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College of Continuing Education News

June 2013 Archives

From the Dean

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Greetings,

"Post-traditional students" was a term I heard used a lot by prominent speakers at the recent national meeting of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. I can relate to being a post-traditional student--even now, as I keep learning and learning. Perhaps you can, too. It is a description that also fits our current students very well.

They--we--are looking to learn in new ways, use new media, pursue studies that lie at the intersection of two or more traditional fields, and continue learning at any and every time of life. It is a time that calls for innovation in higher education, and we at the College of Continuing Education try to be right there at the forefront. Most of the innovation we are pursuing is aimed at opening doors of opportunity for motivated and aspiring students of all ages.

This spring, 320 students are graduating from our College, many having completed an interdisciplinary or applied bachelor's degree started years before, others adding a certificate or professional master's degree to their resume. We are very proud of them. The inspiring stories of several of our alumni along with our current students are spotlighted in this issue.

Many had doors opened thanks to our generous donors. All told, this year, 124 students earned CCE scholarships, nearly half of whom were the first in their families to attend college. In a short time, those students will follow in the footsteps of the graduates crossing the stage this spring to receive their diplomas and let their aspirations take flight.

In this issue you can read about visionary new scholarships established by organizations in the construction industry in order to open doors of opportunity for students drawn to this important industry.

Post-traditional students and lofty aspirations meet educational innovations and open doors. It's an intersection that makes a real difference for individuals, families, communities, and our society. I hope you enjoy reading the inspiring accounts.

With warm regards,


Dr. Mary L. Nichols
Dean, College of Continuing Education
University of Minnesota

Educational Magic

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Each year the College honors distinguished educators for their work. This winter saw the recognition of award-winning travel writer and editor Catherine Watson, who has taught over a dozen writing workshops for the College. Her Distinguished Educator acceptance speech, excerpts below, vividly illustrates the connection between the expert and the novice, and how education is a two-way street.

I really believe that continuing education is a second chance.

Whether it's to finish a degree that wasn't possible in the four years right after high school, or to make a course-correction in midlife, or re-invent oneself after retirement--whatever the reason, continuing education expands our view of the world and deepens our connections with it--and with ourselves as well.

And for a teacher, it's a two-way street. After every writing workshop I teach, I always come away a better writer. The questions students ask make me put into words what I believe about writing.

That makes teaching and learning a kind of mutual dance--or a symbiosis--between teacher and student. I didn't realize, until this fall, how long that symbiosis could continue to work in my life.

I'd always given my students what I hoped was wise and useful advice. But over time, I began to feel as if I were saying "don't do as I do--do as I say." I finally admitted that I hadn't been as courageous as I was urging them to be.

Many of them were tackling book-length memoirs. I write short personal essays, each with its own story arc. I've been comfortable with that. I figured these essays would become chapters, and when I had enough--presto!--I'd stitch them together and have a book-length memoir of my own.

But books need a story arc, too.

This fall, I was applying for a grant, which meant submitting a good portion of my manuscript. I was getting more and more frantic, because the pieces weren't connecting, and I was running out of time.

I kept trying to put my chapters in order, like links in a chain. Only they wouldn't link with each other. It was like trying to forge an iron chain when the individual links were already soldered shut.

This submission deadline forced me to ask myself the same question many of my students had asked: "How do you untangle the threads of your life and re-braid them so they make sense to someone else?"

Then, when I was feeling most hopeless, I remembered one of my College of Continuing Education (CCE) students. I'd urged her to figure out what her main theme was, and then use it as a clothesline. "Hang all your chapters off of that," I had told her. "They don't have to hook to each other--but they DO have to hook to that clothesline."

I suddenly saw what the problem was. All this time, I'd had the theme wrong. All these years, and I hadn't seen--hadn't known--what the book was really about. I'd been hanging the Monday wash on somebody else's clothesline.

I made my deadline, but by then it almost didn't matter. Fresh ideas and new, open links were springing up like fountains, and I felt I'd gotten my voice back.

This is the kind of symbiosis--the kind of enlightenment--that continuing education makes possible for students and teachers alike.

CCE has always made that kind of insight and enlightenment possible--and now, after 100 years, the mission of the College is even more relevant--and more needed than ever.

CCE programs offer us new ways of thinking, new understanding of ourselves and our role in the world, new goals, new outcomes, and new potential for making a difference.

All of this adds up to a second chance. I think that's magic--genuine educational magic.


Class is "in"

Personal enrichment programs such as those taught by Catherine Watson take place throughout the year.
Details: www.cce.umn.edu/learninglife or 612-624-4000.

Student Voice: Anthony Osifuye
Degree concentrations: Health and Wellness Thematic, Pre-Med

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After working in a grocery store in high school, I knew I wanted a health and nutrition focus to my college studies and eventual career. I saw customers who would come through with mostly processed convenience food items, as opposed to some of the healthier items. I noticed a pattern over time of individuals who were on food stamps and aid making these choices.

It spurred an interest in health disparities across socioeconomic groups, and so when I was looking at degree plans, I wanted a focus where I could combine public health, nutrition, and medicine, and make an impact.

