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December 3, 2001

The Envision session on the School of Continuing and Professional Studies focused on the school’s core strengths, its ability to address a wide range of educational needs, and its capacity to be a significant player in fulfilling the goals emerging from the Virginia 2020 long-range planning process. The discussion also touched on the school’s role in providing greater access to the University and therefore improving its image among citizens of the Commonwealth. In creative and cost-effective ways, the school provides a conduit for carrying the University’s vast academic capabilities to learners beyond the Grounds and beyond the traditional college-age population. As was pointed out in the discussion, SCPS serves learners "from the cradle to cryogenic storage."

Core Strengths
Identifying its core strengths and values, the school prides itself on being

Bullet Nimble. The school has the flexibility to act quickly to develop new programs, take on special projects, and address critical educational needs as they arise. When a need is identified, the school can get programs off the ground quickly.
Bullet An Early Adopter. The school and its staff are quick to adopt curricular innovations, new technologies, and other new approaches to meeting the needs of nontraditional learners.
Bullet Efficient and Bottom-Line Oriented. Almost entirely self-sustaining, the school knows how to make the most of its resources to develop exceptional programs.
Bullet Professional. The school is very professional in dealing with customers, and is very responsive to their needs.
Bullet Market Driven. SCPS keeps a sharp eye on the lifelong learner marketplace and responds to changes accordingly.
Bullet Innovative and Technologically Savvy. The school stays on the cutting edge of technological developments and is adept at using the Web, video, and other media for distance learning (in the U.S. and abroad) and for the creation of educational and training materials.
Bullet Academically rigorous. Maintaining academic rigor is central to the school’s mission. It realizes that it must reflect the University’s tradition of academic excellence in all that it does.
Bullet Future-focused. The school is continually looking forward as it develops new programs and new ways of delivering instruction.

SCPS and Virginia 2020
The school recognizes its ability to help the University fulfill its Virginia 2020 long-range goals and at the same time respond to new developments in the academic marketplace. In science and technology, it offers abundant training opportunities to the citizens of Virginia, including teachers of science and math. For example, it is helping the state’s community college system address a severe shortage of math instructors by giving high school math teachers the training they need to teach at the community college level. Recognizing the educational needs arising from emerging technologies, especially in Northern Virginia, the school offers IT certification at its NOVA center and statewide via distance learning. It also offers programs for managers with liberal arts backgrounds who need IT and Web development training and for techies who need management training.

In the fine and performing arts, the school offers a wealth of programs, including seminars on Shakespeare, Mozart, jazz and bebop, the history of photography, architectural history, and other topics related to the arts. The music department’s applied music classes are offered through SCPS, and in K-12 education, the school is bringing teachers up to speed on the state’s standards of learning on the arts. The school also incorporates the performing arts into many of its other activities; for example, the summer program at Oxford has included performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company and concerts at the historic Holywell Music Room. Program participants not only attend these events but have the chance go behind the scenes and to meet the artists.

There is potential to do much more in this area. Suggestions that surfaced during the discussion included interdisciplinary arts programs aimed at K-12 teachers and their students, as well as arts activities that help the University build stronger ties with alumni and parents, including parents of children taking part in summer athletics camps and enrichment programs at U.Va. The school’s popular summer seminar on Jefferson and architecture offers a promising model.

In the international arena, the school’s distance learning capabilities help to extend the global reach of the University. The school’s program in Turkey is now five years old, and the University’s new consortium with universities in southern Africa depends heavily on the school’s technological capabilities and expertise. Other SCPS programs abroad range from a higher education colloquium in Edinburgh to training for law enforcement officers in Budapest. As one member of the school’s staff asserted, "We can offer programs anywhere in the world." On-Grounds, the language and cultural studies courses available at the Charlottesville regional center enable participants to travel and study abroad with greater depth and richness.

The school sees real growth potential in its European activities. It intends to build on its successful summer program at Oxford and its fall program in Paris on Jefferson’s years in France. These have won an enthusiastic following not only for the appeal of their settings but also for the depth of their content. As one discussion participant observed, "This isn’t Elderhostel." To provide readings in advance for participants, the school commissions monograms on topics to be covered and is thus helping to generate original scholarship.

Although alumni are part of the target audience for these programs, non-alumni make up the majority of the participants; they represent a valuable constituency whose ties to U.Va. are solely through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. At the same time, SCPS would like to develop a partnership with the Alumni Association to offer educational travel programs that link alumni with current students and faculty. Through interactive technology, the school could be a significant player in the new American studies program, which is aimed at scholars abroad who wish to gain new insights into the American experience.

Public service and outreach are part of the school’s core mission, especially in its seven regional centers (Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads, Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Southwest Virginia). Regarded as ambassadors for the University, the centers extend the University’s presence to communities across the state and serve as key points of interchange with the state’s citizens. They provide sites for the statewide Virginia 2020 faculty lecture series, and they field numerous inquiries about U.Va. admissions, athletics, and faculty.

