MATE Partner Clatsop Community College is located in Astoria, on the Oregon North Coast. As is typical of many community colleges, it offers flexible education and training opportunities, making its courses accessible to a wide range of students. Among the smallest of Oregon’s community colleges, Clatsop offers a full range of programs, including general courses in writing, math, human relations, social sciences, and humanities. The MATE Center’s relationship with Clatsop is focused around the college’s Maritime Science Department (MSD), part of the MERTS (Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station) partnership in Northwest Oregon.
Clatsop’s Maritime Science Department
“We’ve got a facility that’s very maritime-oriented,” says Dr. Tony Laska, MERTS Program Manager and the MATE Center’s contact at Clatsop since the partnership began. Some of the classes offered by the MSD include Marine Safety, Marine Licensing Programs, Marine Electronics, Rigging, Trawling, Navigation, Charts, Marine Weather, Tides and Currents, and Boat Handling.
The MSD has been serving the needs of the maritime industry since the Department was established in 1965. The flexibility characteristic of Clatsop courses is also found in the MSD, allowing students to start virtually any time (subject to course requirements) and choose their own attendance schedule. The courses are self-paced and guided by skilled instructors. Many programs are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
"As is typical of many community colleges, it offers flexible education and training opportunities, making its courses accessible to a wide range of students"
The MERTS Partnership
Clatsop is a member of the MERTS partnership, along with Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology, Portland State University, and the Coastal Studies and Technology Center at Seaside High School. “The idea behind MERTS is to use this partnership to build up a solid economic base for the community, focusing on marine and environmental technology job specialization, transfer, and export,” explains Laska.
The vision for MERTS grew in the early 1990s, after the U.S. Navy canceled its plans to base a pair of minesweepers in the area. Instead, Oregon members of Congress helped convince the Navy to allocate $2 million for a research center on the site. Now, MERTS is a self-described "one-stop shopping center" for education in maritime science, coastal resources, environmental studies, scientific research training, and industrial technology.
A Good Neighbor
Clatsop’s technical training programs depend on an active rapport with related industries; in the case of MSD, this includes the U.S. Coast Guard. MSD has routinely modified its courses to respond to industry needs and therefore has often trained its students following a protocol that is later adopted and, ultimately, required by the federal government. Many of its students are professionals getting retraining and recertification. “To me, one of the biggest signs of success is to see Coast Guard personnel here taking classes,” says Laska.
Through its MERTS partnership, the college has had a positive impact on the regional economy. “Clatsop County has been severely affected by changes in the natural resource industries of fishing and timber,” Laska explains. “At one time, the port city of Astoria was larger than San Francisco.” Clatsop is helping the community by improving the technical capacity of the workforce as the region looks to different economic sectors for its future.
A recent example of this contribution is the College’s Summer Institute. Local and regional professionals came to Clatsop in July to take advantage of unique, hands-on classes providing coastal and watershed training. (For details, please see the article on page 5).
"We’ve got a facility that’s very maritime-oriented"
The MATE Partnership
The MATE Center benefits greatly from its relationship with Clatsop Community College. The training program at the MSD/MERTS provides an excellent model for program structure and individual course curricula. Further, as the Summer Institute has proved, the Oregon North Coast offers an excellent environment for studying natural systems.
MATE sponsorship has allowed the College to meet watershed and coastal training needs of various citizens in this region at a time when the demand for such education is growing – particularly in response to certain salmon species being placed on the endangered species list. Clatsop can also learn from MATE partners as coastal environmental studies evolve elsewhere.
Clearly, there is a philosophical “meeting of the minds” between the MATE Center and Clatsop. “Our understanding of the planet’s natural systems is closely tied to its survival and ours,” says Laska. “Whether you consider resource extraction, commerce, or environmental monitoring and management, marine technicians perform services critical to increasing our ability to live and work sustainedly on earth. The better they understand the multidisciplinary impacts of human and natural actions, the more effective their work will be. Clatsop Community College and the MATE Center both recognize and support that.”
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