By Tara McCloskey, Staff Writer, The Outlook
College of the Ozarks fire science program takes first steps to accreditation
The fire science program at College of the Ozarks achieved the first step in accreditation after it’s conception last semester. The program is now recognized by the National Fire Academy and has been approved to teach the fire science program curriculum.
John Russo, associate professor of fire science, said C of O is currently the only four-year college in Missouri that has received this recognition. The National Fire Academy provides training and education programs for fire departments and emergency service organizations.
“They develop curriculum for the fire service, for associates degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and they’re currently working on curriculum for masters and Ph.D. programs,” Russo said. “In developing their curriculum, they developed a professional development model for higher education in the fire service that they felt could be reproduced and copied throughout the United States.”
While developing the fire science program, the College adopted the curriculum and mirrored the certification process of the National Fire Academy, Russo said. The developed curriculum also meets the requirements of the state fire marshal.
Class syllabi were turned into the National Fire Academy and approved, Russo said.
“Since we’re an approved instructor,” Russo said, “what will happen is when our students take one of those classes, they’ll get their credit for the class, but at the end of the class, I turn their names into the National Fire Academy, and in addition to getting their college credits, they’ll receive a certificate from the National Fire Academy saying they have completed this class through the National Fire Academy.”
Dalton Pennington, a junior fire science major and fire chief for the Point Lookout Fire Department, said being recognized by the National Fire Academy places C of O fire science graduates at a higher level.
The additional training also allows the fire department to better aid the student body, Pennington said.
“Whenever the students have an emergency, whenever their dorm catches on fire or they have a medical (emergency) that we have to respond to, they should be more comfortable knowing that the best is coming to them,” Pennington said. “We have high training, and that’s what we’re bringing to them whenever we come to their aid.”
Aaron Bellcock, a sophomore fire science major, said this recognition sets C of O above other schools in the area.
“It’s a wonderful experience to be in this first group graduating through this, even though we’re kind of the guinea pigs,” Bellcock said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to help build this program and look back and be able to say, ‘Hey, I was one of the first graduates out of that program.”