the 588 students enrolled at the OGI School of Science & Engineering, another 1,000 students who aren't enrolled take one or two not-for-credit continuing education courses every year through the school's Center for Professional Development (www.ogi.edu/cpd) and hundreds more attend the school's free public seminars on technological topics.

The OGI School of Science & Engineering (formerly the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology) became one of four schools of the Oregon Health & Science University in 2001.