That's why the Health and Wellness thematic option of the Inter-College Program (ICP) was perfect. This way, I could look at the health and nutrition idea from different angles, from all across the U. From social science to physical and biological sciences...it allowed me to develop a very comprehensive picture.

My career goal is to go into the medical field, ideally working in an underserved population with a diverse community.

My Inter-College Program degree gives me broader background that will help me do that kind of community work and be a stakeholder in the community, in addition to giving me the course work in the hard sciences.

I think my unique degree path will also be an advantage when the time comes to apply to med school. Graduate schools look at what you choose to do, and they see a lot of the biology and other hard sciences. I think an individualized degree, with a variety of courses, it makes me stand out a bit. It isn't a typical program.

Student Voice: Valentine Eben
Degree concentrations: Information Technology Infrastructure, Global Studies, Social Justice
Scholarships: Julius Nolte-Harold Miller Scholarship and Karin L. Larson Interdisciplinary Education Scholarship recipient

I grew up in Cameroon, where the government owned and controlled all the media outlets, T.V., radio, print, etc. As a child, I often heard stories of intellectuals and journalists killed or jailed for daring to question this regime, as well as stories about what life was like in the days of joined administration with Nigeria; about the electoral politics, and freedom of the press or freedom of association, etc.

So, when I was a teenager in the late 1980s, I followed with awe the pro-democracy protests in Eastern Europe. Before long, similar uprisings spread to Africa; and as the pro-democracy movement spread, I joined other community organizers to try and duplicate the uprisings in Cameroon. Because of my involvement in these protests, in 1998 I had to go into exile in Europe.

While there, I continued working in grassroots organizations. Aware of the importance of communication (i.e. media access) in garnering public support for social justice causes, I became active in an alternative software foundation that provides internet services, computer training, and open-source software solutions to community-based organizations at very low cost.

My work [over the past 10-plus years] showed me how much more I could contribute to [these causes] with advanced IT training. That's why I decided to return to school in the Inter-College Program. It allowed me to put together a degree that covers exactly what I'm interested in--social justice, community organizing, and IT. The ITI portion will help me develop more technical skills, while my social justice and global studies courses will allow me to gain empirical knowledge about what others are doing to pair with the hands-on work I've been doing already. With my degree, I hope to help community organizations leverage technology in order to achieve their missions.

Advisers are key

Behind every student is an adviser providing assistance to help them shape a program to meet their needs

"Valentine Eben's early years in Africa formed his consciousness and his thematic ICP degree focuses on how to support community involvement at the grassroots level through technology. Combining IT infrastructure with sustainability and global studies was truly unique; this demonstrates how a person's life experience and wish to effect change in the world can be expressed in the individualized degree."
-Karolyn Redoute, adviser

Student Voice: Jennifer Hall
Degree concentrations: Ojibwe Language, Social Justice (Heritage Language Stewardship)
Scholarships: Julius Nolte-Harold Miller Scholarship, Karin L. Larson Interdisciplinary Education Scholarship, and WCA Gilford and Esther Remington Scholarship recipient

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I'm passionate about two main areas. The first is the Ojibwe language, an endangered tribal language in Minnesota. The second is social justice, especially as it relates to language diversity. I think both issues can only be understood and improved when you work with society as a whole system. I was so happy to discover the ICP because it gave me a great opportunity to blend both of my passions into a unique, fulfilling course of study.

I've always had an affinity for languages. Ojibwe, in particular, is close to my heart because it's also a part of my heritage. It is a beautiful language, but endangered, and I wanted to be a part of the efforts to revitalize it enough so that it comes back into daily use. As for a whole-systems perspective to social justice, I became interested in it because I think it has a lot to teach us about solving systemic problems instead of reacting to the symptoms of a broken society.

The goal with my degree is to be able to use the principles of whole systems healing to learn to evaluate the myriad factors that have contributed to loss of the Ojibwe language and respond to them in a way that would hopefully have a lot of leverage in support of revitalization.

I know it's somewhat of a unique combination, but I feel like it will be immediately applicable to my career goals and future plans. After graduation, I can see myself developing materials for immersion programs, teaching, or helping adult students learn how to speak it. I see my degree preparing me by giving me a foundation in Ojibwe...and for providing me the tools to think critically and work within a wider frame of reference when dealing with the issues facing language learners.

CCE has given me the flexibility to study in areas like Ojibwe, whole systems healing, anthropology, and education. This means that I'll graduate from the University with a unique degree that has given me the tools I need to be successful in any area I choose. It is a great program and has opened up many doors for me.

Advisers are key

Advisers work with students during the course of their degree to develop a deep understanding of their strengths and goals.

"Jennifer Hall came to CCE as a transfer student and has immersed herself in the study of Ojibwe and is working closely with faculty. I've watched her consciousness as a preservationist for native languages develop in the last two years. She will make a significant contribution to her chosen field."
-Karolyn Redoute, adviser


Scholarships help some of the best and brightest students illuminate a new path to their futures.

Here are the stories of just two of this year's scholarship recipients.

