The College's head of degree and credit programs outlines an (even brighter) future --
In November 2007, Bob Stine became the College's associate dean and head of degree and credit programs. Since then, he has been busy, working to deepen and enhance the scope of graduate and undergraduate degree and credit programs in the College.
Response to market demands
One area of the College's focus, Stine says, is outreach and making connections. "We've devoted a lot of time to outreach--both within the U, and outside of it. What this College does is critical for our state, I think. We provide access to the University for many students who might not otherwise have it. The partnerships we form with other colleges, along with business and industry, are invaluable to our students, in terms of creating programs that benefit their needs, as well as to the economy as a whole, by educating our workforce; preparing people to advance in their careers or to switch to a new field."
The College's new suite of professional master's degree programs, along with its interdisciplinary and applied undergraduate degrees and certificates (including construction management, manufacturing technology, and information technology infrastructure), is a testament to those partnerships, as well as to attention to industry demands.
"The Arts and Cultural Leadership program is one example," says Stine. "It started from an idea that an individual working in the field (Sherry Wagner-Henry) had -- that there was a real value to a degree that would prepare people working in the arts to be leaders within that community. And it blossomed because there was a void in the Twin Cities for that type of credential, and because we had students interested in signing up for it."
He continues, "Another good example: we have a proposal for a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree in Integrated Behavioral Health on the table right now. The demand for our Addiction Studies certificate is very high. Julie Rohovit--the faculty director for the certificate -- is a professional in the field, and has been a tireless advocate for the need for an advanced degree. And, with the passage of the health care bill, the industry is growing and changing rapidly."
"Having faculty directors, as well as advisory committee members, who are out in the field is instrumental to the development of our programming," adds Stine.
"They understand what changes are happening in the marketplace, what demands the industries are making on workers. They know what the core competencies in the field are, as well as what business and leadership skills, as well as other soft skills, are necessary for success. They can advise what curricula are relevant for our students, and where the internships and potential employers are. And, in many cases, they show us potential students--by connecting with employers who send their personnel for training."
In addition to staying relevant to the marketplace, Stine says, another key goal is staying accessible. This includes increasing the flexibility of course and degree offerings, such as including more online and asynchronous courses (a modern take on distance learning, which uses online learning resources including e-mail, electronic mailing lists, threaded conferencing systems, online discussion boards, wikis, and blogs to allow students in the course to "attend" class and participate in discussion at their convenience), as well as online degree completion programs, evening and weekend courses, and possibly the inclusion of master's degree programs that only require a short stay on campus each semester (commonly called a "low-residency" program).
Keeping academic services accessible also includes one of the hallmarks of the College: the in-depth advising services.
"So many times, I hear 'If it weren't for my adviser, I never would have designed a degree in X,Y, or Z' or 'If it weren't for my adviser, I never would have discovered the course that inspired my capstone project,'" he says. "The advising experience is huge for our students -- it's not just that the advisers sign off on courses or degree plans, but also that they really pay attention to their students as individuals. They spend time with them, help suggest alternatives or options from across the University that otherwise might have gone unknown. They're mentors, as well as advisers."
Continues Stine, "The same can be said for our financial aid advising. Fran [Van Slyke-Zaslofsky, the financial adviser] is dedicated to our students. She knows the financial aid system better than probably anyone else at the U. We can't give full rides to all of our students, but we can certainly do everything in our power to help find the resources they need to get going in their studies--and to help them finish."
Making a difference
Managing a slate of degree and credit programs as diverse as the one at the College of the Continuing Education has had a steep learning curve, but Stine's enthusiasm for the job--and for the people those programs serve--is unflagging. "Since coming here, whenever I hear someone saying 'Oh, I wish I could do something different with my life, but I need more education or a different degree and it's too late...', I find myself interjecting, 'No! It's NOT too late! You CAN do it.'
"We're making a difference. We're helping individuals find opportunities to change their lives...and, as a result society is changed. That's really gratifying--and one of the best parts about working in education."