New EOU Programs Address Area Workforce Needs

New EOU Programs Address Area Workforce Needs Main Photo

12 Sep 2022


Workforce advancement is a multi-faceted endeavor to meet the needs of employees and employers alike. In rural communities like La Grande, developing a skilled workforce is critical to advancing the region’s economy. Educational institutions like La Grande’s Eastern Oregon University (EOU) can help promote that development. EOU is initiating two new programs this year to address local workforce needs - Agriculture Entrepreneurship and Healthcare Administration. 

“EOU seeks to promote local workforce advancement by drawing students to our college by offering exciting, pertinent programs,” said Dr. Chad Mueller, program coordinator of a new Agriculture Entrepreneurship program. “By reducing barriers to their enrollment and making them attractive to employers, students can interact with our residents and businesses to solve our next generation problems.” 

Agriculture Entrepreneurship

This fall, the first cohort of students will participate in EOU’s new Agriculture Entrepreneurship program. It is intended to help develop and support the future agriculture workforce in the region by having students learn essential skills and taking that back to the businesses in their hometowns, family farms or branching out to new endeavors. EOU Agriculture Entrepreneurshiphopes the program can stimulate agricultural innovation to promote residents’ livelihoods in La Grande and the surrounding communities by addressing the issues of food security, production and resource efficiencies and evolving climate patterns. The program will help students embark on many career paths in the agriculture industry, from accounting and marketing to food production systems management, government relations and agripreneurship.

“Agriculture has become a highly integrated field, where successful individuals have to know the science but also need to understand business,” said Mueller, who came to EOU in 2021 with an Animal Science and production background, having taught in a university setting for 18 years. “As a result, they can realize how operations and efficiencies tie back to productivity,” 

The program’s foundations lie in science and business, with a focus on agriculture, biology and chemistry and in business classes like accounting, finance and marketing. The curriculum and program will allow students to focus their agricultural interests in a four-year design. A primary component of the program will be fieldwork, where students can be exposed to the impact of the transportation sector, supply sector, logistics and infrastructure on agricultural businesses. A capstone project will complete their learning,  where students will work on a specific project with a board of their peers and a professional mentor.

“We want to compliment the theoretical with real-world learning,” said Mueller. “Employers have told us they can teach the skills necessary for their specific roles, but they need potential employees to come to them with better soft skills necessary to work together as a team, like leadership, problem-solving and conflict resolution.”

Healthcare Administration

Expansion of Grande Ronde HospitalThis fall, EOU has also initiated a new Master of Healthcare Administration. The expanding need for additional area workforce is illustrated by the recent expansion project begun this summer by La Grande’s Grande Ronde Hospital. The $72.6 million project to add a 96,000-square-foot building will house new operating rooms and allow it to bring surgical services like patient check-in and pre-op, waiting rooms, procedure rooms and post-op recovery into the same area. The facility will positively impact the future growth and economic stability of La Grande and the region.

Before the pandemic, rural health care systems were consistently looking to grow, retain and strengthen their workforce. The pandemic further validated the need for employees to get access to the training they need. Healthcare needs in rural communities vary, requiring leaders to be creative in developing training opportunities due to higher difficulties accessing degree programs and certificates.

“At independent hospitals like Grande Ronde, which are not part of a health system, leaders have to utilize an added level of ingenuity and creativity to ensure proper workforce advancement,” said Jeremy Davis, MHA, President/CEO of Grande Ronde Hospital. “When I was approached about the EOU program, I jumped at the opportunity to help.”

Grande Ronde HospitalThe program includes 45 credits with courses like “Legal & Ethical Issues in HCA,” “Organizational Management & Leadership,” “Urban & Rural Health Policy & Planning” and “Healthcare Administration Capstone.” Davis is thankful for EOU’s efforts to tap into the area’s rural roots with creativity like the Master’s program.

“I anticipate Grande Ronde Hospital providing shadow opportunities to students to give them real-life case studies and examples to challenge these up-and-coming leaders,” said Davis. “The Master’s program is a gateway for working healthcare professionals to gain the tools and skills they seek to continue their careers, in endless opportunities in the vast medical industry, whether in a hospital setting, clinic, public health, laboratories or even transportation.”

Continued workforce advancement

Beyond solving specific workforce needs, EOU consistently seeks to reduce higher education barriers through its programming.

“It is important for area students to understand they can get a quality, affordable education here in LaGrande, without going out of state,” said Mueller. “Bringing in students from surrounding communities is critical to La Grande because they see this as a great place to live with high-quality jobs.”

Contact Timothy Bishop at to learn more about workforce advancement in La Grande.