Timothy Church
CCE Centennial Scholarship recipient
Degree program: Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI)

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A self-professed "computer geek," Tim Church knew right away that the ITI program was the perfect fit for him. "Working with computers comes easily to me, and I like helping people with them. I was often my family and friend's go-to 'computer guy' when they needed help.

"ITI was a good fit for me, as I'm interested in the managing of systems angle--I'm fascinated by how computers connect; I enjoy setting up my own networking equipment at home, and playing with all of the settings. I felt like a computer science degree went too in-depth in areas I wasn't looking for, and didn't prepare me for the types of careers I wanted to explore."

While he was excited about his studies, Church also was stressed about his rising financial costs, and worried that he might have to take time off from school in order to work more and save enough to pay for his final semesters. Becoming the first recipient of the CCE Centennial Scholarship changed all that.

"When I opened the letter saying I had been awarded the funds, I was ecstatic. Worrying about financial issues makes focusing on school very hard...this scholarship allowed me to pay off fully my spring semester and give full attention to my classes."

Church is now ready to tackle his senior year, and then, hopefully an internship followed by a career in systems/network administration. "I'm so grateful for the opportunity. There are endless possibilities and opportunities for lifelong learning that come with this field. This scholarship opened the doors to all that for me."

Liisa Beckman
Ingrid Lenz-Harrison Scholarship recipient
Degree program: Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Behavioral Health

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In 1985, after three years of undergraduate work at the U, Liisa Beckman found herself "neither happy, nor doing well." So, she left to join the workforce, moving cross country twice (to New York, and later to California) before returning to the Twin Cities and to her education--finishing her bachelor's degree in deaf studies in 1999.

Since then, she has continued her work as a communications specialist and graphic designer. And while it is a job that Beckman has enjoyed, she felt there was an additional educational opportunity she needed to explore, one that tied directly to her personal history.

"I had been overweight since childhood. By my mid-20s, I was obese--dangerously so. My health was poor; I was on many medications; I was too overweight to have a child (something I very much wanted to do)...and I was at loose ends. I was at the point where I didn't want to live anymore.

"That's when I found Overeaters Anonymous (OA), which saved my life. That was in 2000; in 2003, I became a 12-step sponsor. Through that role, I've gained direct insight into addiction and mental illness."

She continues, "For years, I wasn't sure what to do with my undergraduate degree, but now, after learning about CCE's Integrated Behavioral Health program, I know precisely what I want to do. I would like to be able to bring what I learn in the Integrated Behavioral Health program about addiction and co-occurring disorders to bear on eating disorders/food addiction. The Twin Cities is home to one of the few deaf/hard-of-hearing inpatient addiction treatment programs in the country, and being able to work with individuals struggling with food addiction, in the deaf culture, would be a unique challenge.

It is a novel approach to the degree, and one Beckman could not have undertaken without help from the Ingrid Lenz-Harrison Scholarship. "As a single parent, working full-time, finances are a challenge," she says. "This scholarship eases some of that burden and helps make it possible. This degree will help me to combine a career and my personal interests--I'm ready to put my passion into practice, thanks in part to this generous gift."

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Everybody loves a good story. Stories often are the bedrock for our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about people, places, institutions, and causes. As you might imagine, I've been privileged to hear hundreds of wonderful student and alumni stories over the past decade.

While students, faculty, and teachers are critical to the University bedrock, I want to tell you a story about two University staff members who recently came together in an amazing way.

Fran Van Slyke-Zaslofsky began at this University in 1971 and started working with University College (now the College of Continuing Education, CCE) students and financial aid very early in her career. She enjoyed an affinity with these unique individuals who were often non-traditionally aged students. Because the students of this College travel a unique path to get the self-directed interdisciplinary education they need, they often struggle to pay tuition and to stay in school. Fran loved helping these students and loved her work.

As time passed, Fran brought her sons to the University of Minnesota Child Development Center where they spent the days reaping the benefits of activities and approaches coming out of the U's highly regarded Early Childhood Development Lab.

As some of you know firsthand, good day care can help make or break a parent's career. Without it, Fran would not have had the peace of mind and been able to utilize the rigorous work ethic she brought to the job. Nor would she have had such a tremendous impact on thousands of students' lives.

Fast forward to 2012. At the beginning of the CCE Centennial Celebration, just weeks before Fran was going to retire, she received a beautiful wood Regents Chair for her 40th-year anniversary at the University. Fran's gifts of time and treasure along with scholarship contributions made by her peers at the College and other generous donors have again enabled CCE students to be successful and achieve their educational dreams.

Always a believer in paying it forward, days after getting the chair Fran donated it back to CCE to use as a prize for the Centennial drawing. And as 2013 dawned, the winner, chosen at random, was a very nice person named Gloria DeRoode, who got so excited she teared up on the phone when I called with the news. And, guess where Gloria works--the U of M Child Day Care and Development Center, where the chair is now used for staff to rest between running around after the little ones.

I hope and expect these young children will grow up and follow their own paths to good careers and rewarding lives, getting from and giving to the University along their way.

Best,

Kathleen Davoli, Director of Development
College of Continuing Education