Newman to serve the needs of more adult and transfer students with new academic programs


In an effort to better meet the needs of adult, transfer and returning students, Newman University is making final preparations to launch five new academic programs in the fall 2009 semester.

The programs in some instances represent a dramatic shift in the university’s focus. Newman Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Austin, Ph.D. notes, however, that they also remain true to the university’s mission.

“I like to point out to people that Cardinal Newman did not convert to Catholicism and take vows as a priest until he was 44 years old, so creating programs for adults is clearly in keeping with our heritage, and fundamentally part of our mission,” Austin said. “Certainly we’re not abandoning our focus on traditional students, but in terms of growth, we’re reorienting Newman to serve adults. A large part of our mission lies in providing programs adult students want and will benefit from.”

‘Nontraditional’ vs. ‘traditional’

Austin said several recent studies show that students aged 21 or older, who have historically been considered “nontraditional” students, are making up a larger share of the enrollment at colleges and universities nationwide.

A study called “Major College Going Trends” conducted by the higher education research organization Stamats notes that while 65 percent of high school graduates go to college, 48 percent of freshmen drop out or stop attending at least once, 60 percent attend more than one institution, and 35 percent attend three or more institutions before they graduate. In addition, more than 17 percent of undergraduate students are 24 or older, 41 percent go to school part-time, and 84 percent work part-time while attending college.*

“Those kinds of figures say that the educational market of the future, and the educational responsibility of the future, is adult students – people who have stopped college and want to go back and complete their degree or get a different degree or certification. All of our new programs fit into those models.”

Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies

Under this new bachelor of arts program, students who have been out of college at least eight years and accumulated at least 30 hours of college credit at accredited institutions can transfer credits from any past institution to Newman. The university will then custom-design a program of study leading to a degree using existing university courses.

Austin said the program offers students substantial latitude in designing a course of study that meets their needs and experience, and in creating ways to earn a degree not readily possible in traditional “degree-completion” programs. Students will be able to move through the program at their own pace, take time off if needed, and take classes only as their job allows.

Master’s in Theology

Newman has also created a new program that is especially aligned with the university’s mission – a graduate program in theology. Austin said the program actually consists of two related degrees: a master of arts degree for students who want to ultimately earn a doctoral degree in theology, and a master of theological studies degree that will allow people to teach PSR, RCIA and other classes in their local parishes.

These degree programs are currently being reviewed by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. If approved, they will be
available to people throughout the region, as classes will be delivered largely via the Internet.

“It will be a very interactive and media-rich environment, capable of using video clips, PowerPoint presentations and other electronic media to make it very visually engaging,” said Father Joseph Gile, Newman assistant professor of theology and director of the new master’s in theology program. “This program has tremendous possibilities on many levels. It allows us to reach the adult students we want to reach and who want this training, and it will bring the university and the diocese closer together. Newman was founded to train teachers, so this new program fits well with the original vision of the Sisters.”

The program has already drawn significant interest, and pending HLC approval will begin in the fall with a full cohort, thanks in large part to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, which has awarded 30 scholarships through its St. Maria De Mattias Endowment to catechists from parishes throughout the diocese.

Bachelor of Health Care Science

This baccalaureate degree is designed for those with an associate’s degree in the nursing or allied health field who desire additional knowledge and skills to gain education or management positions within their areas. The program, which will come before the Newman Board of Trustees for approval in May, requires a minimum of 40 hours in upper division courses including business, management, psychology, ethics and others.

Bachelor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education

This degree will prepare teachers of children from birth through 3rd grade. The program, which was unified with the existing elementary education degree, will require an additional semester of coursework. This degree option was developed in response to a growing demand for certified early childhood educators and for teachers with a combination of early childhood and elementary education certification. The program will be offered in Wichita, Independence and western Kansas.

Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction with an Emphasis in Reading Specialist

The reading specialist program is an additional area of emphasis to the existing master of education degree program. The new emphasis was created in response to a demand for K-12 teachers who can develop reading instructional strategies and provide leadership in a school reading program. The 33 credit hour program will include flexible course delivery through a combination of Web based instruction, class sessions and individual study. It is designed for completion in less than two years.

* Sources: The College Board and 2006-07 Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac

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