CCE turns focus to work force

The new master’s program is a more flexible and hands-on environment.

Ashley Bray

For many students, going off to college is a stepping stone to landing a job and a secure financial future. But for some, a bachelorâÄôs degree just isnâÄôt enough.
For those students, going back to school sometimes isnâÄôt a realistic option. The University of MinnesotaâÄôs College of Continuing Education hopes to change that.
CCE launched a suite of professional masterâÄôs programs this fall to answer a market demand for degrees that have an applied approach to education, said Sherry Wagner-Henry, the collegeâÄôs director of graduate studies.
Rather than a traditional masterâÄôs program âÄî which tends to be largely research-based and requires that students be enrolled full time âÄî the new professional masterâÄôs programs are directly applicable to the career or profession a potential student may be returning from, Wagner-Henry said.
CCE currently offers four programs  in the suite:
a Master of Liberal Studies
a Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture
a Master of Professional Studies in Arts
Cultural Leadership and a Master of Biological Sciences
âÄúItâÄôs a program that gives you access to graduate-level programs and immerses you with other graduate students and can give you access to all the expertise at the University, which I think is a great thing,âÄù Tom Michaels, a horticultural professor, said.
The new programs typically encourage students to work full time in their chosen profession while completing their degree programs. To make that possible the scheduling is flexible.
âÄúOur classes are offered specifically in the evenings, weekends and online to fit the needs and schedules of working professionals,âÄù Wagner-Henry said.
Each program is about 30 credits and will typically take at least two years to complete âÄúbecause of the part-time nature,âÄù Michaels said.
The programs require that the student has a bachelorâÄôs degree, but it doesnâÄôt necessarily have to correspond with the program they choose.
For example, in the horticulture program, âÄúwe wonâÄôt turn people away just because they donâÄôt have science degrees,âÄù Michaels said. âÄúIâÄôve had students come to me with degrees way outside of biology.âÄù
Currently, there are 340 students enrolled between all four programs.
CCE officials knew the demand for such programs was high from past experience.
âÄúMarket research and discussions with partner colleges who assist in offering these degrees has been going on for about three years now,âÄù Wagner-Henry said.
Both Michaels and Wagner-Henry agree that the demand will continue to grow in the future, along with the professional program.
âÄúMore and more employers are starting to offer tuition reimbursement or assistance programs,âÄù Wagner-Henry said. âÄúI suspect that we will continue to see even more creative and innovative ways of learning emerge as these programs are refined and as technology and the work/life balance continue to change the educational landscape.âÄù