Tools for Lifelong Learning
Concentrated programs of study build bridges to new aspirations
By Laura Ferguson
Visit our accompanying
sidebars on Assistive Technology, Museum Studies, Program
Evaluation, and Post Baccalaureate Pre Medical Studies
rends in the workplace
have upended the notion of a single career. According to the University
Continuing Education Association, the average person changes careersnot
jobsfive times. Seventy-five percent of the workforce will
need training in the next decade to meet new job demands. More
than 90 percent of companies offer continuing education as an
employee benefit. Add to that scenario the financial realities
of meeting the cost of education and the pressures of family responsibilities.
Such flux has forced colleges and universities to think beyond
the conventional undergraduate student. Part-time students looking
for career enhancement skills, or new careers, are the fastest-growing
population in higher education: between 1970 and 1995, part-time
enrollments increased by 139 percent, compared with 44 percent
for full-time enrollments.
At Tufts, the Office of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS)
anticipates the needs of part-time students through a dozen professional
certificate programs and a Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program.
The 13 certificate programs, a unified set of four to five advanced
courses, reflect the needs of emerging or rapidly evolving fields.
Roughly equivalent to a one-half master's degree program, the
certificate is geared to people who choose not to commit to a
degree program but who may want to retrain quickly or refocus
their career. (See sidebars on Museum Studies, Adaptive Technologies,
Program Evaluation, and the Post-Bac Pre-MedProgram.)
"I'm enthusiastic about the certificate programs as a way
to serve the education needs of working people and people who
are shifting gears professionally, individuals who are looking
for something more than a single course or one-shot institute
but one that represents a shorter time commitment than a full
master's degree, says Rob Hollister, dean of the Graduate
School of Arts and Sciences, Research and Professional Studies.
"Certificate programs play a key role in our continuum of
educational services that serve the broad array of educational
Carol Baffi-Dugan, pre-health advisor at Tufts, has been with
the Post-Bac program since its inception in 1988 and has seen
it grow from four to 40 students.
"We reflect a phenomenon that has exploded across the country,
of nontraditional students becoming interested in health sciences,"
she says. "When we started there were only a half-dozen formal
programs in the country; now there are 100 or so. Its competitive,
but we get a good group each year. The students that come here
are mature, focused and disciplined; professional schools know
this. They bring rich life experiences and nonscience skills,
and their broad understanding of life and of people will ultimately
benefit their patients.
"We're proud of the program that we've built over the past
dozen years, especially the level of support we provide our students
and the community that exists among them," she adds. "We
keep the enrollment at an absolute maximum of 40 because personal
advising is so critical to a student's success. They come in extremely
motivated but with little idea of what's necessary to prepare
for a professional program."
Indeed, going back to school part-time is not a snap. Certificate
program curricula may be flexiblemany courses are offered
in the eveningand short-term. But the work is intensely
focused on developing demonstrable skills.
Students earning the certificate for Biotechnology Engineering,
for example, work side by side with graduate students and get
hands-on experience in biotechnology processing and in modern
biochemical separation techniques. Students in the Museum Studies
program are encouraged to complete a 200-hour internship and to
bring their coursework to bear on an actual exhibit they plan
and install in the Tufts Art Gallery.
Jayne Gordon, a museum consultant and Museum Studies internship
supervisor, sees students at the point "where they are applying
what they have learned in coursework to actual museum settings
and talks not only with students but their mentors at the site.
What comes across clearly is that all the way through, the emphasis
is not only on giving great exposure to work, but on having practical
aspects in the forefront. Most people in the program are working,
so there's a tremendously active and lively interchange going
on all the time."
Students admitted to the Post-Bac Pre-Med Program know that they
will have to work hard, perhaps harder than they did in college,
says Baffi-Dugan. Basic requirements include at least three semesters
of science, such as biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry,
"I get a lot of positive feedback from our graduates that
they feel well prepared because of the rigor of Tufts courses,"
says Baffi-Dugan. "When they do get to medical school, they
Both certificate and the Post-Bac courses are also distinguished
by the fact that they combine the talents of full-time core faculty
and adjunct faculty with special expertise. "A&S continuing
education programs rely on both tenured professors and on adjunct
faculty from the world of professional practice, says Hollister.
"Our commitment is to fashioning the right blend."
The interdisciplinary nature of the certificates nurtures new
ways of thinking as well. The Museum Studies certificate draws
on Tufts faculty teaching in the Departments of Art History, History
and Education; Program Evaluation integrates work from the Departments
of Child Development, and Urban and Environmental Policy, the
School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the School of Medicine.
"We're fortunate to have such a wealth of talented faculty,"
says Hollister. "Tufts' ability to develop and administer
these programs is helped by their support for interdisciplinary
activity. Such collaborations provide a base for new and expanded
curriculum offerings. At the same time the invention they bring
to bear on programs also supports growth in master's programs.
They've helped us think more broadly and provide the financial
resources to create new courses we otherwise could not offer."
Continuing education is by nature an ongoing venture, and PCS
is constantly looking for new options. A new program in epidemiology,
for instance, is now being considered.
Such explorations put Tufts just ahead of an industry trend,
says Edie Wieder, director of marketing. "We are a little
like the Wild West of higher education. As administrators we try
to find content areas in flux in industry and the professional
sphere. Often they are in emerging fields and represent areas
that nobody owns yet, that have no academic department requirements,
and so on. The certificates provide credentials that will get
the student going until the frontier settles down. Our programs
are in constant motion, mirroring what's happening outside these
walls. But that's a good thing. Our students keep asking questions
and learning new things, so we're obliged to do the same."
The Office of Professional and Continuing Studies offers certificates
in the following areas:
Community Environmental Studies
Design for Humans: Assistive Technology
Design for Humans: Human- Computer Interaction
Management of Community Organizations
Microwave and Wireless Engineering
Occupational Therapy (Advanced Professional Study)
- For more information on the certificates or the Post-Bac Program,
call (617) 627-3562, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org