Long Time Rivals Join Forces to Help Their Students

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA/MIDLAND--Midland College and Odessa College have joined together to form the Permian Basin Higher Education Alliance.  They're putting their competitive natures to good use to help students going into radiology and respiratory care.

"The initial reaction was a you want to do what?  (It's) kind of that thing of, collaborating with the enemy, almost," Midland College Vice President of Instruction, Dr. Rex Peebles, said.

"I think it is amazingly wonderful, given the history of the cities. We're breaking new ground," Carmen Edwards, Dean of Nursing and Allied Health at Odessa College, said.

Who doesn't know about the rivalry between Midland and Odessa?  From the high schools to the business world and now, for possibly the first time ever, instead of going head to head, their colleges will be working hand in hand.

According to Edwards, "We have a respiratory care need. They have a radiography need. How can we make this work? It started over pancakes and a cup of coffee."

Odessa College hasn't had a respiratory care program for a few years. Midland College will graduate their last radiography class this May.  For economic reasons, Peebles says, it just seemed like a good idea to put two and two together, "What's the feasibility of keeping this program alive ourselves versus what's the feasibility of keeping it alive in cooperation with someone else?"

One of the biggest perks for students, regardless of where they live, they can now take radiography or respiratory care classes and not have to pay out of district tuition to do it.

Equipment like an X-ray machine at Odessa College will be used by students from Midland College and vice-versa. It's this exchange of knowledge and technology that is helping to break down barriers and new ground on both campuses.

"I think that we have really plowed new territory. This is going to grow. This is just the start," Edwards said.

The name itself, Permian Basin Higher Education Alliance, leaves the door open for further collaborations between Odessa and Midland and other institutions. And there are hopes to join forces in other fields other than health sciences.

Both Edwards and Peebles agree, when it comes to the bottom line.

"We have really broken down barrier, that the two colleges have come together to better serve our communities, the health care industry and most importantly to serve our students," Edwards said.

Peebles adds, "There's that notion that we should have, we should be doing our own thing.  I think, underneath that, is the notion of how best to serve students."