Stories
September 02, 2016

Students at School of Professional Studies Go the Full Distance

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spsCHICAGO (September 2, 2016) — We’ve heard the metaphor before that life is like a marathon. The finish line is commonly perceived as the ultimate goal, yet the journey we take to get there is important too, and can vary from person to person. For some, speed and making good time is a motivator, while others find themselves having to adjust the pace as life just happens.

Different styles and abilities comprise the pack—the fully charged runner, steady walker, balanced walker-jogger combo, intense sprinter—each as equally goal-oriented as the other. When thinking about post-secondary education and earning a degree, while speed may very well be a factor, at the core is being prepared to advance one’s career with transferable skills and degree in-hand.

Today’s students have a variety of options as they evaluate how to embark on their educational journey, from the traditional four-year path, to fully online, to a hybrid of online and in-classroom. North Park University’s School of Professional Studies, now celebrating its 25th year, is fully committed to offering this group of motivated students a quality education to prepare for the finish line and beyond as they seek career advancement and growth.

North Park has been active in providing programming to degree-seeking adults since 1991, embracing the characteristics of the adult learner. What faculty and staff have learned is that their average 25-and-up adult learner has significant and credit-qualifying life and work experience, and is actively pursuing a particular interest and degree. This student profile is telling, as this fall, North Park has renamed its degree-completion and graduate program the School of Adult Learning as the School of Professional Studies (SPS). “The closer we thought about what an adult learner is, we realized it’s more about the learner as an adult than age itself,” said Dean of the School of Professional Studies Lori Scrementi.

The name change more accurately reflects the full makeup of the SPS, since most of its students transfer to North Park with previous college credit of one kind or another. Flexible options for degree completion such as two quads that start within each of the three semesters, and generous Prior Learning Assessment credit to leverage learning from previous work and other experiences—these are the very ways in which SPS provide a solid foundation to students who are pursuing their degree in a format that suits their lifestyle. “The SPS student thrives in our supportive environment, where they receive personal instruction and advising,” said Associate Director and Assistant Professor Judson Curry.

sps-2North Park is a close community, offering support and opportunity to develop personal and professional connections. So adding more services for SPS students reentering a college-level learning environment, like personal advisors, comes naturally to the North Park culture. “From day one, the staff listened to what my goals were and helped me to be successful,” said counseling psychology graduate Cameron Sweeney.

Understanding that various life circumstances brought students to a nontraditional path of earning their degree is foundational to the SPS program, which seeks to meet the interests and demands of the adult learner and continue to add value to their lives.Majors focused on the private, public, and nonprofit sectors are designed to meet the students’ interests and equip them with coveted transferable skills to attract employers and ultimately land in-demand jobs.

SPS instructors hold credentials on par with faculty serving traditional degree-seeking students and often work outside the University within their fields, weaving real-world experience into the classroom. “Many of my professors have worked, or still do, in marketing, so I’m up-to-date on the latest developments,” said business administration graduate Chad Woehrle.

As an inclusive community that engages the city and offers open enrollment to SPS students, the University shares its resources to further enhance the educational experience for SPS students. For instance, the Center for Online Education (COE) is now located in close proximity to SPS offices, to further support the needs of students taking online courses.

SPS graduates have secured jobs in a wide variety of fields, including IT, psychology, and nonprofit management. The proof is in SPS’s success rate of going from degree-completion student to new graduate—more than 56 percent of recent SPS alumni earn their degrees once enrolled, nearly double the average national graduation rate for nontraditional students. “Degree-seeking students are to be celebrated for their dedication to completing their degree, and their success rate is indicative of access to a quality education,” added Scrementi.

Graduation day is one of life’s many marathons—but it’s an important milestone. The SPS faculty and entire learning community at North Park are committed to offering a quality learning experience, so students can get to the finish line feeling strong, believing in themselves, and ready to apply their confidence and skills.


Follow North Park University on Twitter @NPU. Learn more about North Park University.

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