Continuing Education & Outreach marks 20-year anniversary
By Katie EllisWhen it was created from the merger of three disparate units from three different divisions 20 years ago, the Office of Continuing Education and Summer Programs brought together the conference office that had been coordinated by Residential Life, a small summer school operation under the provost and public service programs coordinated by the Division of External Affairs.
Now known as the Office of Continuing Education & Outreach (CEO), the office serves nearly 12,000 unique students annually – about 65 percent of whom are Binghamton University students. The remainder might be from anywhere in the world as they register for distance education or professional development programs. In fact, CEO offers more than 600 online courses.
It was very easy to set strategic goals and come up with a vision in the beginning, according to Tom Kowalik, CEO director. "Summer session was in arrears and I had a history of revenue generation and entrepreneurialism," he said. "We merged the other units because we wanted a central unit and there was enough of a relationship that they fit, though it was like merging three different cultures.
"The intent was always to move toward an academic unit focused on program development, outreach and service to the community, serving nontraditional adults and multiple student populations," Kowalik said.
Summer Session has expanded to serve about 2,500 students each year, and Winter Session, which began as a pilot program in 2005, served 1,300 students in January, many of them through distance education. "CEO is responsible for bringing distance education to the mainstream campus," Kowalik said. "We're a champion of online and distance education.
"Our goal now is to be an educational institution that is responsive to the community in its broadest sense," he said. "We have a mandate as a public university to serve a much more diverse student population and are building more inclusive and expansive opportunities to deliver high-quality education through the Binghamton University brand."
CEO does more than oversee the summer and winter sessions. For example, with the advent of online learning, the office has a large contract with the Governor's Office of Employee Relations to deliver education to the state workforce. The unit also is responsible for noncredit continuing professional development programs and provides advising to the University's undergraduate nonmatriculated students. "We've received international and national recognition, we've made dozens of professional presentations, we've brought in over $6 million in grants and we continually consult with business and industry. We're involved in program development and serving students, and we also help educate other continuing and higher education professionals on how to improve their programs," Kowalik said.
Other campus units have taken advantage of the CEO's professional development programming, said Kowalik. "We're now expanding the reach of some graduate-level courses by running credit-bearing courses for regular students while simultaneously offering non-credit, professional development sections as part of a certificate program for practicing nurses," he said, referring to the Binghamton University Lifelong Enrichment and Advancement for Registred Nurses (BU LEARN) program. "It's one course and one instructor, reaching both current students and practicing nurses, serving both student and professional development audiences."
Kowalik is looking to expand programs and offerings in the future, possibly offering post-baccalaureate certificate programs and undergraduate degree completion programs. He also has a Maymester on his futures list. "We definitely want to champion the non-traditional and returning students, and expand professional development opportunities," he said. "We'd also like to raise greater awareness of CEO as a unit. So many people don't realize all that we do beyond Summer and Winter sessions."