In addition to being sources of personal enrichment for lifelong learners, the centers are valuable providers of advanced professional training for architects, planners, teachers, nurses, engineers, and other professionals who seek to expand and update their abilities without leaving their communities or their jobs. With faculty from the Curry School, SCPS offers graduate-level courses for reading specialists, serving some 1,500 teachers and graduate students each semester. Two of the courses they take are entirely online, but participants feel a strong connection to the University and walk down the Lawn when they take their M.Ed. degrees.

On Grounds, the school’s commitment to public service is evident in its Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program for part-time adult learners, which has just produced its first class of alumni. The program represents a breakthrough for the University, providing qualified adult undergraduates with full access to U.Va.’s academic strengths. As a group, they represent perhaps the most motivated and appreciative undergraduates at Virginia.

Distance Learning
Distance learning is the fastest growing segment of the post-college-age academic market. With more than 50 on-line certificate courses already in place, SCPS is well positioned and well equipped to meet the University’s distance learning needs. Although other schools on Grounds are not required to conduct their distance learning programs through SCPS, many are taking advantage of its capabilities. Distance learning demands a different style of teaching from traditional classroom instruction, and the school is prepared to help faculty make this adjustment.

Old Dominion University is considered the state’s leader in this field, requiring all of its faculty to teach courses on its network. Although it will be hard to capture the power of the traditional student experience at U.Va. through distance learning, targeted programs could help the University carve out a valuable niche in the field of lifelong education. It was noted that University-wide policies on tuition, credits, the applicability of the Honor System, and other details related to distance learning remain to be worked out. Nevertheless, staff members at SCPS are seeing increased interest among the faculty in using technology to broaden the reach of their classrooms.

The Power of Partnerships
The Envision discussion showed the exceptional ability of SCPS to form valuable partnerships with other organizations and institutions. The school’s longstanding relationship with the FBI Academy at Quantico is perhaps the best example, but there are many others. SCPS and its regional centers work with professional associations to offer certification and licensure training in such fields as architecture, engineering, and education. The Science Museum of Virginia is involved in the school’s science and math programs, and field schools for history teachers have been built on alliances with Poplar Forest, Monticello, and Mount Vernon. In partnership with the Nursing School, SCPS is working with the University of Edinburgh on a new nursing program, and here in Virginia, the school helped Radford University develop a nurse practitioner program. The school’s creative collaborations with other organizations are obviously one of its most important strengths.

Executive Education
SCPS offers executive education programs that are tailor made for its clients. These programs often have a broad focus, drawing instructors not only from the business and commerce faculty but from schools and departments across the University. The school has the capability to offer executive training not only at Zehmer Hall but also at any conference facility in the country.

The School’s Aspirations
As it looks to the future, SCPS wishes to develop stronger partnerships with all schools of the University and to increase its international impact. Asked to express their aspirations for SCPS, Envision participants offered a varied wish list of new programs and improvements, among them:

Bullet Extending the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program to students off-Grounds
Bullet Complementing the BIS with a Master of Interdisciplinary Studies program
Bullet Creating a master’s degree program in adult development and learning to help meet the educational needs of a graying population
Bullet Providing math and science programs aimed at minorities, who are underrepresented in these fields
Bullet Building on the school’s work with the FBI Academy, develop criminal justice programs that serve law enforcement officers in South America, the Pacific Rim, and other areas abroad
Bullet Encouraging faculty to make SCPS a partner in their research, especially research in which they use their teaching for SCPS as field studies
Bullet Involving more graduate students in SCPS programs
Bullet Building stronger partnerships with the schools of medicine and nursing to develop programs on health issues
Bullet Making better use of telemedicine for educating nurse practitioners
Bullet Providing programs in distressed areas of the Commonwealth to help build an educated workforce and to spur economic growth and development

Though SCPS is now a full-fledged school of the University, issues of identity and mission remain. One question is whether SCPS is a school with its own curriculum, or if it is a vehicle for extending the University’s other schools to external constituencies. Some schools may view SCPS as a competitor rather than a partner, and this issue, which involves matters of paying for faculty and their work, needs to be resolved.

An Irreplaceable Asset
Rightly or wrongly, the University is seen as aloof and inaccessible by many of the state’s citizens – a place for the privileged and the academically gifted. With its commitment to access and excellence, SCPS helps to make the University an institution for all Virginians. It is a portal for extending the academic strengths of the University to those who have not been traditionally served by it. The University must capitalize on this asset as it strives to make the Commonwealth and its citizens aware of U.Va.’s value to the state.


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Last Modified: Thursday, 16-Feb-2006 08:37:39 EST
Copyright 2003 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

 

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