WMU News

Continuing ed becomes 'Extended University Programs'

Dec. 9, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- For the Lansing official who wants a doctoral degree in public affairs and administration, the Muskegon manufacturing worker who needs a master's in engineering management, or the Battle Creek undergraduate who's planning to be a teacher, Western Michigan University is there.

A nearly 100-year-old commitment to providing higher education access to Michigan's citizens is stronger than ever and has evolved to the point of delivering whole degree programs, customized course work and specialized workshops to communities far beyond the Kalamazoo campus. That new reality called for a new name that more accurately reflects WMU's presence in communities around the state, says Vice Provost Alan Walker, who heads WMU's newly named Extended University Programs.

University trustees, acting at their Dec. 7 meeting, unanimously approved changing the name of the former WMU Division of Continuing Education, which has provided higher education to those outside of Kalamazoo since 1905.

Back then, students in places like Hartford, Hastings and Howard City typically enrolled in pen-and-paper extension and correspondence courses, largely for professional or personal development.

Today, Extended University Programs serves about 6,000 students who reap the benefits of having a top-100 public university in their home communities. They take entire undergraduate and graduate degree programs in classrooms at WMU campuses, or enroll in interactive video or computer-based program initiatives, such as a new graduate certificate program in educational technology that is offered totally online. In addition, WMU develops certificate programs or entire degree program targeting the specific work force needs of businesses, educators, agencies and other groups outside of Kalamazoo.

"With all that we do, the name change helps take us beyond the traditional thinking of continuing education as an option for people who are enrolled in non-credit courses to brush up on some skills, or taking classes just for fun," Walker says. "While we still do that, we're also about enhancing opportunities for the citizens of the state by giving them a greater portal through which they can access higher education--beyond the experience of coming to Kalamazoo and living as a student in a dorm."

Beyond Kalamazoo, WMU extends its educational resources through its campuses in Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, Benton Harbor/St. Joseph and Traverse City. Extended University Programs also includes an active conferences and seminars unit as well as a separate office for Kalamazoo and Statewide Programs, which specializes in working with communities that may not have a WMU campus, but would still like to take advantage of WMU's highly regarded programs.

Extended programs at each campus and in each community are different, Walker says, offering communities what they want and need to meet market demands. For example:

In Muskegon, local manufacturers partnered with WMU to create a bachelor's degree program in manufacturing engineering that was tailored to the exact needs of workers in that community.

In Traverse City, groups of local school counseling professionals have been meeting new state certification requirements without having to make the 200-mile trek to Kalamazoo by enrolling in WMU's counseling psychology program, which includes a required clinical practicum.

Similarly, WMU offers master's degree programs in Detroit's suburban Oak Park, Dearborn and Livonia school districts, with each offering tailored to meet the needs of the specific group of teachers being served.

At WMU-Southwest, a new campus being built within the Lake Michigan College campus boundaries in Benton Harbor will allow LMC graduates to make a seamless transition from the community college to the University setting and even move on to graduate school--all in their home community.

And in Grand Rapids, the new Graduate Center-Downtown is home to a Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, which includes a complete counseling and training center where graduate students can meet with real clients in a community clinic setting--all under professional supervision.

"In addition to extending WMU's educational resources throughout Michigan, our mission also means delivering programs in a time, place, and format convenient to the needs of the adult, part-time learner," Walker says. "By changing our name to Extended University Programs, we are painting a more accurate reflection of what we do, and the vision of what we want to do in terms of community engagement and future partnerships."

Media contact: Gail H. Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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