University College at Washington University in St. Louis is now the School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS).
The new name reflects the university’s commitment to serve adult learners of all ages and backgrounds through focused degrees and custom programs that align with the St. Louis job market.
“At Washington University, we believe that education is a lifelong endeavor,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said. “CAPS will give students the knowledge, support and flexibility they need to advance in their careers, acquire new skills and grow personally and professionally.”
School leaders are working closely with local employers to build programs that prepare St. Louisans for high-demand, high-paying jobs, specifically in the rapidly growing fields of data, health care and management. One successful example is the pre-nursing program, which was developed in partnership with Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College. Another new initiative is the certificate in health-care transitions, which serves adults with no health-care experience. Through focused coursework, students learn the skills they need to start a career in health care. The program is a collaboration with the nonprofit BioSTL.
“Jobs in health care are both rewarding and well-paying, but for many St. Louisans, they have been out of reach,” said Thomas Hillman, a university trustee and alumnus who serves as board chair of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “The School of Continuing & Professional Studies is poised to develop innovative and accessible programs and partnerships that will pave a pathway to these exciting careers. We all stand to benefit — the students, of course, but also the entire region, which needs skilled nurses, lab techs and other health-care workers.”
In addition to health care, the school has introduced a range of certificate and degree programs in high-demand fields such as data analytics, sustainability and education. About half of all CAPS classes are online to better meet the needs of working adults.
“There was a time when you could get your bachelor’s degree and never need to step foot in a classroom again. But today, people will swirl in and out of education throughout their entire lives,” Dean Sean Armstrong said. “Some people may come to us to learn a specific skill for a specific job and then come back for a certificate or degree as their career advances. Others want to study a field that didn’t even exist when they were in school.”
Armstrong said students receive a true WashU education, i.e. the coursework is challenging and the standards are high. But he also recognizes that CAPS’ adult learners are unique. Often, they are working a full-time job, caring for family members or both. Some have some college credit; others have none. Armstrong relates to these students. When he decided to go back to school to finish his degree, Armstrong enrolled in the continuing education program at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
“At my first school, it was sink or swim,” Armstrong said. “I never want one of our students to have that experience. Our mission is to remove whatever barriers our students have faced in the past, whether they be cultural, social or financial, so that they can succeed and thrive. Every step of the way, our students will have the support of their instructors and advisers.”
Currently, approximately 1,150 students are enrolled in School of Continuing & Professional Studies. In addition to its certificate and degree programs, the school administers the Prison Education Program, which offers a college education to incarcerated students at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific, Mo., and the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Mo. CAPS also hosts the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers student-led courses, lectures and events for older learners. It also is home to the renowned Summer Writers Institute, which invites writers of all backgrounds to hone their craft with leading authors.