WMU News

Kalamazoo regional center has new name, broader mission

Nov. 5, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The Division of Continuing Education at Western Michigan University has renamed its regional center in Kalamazoo and given it a broader mission.

The center, formerly Kalamazoo Off-Campus and Weekend Programs, is now called the Office of Kalamazoo and Statewide Programs in recognition of its added charge to coordinate academic course offerings in Detroit and other Michigan communities where WMU does not have a physical presence.

"Our commitment to serving local residents hasn't changed," says Natalie E. Morton, center director. "It's just that now we're also working with a lot of other communities, especially those in Southeast Michigan, to identify and meet educational needs in areas where WMU has a particular expertise but no regional facility."

For example, Morton says, the University has a long track record of providing programs and in-service training for teachers who need to update their credentials. The Office of Kalamazoo and Statewide Programs currently is drawing upon that expertise to provide a master's degree in elementary education in the Oak Park public schools and the finishing course work necessary for a master's degree in reading in the Dearborn and Livonia public schools.

Providing such tailored instruction is a cornerstone of the Division of Continuing Education, which operates Michigan's third largest university extension network. This network includes the Office of Kalamazoo and Statewide Programs; regional centers in Battle Creek, Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Muskegon; and regional sites in Holland and Traverse City.

"Like WMU's other regional facilities, the Office of Kalamazoo and Statewide Programs increases the educational options available to older adults, many of whom have children and work full-time," Morton says.

"They know they need to continue their education in order to stay competitive in today's global marketplace, but they usually can't drop everything and go away to college for a year or two. That's where we come in."

The center works with businesses, schools and other organizations in Kalamazoo and around Michigan to deliver courses for academic credit as well as complete degree programs.

"We focus on providing convenient, cost-effective services developed in cooperation with organizations to meet specific content, scheduling and location needs," Morton says.

The Office of Kalamazoo and Statewide Programs also offers four undergraduate degree programs, five graduate degree programs and four graduate certificate programs through its Kalamazoo base of operations.

Those programs were developed in response to demonstrated educational needs and are offered in cooperation with three WMU colleges: arts and sciences, education, and health and human services. They include the new bachelor of science degree in general university studies--occupational education, which was introduced this fall and allows students to obtain a teaching certificate and vocational-technical certification to teach subjects such as electronics, welding and graphic arts.

Classes for degree and certificate programs are held locally at workplaces and other community sites and on WMU's main campus in Kalamazoo. Most are offered in the evenings or in short-term intensive summer sessions.

"We're especially proud of our Two-Week Summer Institute, which has been exceptionally successful in meeting the scheduling needs of continuing education students," Morton says.

The institute features a wide range of courses for academic credit that students may take for personal or professional enrichment or apply toward a degree or certificate program. It debuted in 1980 and has grown significantly in popularity, regularly attracting students from around the nation.

"The classes meet in blocks of three to four hours over a 10-day period so participants can continue their education without sacrificing much time away from work," Morton says.

The regional center also has received accolades for teaming up with faculty members on the main campus to provide innovative courses that supplement WMU's traditional offerings.

Recent courses have allowed students to gain college credit while honing their art skills on Manitou Island, conducting research at an environmental camp in Hawaii and participating in international music workshops oversees.

"You usually don't see those types of things being offered for academic credit, even though they're a priceless extension of the learning experience," Morton says. "But a key part of our mission is to expand educational options for Michigan residents. So when needs arise, we get involved."

Off-campus courses were first offered in Kalamazoo in 1905. The city's regional center, which has an average annual enrollment of more than 1,600 students, opened in 1984. It is located in Ellsworth Hall on the main campus.

For more information, visit the center between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or contact the office by phone at (616) 387-4167, by fax at (616) 387-4127 or by email at <kazoo-programs@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400