Leaning into our Mission During Turbulent Times
By Stuart Day, Dean, KU Edwards Campus and KU School of Professional Studies
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates many realities our society was already facing. Not the least of these are access to education, financial stress, disparities in technological capabilities, racial injustice and the unique needs of nontraditional students.
Fortunately, the KU Edwards Campus has been addressing these needs for nearly 30 years and has accelerated our efforts in response to 2020’s rapid change and heightened challenges for our students and community. We launched the KU School of Professional Studies in December 2019, welcoming its first class this semester. The school offers in-person, hybrid and online programs, facilitating social mobility and equity through high-quality academic programs, research activities and engaged learning initiatives. A couple of the latest programs in the school are the online certificates in public and population health and nutrition supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle (JCERT)..
KU Edwards Campus-administered programs have experienced year-over-year enrollment increases, including this semester’s substantial growth in KUEC’s JCERT graduate programs. This is a testament to close collaborations with JCERT and local organizations, ensuring our students receive timely, relevant education. We also offer innovative transfer pathways and continue to launch and grow online programs to meet the area’s needs.
Thanks to our JCERT-supported programs, we are well-positioned to provide workforce-oriented education, creating critical opportunities for those who need to pivot their career. The need for change may be due to the current pandemic, or it could be finishing the education students began years ago, starting a new career field or working to advance in their organization.
Our amazing students are largely either transfers from local community colleges or professionals who have work, family and other obligations outside of the classroom. One-quarter of them are first-generation college students and more than a quarter self-report as a member of a minority group, slightly higher than the county’s general population.
A hallmark of being a Jayhawk is knowing we have a responsibility to use our accomplishments for the benefit of all. While 2020 presented extraordinary challenges, it’s also been a time of leaning into our mission to serve the diverse needs of the Kansas City-area community.