Just off the Ironton exit at Ohio University Southern, faculty and staff are making preparations for the upcoming fall semester.
Upstairs in Riffe Center, Sarah Diamond Burroway, director of External Relations, Communications and Workforce Success, leads a meeting with Eric Brown, career coach for regional campuses with regional higher education, and Angy Ross, administrative specialist for External Relations and Communications.
Founded in 1956, the university's branch offers 28 degree programs that can be started and completed on site. Approximately 250 additional degree programs can be started at Southern and completed at Ohio University's main campus in Athens, Ohio.
"Ohio University Southern started at the old Ironton High School with a couple of classes for education majors, and the people interested in becoming teachers were among our first students," Burroway says. "The community really wanted more of a presence from the university, and we've grown quite a bit since then."
As one of the university's regional campuses, Southern is small but tightly knit, with an average of 2,300 to 2,400 students enrolled per semester.
But that's part of the appeal, Burroway adds.
"Having that large university degree and that small community feel is a big draw for many of our students," she says.
At Ohio University Southern, the average class size is around 20 students, where people "get to know one another," Burroway says.
"Alumni tend to speak about the family atmosphere here," she says. "You feel that people are interested in seeing you succeed as a student, and people are always willing to help with issues along the way."
The regional campus is also a financially friendly option for students: Each year, Ohio University Southern averages approximately half a million dollars in scholarships.
"It's a big boost for people," Burroway says. "It can be difficult for some hardworking families to afford a post-secondary degree, but we've worked with donors to secure scholarship dollars that go toward benefiting students."
For students attending Ohio University Southern or any of the other regional campuses, there's a tuition guarantee. When a student enrolls in their first semester, the exact cost of their tuition will be locked in for up to four years as long as they're continuously enrolled.
Outside of academia, the campus also offers a variety of community education opportunities for various hobbies and interests. From beginner's yoga to dog obedience courses, Burroway says, there are unlimited opportunities to further one's knowledge.
In March, Ohio University Southern also launched a Workforce Training program for various careers and businesses. Recently, the campus hosted a seminar for social workers, nurses, educators and first responders to assist them in working with children impacted by substance abuse.
Despite its size, Ohio University Southern's graduates have excelled in various capacities at home and throughout the nation.
Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, who was recently named one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, is also a graduate of the campus' nursing program.
"It's a small campus, but it's a great start to get into the real world," Burroway says.