Thursday, December 2, 2021

New welding program sparks donation

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Pictured are, from left, OCCC Development Director Emily Fasnacht, Annette Mulee, and OCCC President Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge
From left, OCCC Development Director Emily Fasnacht, Annette Mulee, and OCCC President Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge

The need for more and varied career and technical education programs in Lincoln County has never been clearer than it is today. Not only are local and regional employers aching for qualified tradespeople, but interest is growing among a population of students for whom a traditional two- or four-year college degree may not be the preferred option.

The point was underscored earlier this year, when more than 10,000 people saw, liked, or shared a social media post celebrating a new welding program funded by a grant secured by the Port of Toledo, the Lincoln County School District, Northwest Oregon Works, and Oregon Coast Community College. The Port of Toledo was the lead applicant in the $261,285 Maritime Administration Small Shipyard Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which was awarded in June.

“Almost one in four Lincoln County residents wound up seeing or interacting with that Facebook post,” said Emily Fasnacht, OCCC’s Development Director. “The message was clear: Lincoln County is interested in welding instruction.”

Thanks to the grant, the Port of Toledo has invested $87,096 in remodeling an existing space into a 12-bay welding training lab within the Toledo Shipyard’s Industrial Park. The grant will provide the funding to outfit that space with equipment. Work is currently underway on this project, and lab space will be available in 2020 for Newport High School, Siletz, and Eddyville students through the OCCC program. At the same time as the program gets rolling in Toledo, the College will begin teaching welding classes at Taft High School, thanks to funding support from the District.

More recently, as work has progressed and the welding program inches closer to a planned February 2020 launch, more good news arrived. A North Lincoln County resident, Annette Mulee, reached out to OCCC President Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge. The two began a series of meetings discussing Mulee’s interest in supporting North Lincoln County students in pursuing careers in the trades. The focus soon fell on the OCCC welding program.

“I was looking to fund a general scholarship,” Mulee said. “I was fortunate to have received a scholarship and a fellowship for my undergraduate and graduate study, and I wanted to give back. President Ryslinge told me about the possibility of funding a certificate program. Those programs do not qualify for financial aid, yet they would seem to lead to real jobs with decent pay relatively soon, especially the welding program. That seemed to be the way to make the most difference for the money. Not only would the students get good jobs, the local economy would benefit.”

The Annette M. Mulee Scholarship will ultimately fund a cohort of 10 welding certificate students working out of the Taft 7-12 building. All told, the scholarship will total $25,000 for the academic year, covering tuition, books, and fees in the welding program for each of the students for all three terms. The program will be open to high-school students as well as adult learners. Interested students may find additional information and application instructions on the College Foundation’s website, The Foundation’s annual scholarship application encompasses a number of different scholarships with one simple application; look for the 2020 application form to go live by late January.

Why donate to OCCC?

Annette Mulee attended Westchester Community College in New York back in the mid-1970s after being out of high school for several years. At that point she did not know anything about college or whether she was “college material.” Thanks to an advisor who encouraged her to look at Ivy League schools for a transfer, she went on to graduate from Cornell University, later earned an MBA at Columbia University, and then moved to Portland and obtained a Juris Doctorate. She has been an attorney for the last 35 years, earning many commendations in her field.

“Community colleges are an amazing gateway,” Mulee said. “They allow a person to discover, at a reasonable cost, whether college is for them and provide a pathway to a four-year degree or even graduate school. But wait, there’s more! In addition, community colleges also provide a path for those who want a good job now – with certificate programs like the welding program at OCCC.”

The Annette M. Mulee Scholarship will ensure that 10 North Lincoln County students can earn, over three academic terms of work, a certificate that may help lead directly to a long-term career in a field critical to our coastal economy. Annette is eager to see residents of other parts of the county step forward to ensure the program serves students elsewhere, too.

“A little bit can go a long way to help a student at a community college,” she said. “One doesn’t have to be as rich as Bill Gates to make a difference. I can’t think of a better return on one’s investment than helping someone discover how to lead a productive and happy life. That’s why I encourage others to support community colleges, too.”

High school students interested in the new welding program should speak with their counselors. Adult learners may declare their interest in the program using an online form here:

To learn more about contributing to Oregon Coast Community College, contact the College’s Development Director, Emily Fasnacht, at [email protected] or 541-867-8525. Find information about how to apply for this and other scholarships, visit

Dave Price
Director of Marketing & Community Engagement, Small Business Development Center Director MBA, Oregon State University BS Journalism, University of Kansas

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