[box]The Edward R. Murphy Center for Continuing Education and Distance Learning has a new name: The Elizabethtown College School for Continuing and Professional Studies at the Edward R. Murphy Center. This milestone is not just a title—it’s an affirmation.[/box]
Ann Manuel ’13 had been quite busy before she enrolled at Elizabethtown College and began her personal educational journey in the fall of 2006. She was 44 years old, juggling a full-time job along with taking care of a home and a daughter. Sure her family and friends offered encouragement and support, but Manuel had no college credits, and it had been decades since she set foot in a classroom. Higher education was something brand new, foreign, intimidating, yet the thought of attending classes and majoring in corporate communication was an exciting notion. “Elizabethtown College has a wonderful reputation, but most important was the accelerated adult degree program that they offered,” Manuel explained. “The course material was relevant to my degree and the facilitators gave me the opportunity to share my life experiences with the other classmates.”
That ‘sharing’ by Manuel took place in what was formerly The Edward R. Murphy Center for Continuing Education and Distance Learning. But, as of February 2013, that name has been changed to the Elizabethtown College School of Continuing and Professional Studies at the Edward R. Murphy Center—an identification that reflects the important role that adult learners play and will continue to play in the life and future of the College.
Manuel has been employed for the past 16 years by the County of Lancaster as an administrative services specialist in the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Section, a job she held while attending classes. She hopes to use her new degree to find a position that allows her to use the organizational, communication and interpersonal skills she has achieved by attending the college, something she called the “highlight of her life.”
“I do think that the renaming of the Center does reflect more on the adult learners and their desire to further their education while dealing with the daily realities of life experiences,” she said. “The School for Professional and Continuing Studies also reflects on the academic excellence that Elizabethtown College provides to all students.”
The continuing education unit that preceded the School dates from 1972 when the College’s Community Congress formed the unit giving it broad powers to develop community outreach academic programs and develop its own faculty.
In 2000, the Center was established and approved by the Board of Trustees. Over the next decade or so, the Center achieved great success with the regional adult-learner market. But ambiguities arose over the relationship of the Center to the College. These were addressed, according to Dean John Kokolus, by the new strategic plan, which called for establishment of the School. This change secured the School’s position as self-governing, yet a solid part of the College.
“The new name communicates the strong ties the School of Continuing and Professional Studies maintains with the College and a heightened sense of professionalism and effectiveness,” Kokolus said.
But other changes were implemented, in a sense, to complement and underscore the importance of the School’s establishment. It has had and will have a separate Commencement and maintain separate statistical reporting.
“The new name represents a milestone, an affirmation and a challenge to the admissions staff,” said Barbara Randazzo, assistant dean of enrollment management. “It is a milestone because it comes after 12 years of steady growth for the adult degree programs.”
That growth, according to Randazzo, includes the opening of Lancaster and York locations, the launch of the College’s first online degree programs and its first graduate program, an MBA in fall of 2011. Future plans call for the addition of at least one more graduate program and a new undergraduate major. The College’s mission, the new College strategic plan and market needs play major roles in setting any future directions.
“By using the term ‘School’ to name the unit, the message sent is that the work done is overwhelmingly academic in nature,” Randazzo said. “The general public is familiar with higher education institutions having distinct Schools by generalized discipline. Our School is distinct in that the focus of our work is delivering academic programming and degrees to a distinct population of students—working adults age 23 and over.”
Accepting change can be challenging, especially in an educational institution that has been around as long as Elizabethtown College, but the response from students and faculty has been overwhelmingly positive. Lydia Bailey ’13, who began as an Elizabethtown College student in 2011 and is now a marketing and research coordinator at The Hershey Experience, admitted she was quite fond of the program’s original name but feels the new name is a much better representation of what is going on within the School’s walls and with the accomplishments of adult graduates.
“We adult learners are ‘continuing’,” she said. “We are picking up our education from wherever we left off, and we are continually pressing forward to completion. We’re also working professionals, learning almost as much from each other as we do from the professors. Every class embodies a level of collaboration, participation, sharing of experiences and unique synergies you don’t find elsewhere.”
The College’s outstanding reputation was the catalyst for Bailey to take that leap to getting a bachelor’s degree, and it was here that she found proof of that excellence—from the facilitators who displayed a genuine passion for their subjects to the overall high standards of leadership and scholarship evident in the classroom.
“Elizabethtown College is the epitome of a quality education and some of the best preparation I could imagine for the workplace in any industry,” she said.
Phillip McJunkins ’13 was thankful that the College’s flexibility allowed him to continue working while taking the majority of classes online to finish his undergraduate degree in business administration. He commuted to Philadelphia from Mount Joy each day to his job as director of product management at Comcast, so a traditional brick-and-mortar education would have been out of the question. McJunkins, who served as the 2013 Commencement student speaker, believes the name change reflects more on this particular group of students.
“I would imagine that nearly everyone I graduated with has established some type of career path, so focusing the new name to show the relevance between the adult student and our desire to go back to class is probably appropriate,” he said.
Carl J. Strikwerda, president of Elizabethtown, said the new name highlights the vision that education for working adults is an important part of the College’s larger mission.
“It’s one that deserves a clear identity for its academic administration. We are committed to reaching out to the broadest possible audience of adult learners, and the School has both the autonomy and support from the rest of the College to innovate as it needs to do in order to meet the needs of working adults,” he said.
Before graduating, Bailey and McJunkins were two of many millions of Americans who listed their highest level of educational attainment as ‘some college.’ The School, as the Center did before it, offers those in this demographic exciting, flexible and feasible opportunities to fulfill dreams of earning college degrees.