Flexible pathways for lifetime learning

Mount Holyoke's iconic gates

By Kathleen Mellen

Mount Holyoke College, long renowned for its excellence in undergraduate education, is now offering 10 new institutes, which are linked in theme and subject, to a broad audience of adult learners. The institutes are a key new offering of the Professional and Graduate Education program, now in its seventh year.

“Mount Holyoke is known as an amazing undergraduate institution, whose focus is on liberal arts, and participation and engagement with the world,” said Tiffany Espinosa, executive director of graduate programs at Mount Holyoke. “The graduate programs extend that.”

Now, recent graduates, mid-career professionals interested in changing direction, and those who have significant experience looking to broaden skills in specific areas can choose from a number of career-boosting tracks:

  • Nonprofit Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship

  • Digital Innovation and Media

  • Global and Intercultural Leadership

  • Math Programs for Educators

  • Differentiated Instruction for Educators

  • Additional Teacher Licensure for Educators

  • Research, Data and Equity

  • Facilitating Professional Learning

  • Foundations of Teacher Leadership

  • TESOL Certificate for Educators.

The classes have historically taken place during the summer and in January, outside of the academic calendar year. But as of January 2019, broad programming will be offered year-round.

Moreover, the courses are readily accessible for those near and far. They can be taken individually or in pursuit of a certificate of competency, and in addition to the standard brick-and-mortar classroom setting, many courses are offered entirely — or partially — online. Such variety means the College can reach the widest array of students, said Sarah Bent, assistant director of mathematics education and a visiting instructor in education.

“With our online classes, we have tapped into amazing geographical diversity. We are building virtual, professional communities,” Bent said. “Our students come from places like Abu Dhabi, Madrid, Canada. Some are joining us late at night and some are getting up at 4:30 in the morning to join us. And people are coming from across the globe to take part in our on-campus components.”

Many students, she added, become “frequent flyers,” returning year after year.

Amy Nichols is one such returnee. Nichols, who has a degree in theater from SUNY Binghamton, was recently named the admissions and communications coordinator of graduate programs. Previously, she was a senior administrative assistant.

Nichols took a class in video production last summer and is now enrolled in a storytelling class.

“I love it. The small class sizes are wonderful, you get the individual attention you need," she said. "You get immediate feedback, not only from your classmates but from your instructors. In my new position, I use the things I learn every day.”

Other graduate programs include webinars, seminars, retreats and conferences.

“As we build this program, we aim to hold on to Mount Holyoke’s deep philosophy, while finding new ways to engage audiences,” Espinosa said. “Not necessarily just for a year or two, but over a lifetime.”

Currently, about 500 people are served through the College's graduate programs, non-credit courses, webinars and seminars, and professional learning communities.

“This is about us, as an institute of higher education, trying to be more accessible to adult learners who want to get started in careers or continue to amp them up, and to be a provider of choice for that,” said Espinosa.

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