North Park University School of Adult Learning Celebrates 20 Years of Service

School of Adult Learning 20th Anniversary
North Park's School of Adult Learning (SAL) began in 1991 as the Gains of Adult Learning (GOAL) program.

Convenience and flexibility are keys for students

CHICAGO (October 12, 2011) – Alumni, faculty and friends of the North Park University School of Adult Learning (SAL) will gather during Homecoming Oct. 15 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the school's founding.

Founded in 1991 as the Gains of Adult Learning (GOAL) program, the University's School of the Adult Learning exists to help adults finish bachelor's degrees they may have started several years before. Through its 20-year history, some 850 students have earned degrees through the school, with another 270 in the school's academic programs now.

In remarks for the school's celebration, Dr. Bryan J. Watkins, SAL dean and associate professor, said "a wonderful legacy" has emerged through the school's 20-year history. "The School of Adult Learning has produced many a graduate over the years, all well positioned to create opportunities to apply their skills and gifts toward the betterment of our community and our society as a whole," he said. "We recognize that through faith, knowledge and experiences, these graduates have been provided the necessary skills to continue to lead lives of significance and service. I can honestly say that the work that has taken place over the past 20 years has truly touched lives and shaped an institution forever."

SAL students work toward Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of General Studies degrees in eight major fields. Classes are available at the University's Chicago campus, at its satellite campus at the University Center of Lake County, Grayslake, or online. Courses take seven weeks to complete, said Jud Curry, SAL associate director. A typical class size is about 8 to 20 students, with classes offered weekday evenings, Saturday mornings and online, he said. "Students will be in class with other students who share the same sense of purpose they do in completing degrees," Curry said.

SAL alumni say in their experience, the convenience and flexibility of the North Park University SAL program, as well as the care and concern of the staff and faculty, were keys to their success.

Travis Perry completed his bachelor's degree in leadership and organizational management in 2009, after a 16-year break from school. Earning the degree made a big difference for him and for his career. Today, Perry is a ComEd manager-Southern Region Meter Reading, a role in which he oversees nine offices consisting of six supervisors, 13 clerks and about 170 union employees.

Perry was nervous about returning to school, but noticed that faculty members were well aware of the work-life balances of their students. "With the professors, I could tell by their demeanor they were really concerned about (my) personal and educational development," he said.

What Perry learned through the School of Adult Learning helped him improve his skills in interacting with people, he said. "In this particular position, I have to listen to what my employees are saying, and think about what they're saying. I have to analyze an entire situation, and look at the big picture before offering suggestions," he said.

Perry recommends the North Park University School of Adult Learning to colleagues and friends, saying the program will get them engaged in learning, especially with the small classes. "I feel totally blessed and grateful to North Park University," he added.

Myrna Nodal attended North Park's program from 2005 to 2008 and earned a bachelor's degree in human development. Nodal attended an undergraduate nursing program beginning in 1994, but left school to start a family. Today she is worship pastor at the Urban Vineyard Church, Chicago, where she also directs an after-school and summer program through the Chicago Public Schools Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. She also teaches fitness classes.

Nodal is the mother of five children.  For her, the flexibility of the SAL's evening classes was the biggest attraction. "I didn't want returning to school to affect my children," she said. "Having longer classes over fewer days really helped."

Having classes with other people in similar life-work-school situations was also a plus for Nodal. "It was refreshing and encouraging to hear my peers had busy lives and were also making sacrifices, but still able to come back to school and make a go of it. That inspired me. We supported each other," Nodal said. The North Park University SAL classes were diverse and welcoming, another quality that Nodal appreciated. 

Nodal also wanted set a good example for her children by completing her degree. "When people ask about my return to school, I tell them it's never too late for anyone," she said. "North Park was part of a major turning point in my life. Returning to school at North Park helped me remember who I was, and that I had a lot to offer. It reignited a desire for learning and growth that is never-ending."

Nick Horvath is a senior I-series programmer/analyst for Hub Group, Inc., Downer's Grove. He graduated in a little more than two years, earning a bachelor's degree in computer information systems in 2009. He had been away from college since 1999, when he nearly completed an accounting degree. After he got married and he and his wife had a child, Horvath went back to a different school for college-level courses in 2002, but wasn't able to complete the academic requirements for a degree. After doing some research, he found the SAL program at North Park University.

"I was probably a little more determined and confident than most other people," Horvath said."I made up my mind that I was going to finish my degree no matter what."  Horvath said the professors were helpful and knowledgeable, and willing to accommodate students' schedules.

Horvath got his current job because he was nearly finished with his bachelor's degree, which is a job requirement. 

"This (SAL) program is a great opportunity for people like me who always wanted to finish but haven't done it.  I would totally recommend North Park's program because I had great success with it. I had a great experience and wouldn't trade it for anything. They really make you feel like family, and I liked that," Horvath said.


For further information or resources, contact John Brooks, Director of Media Relations and News, via email or at (773) 244-5522. Learn more about North Park University.