Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

Varied courses, seminars encourage lifelong learning

August 11, 2001

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Ask anyone at Kansas University's School of Continuing Education when it is best to stop attending school and they will tell you "never."

And with blossoming technology and information-minded residents, they've got their work cut out for them.

The school works with various departments in order to provide the greater Lawrence and Kansas community with educational tools.

Many of the school's courses and seminars are aimed at adults who want to broaden their knowledge and professionals who need to keep up with their field.

"Because we live in an information age where there is an explosion of knowledge, no matter what degree you have, you need new information, not only to remain competitive but to remain viable," said Sharon Graham, associate dean.

Continuing education programs are constantly fluctuating because educational needs change from year to year, she added.

The school itself is going through changes this year, sparked by the recent retirement of Robert Senecal, dean of KU's School of Continuing Education for 21 years.

JoAnn Smith, a native Kansan, left her post as dean of continuing education at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., to lead KU's program.

"It's just a privilege to have the opportunity to return to my home state and lead continuing education there," she said in a phone interview from Pennsylvania before starting Aug. 1 at KU. "At the University of Kansas, the program is one of the premiere programs in the country. There is a fine tradition there."

Smith said one of her first priorities is to establish a positive working relationship with staff and students before making changes.

"Any vibrant organization is always changing and growing," she said. "Of course, there will be changes in the future. They will be ones collaboratively determined within the university and the community."

In general, she said, the school will look for ways to expand services to the business community and partner with KU's Edwards Campus in Overland Park in the coming year.

The school's services span across the state. It tries to put Lawrence residents in touch with the university's brightest minds through various seminars. Topics are as varied as urban growth, Ireland and the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. Classes in the Florence Program a series of seminars on particular topics include weekly sessions running four weeks to six weeks.

The school also operates programs through the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., the Capitol Management Center in Topeka and the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Hutchinson.

Through distance-learning courses, where students can complete course work online or by mail, KU's services are extending to people outside of the state, as well.

Continuing Education is working with a growing aerospace company in Brazil to implement technology that would expose KU professors to a global audience. The goal is a Web-based course that would stream live audio and compressed video through the Internet.

"Our challenge is making sure the technology is used appropriately so that the courses are taught in a way synonymous with KU quality," Graham said. "It's a very exciting time to be in higher education, but we have to try to make sure we realize technology is a tool. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should."

There's no harm in being a perpetual student, Smith said.

"You can see that KU's continuing education program is providing vibrant uses for learning for many people in the state at all ages," she said. "It's never too early or too late to expand your education."

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