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After 10 years as Oregon Coast CC’s president, Birgitte Ryslinge announces September retirement

Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge
Yachats News
Oregon Coast Community College president Birgitte Ryslinge announced Wednesday night she will retire Sept. 30 after 10 years. 

This story was originally published on YachatsNews.com and is used with permission. 

Birgitte Ryslinge, who has been president of Oregon Coast Community College the past 10 years, announced Wednesday that she planned to retire by Sept. 30.

Ryslinge, 66, said her decision should leave the college board enough time to find her replacement “so that the next president can usher in the 2024-25 academic year.”

Ryslinge made her official announcement at the board’s monthly meeting Wednesday night, but her decision had clearly been looming.

Board chair Rich Emery said the seven-member board have known the announcement would be coming “for some time.”

“… I can say we look on Dr. Ryslinge’s announcement not with trepidation, but with appreciation – appreciation of a job well done, and of an institution having been well-prepared for the changes to come,” Emery said in a news release from the college Wednesday night.

Emery said Ryslinge was hired 10 years ago with the primary task of leading the college to independent accreditation, which was achieved in 2020.

“No one would have second-guessed a decision to retire at that point, at the start of the pandemic,” Emery said. “However, true to her nature, Birgitte stayed at the helm and helped the college leverage its nimble nature, its creative team of faculty and staff, and its remarkable student body, to thrive throughout the pandemic, which proved to be devastating to many lesser prepared colleges across the country.”

Oregon Coast Community College was founded in 1987 and held classes almost anywhere around Lincoln County. It didn’t have a campus until 2004 when voters – on the third try – passed a $23.5 million bond to establish a main campus in the South beach area of Newport and satellite buildings in Lincoln City and Waldport. Those facilities were finished in 2009.

The college is asking voters in May to approve $33.6 million bond to build a technical and trades education center on its Newport campus. That bond would replace the 2004 bond.

The college now has a yearly operating budget of $20 million, 900 full- and part-time students, 50 full- and part-time instructors, 35 full- and part-time support staff, 19 administrative employees and a wide offering of community education classes. It is one of the smallest of Oregon’s 17 community colleges.

“Without a doubt, this decade has been the best professional experience of my life,” Ryslinge said in a statement released by the college.

While Oregon community college presidents tend to average a little over five years in office, OCCC has had two presidents spanning 32 years. Patrick O’Connor was president for 22 years; Ryslinge came from Portland Community College in 2014.

On her arrival, Ryslinge’s mandate from the college board was to get independent accreditation. It previously had to award degrees under sponsoring community colleges and was the last of Oregon’s small colleges to be accredited through larger institutions.

But the accreditation news in 2020 was short lived as the pandemic fully hit and the college radically moved mostly to online instruction and operations.

On Wednesday night, Ryslinge told the board she was especially proud of new programs to develop teachers for rural areas, early childhood education, welding, expansion of nursing and allied health offerings, partnerships with the Lincoln County School District, and a strategic plan through 2028.

In its news release, the college said its relationship with the school district “became more robust and productive than at any time in the past, with new options for students to earn college credits while still enrolled in high school and a variety of joint projects designed to expand career and technical education options for local students of all ages.”

The board approved a subcommittee of three members – Chris Chandler, Paul Schuytema and Alison Nelson-Robertson – to review current community college president employment conditions, gather options for a search and report back in March.

Quinton Smith founded YachatsNews in 2019 after a 40-year career as a reporter and editor for United Press International and three Oregon newspapers. He worked in various editing positions at The Oregonian from 1984 to 2008 where he led a reporting team that won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News.