The University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
SPCS was founded as University College in 1962 by former President George Modlin and former Dean Martin Shotzberger. It began with the goal of offering opportunities for undergraduate, graduate study and professional development to adult learners of all ages, said current Dean Jamelle S. Wilson.
That mission remains unchanged, said Wilson.
“Our students are primarily adults who are juggling other responsibilities,” Wilson said. “We take great care to understand what our students need and how we can best support them. That translates into the programming and the way we approach our students.”
The school has eight guiding principles — care, collaboration, diversity, excellence, innovation, integrity, learning and responsiveness, she said. Wilson said care and collaboration are the two principles that have contributed most to the school’s longevity and success.
“The idea of collaborating, not only internally, but across the institution, region and with our students has been key,” she said.
When the school was first founded, it only offered individual courses in accounting, banking, economics, finance, general business, insurance, marketing and management, Wilson said. A year later, it began offering three degrees: a Bachelor of Commerce, Associate of Commerce and Associate of Arts.
In the 1970s, the Women’s Resource Center was created, offering continuing education courses specifically designed for women, Wilson said.
Since then, SPCS has grown with over 20 professional education programs and non-credit bootcamps in coding, cybersecurity and data analytics. Additionally, the school offers professional certificates in GIS and Political Campaign Management and hosts one of the nation’s 25 Osher Institutes for Lifelong Learning, Wilson said.
This year, SPCS serves about 275 students in undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs and another 650 in professional education programs and lifelong learning courses, Wilson said. In addition, the school has nearly 1,000 Osher members.
SPCS primarily uses adjunct professors; it has 150 active adjunct faculty members and 12 faculty appointments. Wilson said students benefit from the practical experience offered by the faculty.
“Their expertise is something students are seeking,” Wilson said. “Our students are seeking folks who have not only knowledge of the research and theory of the content that they’re studying, but they are also interested in learning from folks who are actively involved in those disciplines.”
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Shannon Cooke, an SPCS student, said faculty accessibility was one of the school’s advantages.
“They’ve been very easy to deal with,” Cooke said. “They’ve provided lots of resources, like the writing center and technology assistance.”
Cooke, who dropped out of her undergraduate program at Virginia Commonwealth University over 20 years ago, started at SPCS as a liberal arts major during the pandemic to continue her professional development, she said.
“I attended an information seminar at UR and found them to be very warm and welcoming,” Cooke said. “I realized the process was easier than I had made it out to be.”
Angela Minor, an SPCS student seeking her master’s degree in human resources, said she was also appreciative of the faculty’s understanding, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During that time you realized how much the professors really cared about us,” Minor said. “They gave us an open space to talk about our fears and concerns surrounding COVID.”
To celebrate the school’s 60th anniversary, Wilson said the school is putting together a winter symposium to feature and celebrate people in the region who have made significant contributions to the students, faculty and Richmond community.
In addition to the symposium, several other programs, such as SPCS Night and Student Week, are being offered by SPCS throughout the year. SPCS Night is an annual event held in May to acknowledge and celebrate students through various awards and recognitions. It is followed by a reception in the Modlin Center.
“Because it’s our 60th year, we will be including some of our history into the celebration itself,” Wilson said.
SPCS Student Week will also be returning in the fall and spring, where students will be greeted with gifts, treats, acknowledgements and celebrations.
“To our students, we wanted to say we hear you and we’re supporting you,” Wilson said.
Contact contributor Tyler Rosenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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