School of Continuing Studies promotes ‘lifelong learning’ with degree offerings

Sheila Burt

Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies launched a new look this academic year.

The school, which serves about 1,200 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses, has made a number of changes to its degree and course offerings.

Among the new initiatives, the school created two new part-time master’s degree programs, developed a “Weekend College” so working adults can take courses on weekends, and launched nine new noncredit certificate programs in specific areas such as mediation skills training, and landscape design and management.

“Part of our mission is to be a partner in lifelong learning,” said the school’s dean, Thomas Gibbons. “If you’re truly going to be a partner in lifelong learning, it is necessary and imperative to provide high-quality, relevant education experiences that are needed by adult learners throughout their lives.”

Gibbons said all of these factors will help the School of Continuing Studies become a leading institution dedicated to adult education in Chicago, following other institutions’ strong continuing education programs in New York and Los Angeles.

The school offers two new part-time master’s degree programs in creative writing, and public policy and administration.

English Prof. Reginald Gibbons and visiting Prof. Brian Bouldrey helped plan the creative writing program with several other NU faculty members. It is the first master’s degree NU has offered in creative writing.

“We have at our hands a city full of fine writers,” Bouldrey said. “We can kind of borrow them (to teach) in a way because it doesn’t interfere with their other work.”

Nina Kutty, a composition instructor at Northwestern Business College, a community college not affiliated with NU, enrolled in the creative writing program hoping to gain writing experience so her work can be published in the future. She said the intense workshops, a large part of the program, already have improved her writing.

“I came to Northwestern not knowing a lot about creative writing and I’ve already learned a great deal,” she said.

Steven Andes, a member of the School of Continuing Studies’ faculty advisory board who also teaches accounting, said he believes his experience with the accounting program as a student gave him “a quantum leap” in his career and the school’s expansion only strengthens its presence in the Chicago area.

“In higher education, you either grow or you die,” he said. “The needs of students are changing. These new programs are just what people want.”

The master’s in public policy and administration is a 10-course degree offering concentrations in public safety and security, public policy, health services administration, and technology and information management.

“We are focused on the needs of working professionals,” said Simon Greenwold, associate director of academic programs for the School of Continuing Studies. “That’s really our mission, to provide access to Northwestern for people who work full time but feel they need to enhance their career or pursue a new opportunity.”

The courses also will bring in community members to teach courses. William Powers, a commander of personnel at the Chicago Police Department, will teach a course in the management of police organizations this winter.

And the school’s expansion doesn’t end with new academic programs.

The school boasts a newly designed Web site, offers registration online and also plans to move its main administration offices in Evanston. The school currently is based in Annenberg Hall, but by Winter Quarter officials hope to move into a mansion at 305 Church St., the former location of the Public Safety Institute.

The school’s expanded offerings this year are a strong start and could expand in the future with new noncredit programs, master’s programs and collaborations with Chicago-area businesses, Gibbons said.

“It’s very much like starting a new business,” Gibbons said. “You see if there’s a market for what you want to develop. (We believe) there is a very strong market for professional education.”