POPLAR BLUFF — Three Rivers Community College and Southeast Missouri State University are working together to create a joint bachelor's degree program in social work.
It is the colleges' first new collaboration since Three Rivers sued Cape Girardeau-based SEMO in 2005 over eliminating community college courses at the university's centers in Sikeston, Kennett and Malden.
The community college, which opened its own centers at those communities, has since dropped the lawsuit. It had alleged breach of contract.
The social work program will be the first taught by SEMO faculty at Three Rivers in Poplar Bluff. Other programs between the colleges, including elementary education and psychology, involve teleconferencing and Web-based services.
New Three Rivers President Devin Stephenson, who starts in July, says he wants the project to "signify a new beginning" in the relationship between the colleges.
"We worry too much about territory and politics when it's really about the people," Stephenson said Friday, the day the schools signed their agreement.
Stephenson said Three Rivers will start offering 69 credit hours toward a 120-credit-hour Bachelor of Science degree in social work next year. The college added three new courses and retooled another one to accommodate the new program and meet accreditation standards, Stephenson said.
Despite their legal dispute, Three Rivers and SEMO were able to maintain collaborations they already had in place.
"We've always worked together at a student service level," said Three Rivers Student Services Director Brad Barwick, adding that similar collaborations on programs such as agriculture could come.
SEMO President Ken Dobbins credited Three Rivers with getting the social work program going. He said the university tried to start new programs after the lawsuit but was not successful.
"This is a good sign for us," Dobbins said. "Quite frankly, it's a good sign for students."