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Next spring the Kansas University Continuing Education program will leave its longtime Lawrence location for the Edwards Campus in Overland Park.
The decision to move the program was largely an effort to create opportunities to collaborate with business and industry in the Kansas City area. With programs and classes reaching all across the state, administrators don't expect the move to decrease accessibility to classes in Lawrence. As administrators work out the logistics into next year, some decisions about program staff are still undecided.
KU Continuing Education helps to train state police officers, firefighters and medical personnel, and gives noncredit instruction in fields such as engineering, law and business. The program also includes the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which provides educational opportunities to people over 50. All told, Continuing Education provides courses and workforce training to more than 70,000 people a year throughout the state. It's been stationed in Lawrence since 1909, when it officially formed.
The relocation will take place through next year, starting with about 15 employees in the spring, said David Cook, KU vice chancellor and campus executive officer for Edwards. As Edwards adapts its current office and classroom space to make way for Continuing Education, the campus will absorb other personnel. Some programs, including the Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute in Lawrence, will stay where they are.
Cook expects the entire process to last until the end of 2014. Many of the details will be worked out in the months to come. "Some of this is going to be a work in progress," Cook said.
Among the moving pieces is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The Osher institute conducts classes throughout the state, partnering up with colleges and universities such as K-State, Edwards and Washburn. About 1200 people in Lawrence take classes through the Osher institute, close to half of the 2,745 people statewide who take Osher classes. Offerings in Lawrence range from history classes on American wars to "Joyful Singing for Everyone."
Cook said "no decisions have been made" about whether Osher will stay in Lawrence or head to the Edwards campus. Even if the institute does move to Edwards, it will keep offering courses in Lawrence, university leadership says. Sara Rosen, KU vice provost for academic affairs, said that with Osher already offering programming in Lawrence and the Kansas City area communities, "regardless of where they're housed, they will have programming in all of those areas."
The geographical fate of some KU Continuing Education employees is also uncertain to some extent. After the first wave of employees relocates offices from Lawrence to Edwards, decisions about who stays and who goes will be made "on a very individual basis," Rosen said. Whether those employees who live in Lawrence will be compensated for gas mileage and other costs of commuting is also still uncertain. Rosen and Cook both said it was a possibility, but no decisions have been made.
Cook said the proximity of Edwards to the Kansas City business community was one of the driving factors in moving the program.
"We've been going out and listening and talking to the business community," Cook said. "What we've heard over and over and over again is that they'd like to have access to cutting edge information. Now they can partner with the University of Kansas to meet those needs."
Housing the program at Edwards might also help the campus recruit students into its academic programs from continuing education courses. "If we're coordinating those efforts, it can really be a win-win across the board," with businesses getting immediate training for their employees and the university finding students interested in delving deeper into subjects, Cook said.
A search will begin soon to pick a new program head to replace Fred Pawlicki, the current executive director of KU Continuing Education, who is set to retire in January. Pawlicki has served as director for eight years and has been with KU for 21 years. A committee made up of business and industry leaders as well as academics will help pick a new program leader, Cook said.
As for the building KU Continuing Education now occupies at 1515 Saint Andrew Drive, Rosen said ideas have been floated but nothing is decided yet. "Oh, it's been talked about a lot," she said. "Space is always an issue. Regardless of what we do, the space will be used well."