Newman University’s elementary education outreach program in western Kansas saw record enrollment for its fall 2020 cohort with 51 students seeking an undergraduate degree. The largest class in the past consisted of 38 students.
Tiffany Webster, outreach student success coordinator, said she isn’t surprised by the number.
“Teachers are essential and vital,” explained Webster. “I think our new cohort sees that and wants to make a difference in children’s lives. One thing people began to realize is that many other industries are making cuts or laying people off — education is essential and the need for high-quality teachers will never go away.”
Newman University has had a presence in western Kansas for more than 25 years offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in education through an accelerated 16-month program. Students spend 12 months doing coursework and four months student-teaching.
The outreach program started in 1992 when St. Mary of the Plains Catholic School in Dodge City, Kansas, closed. Newman University moved into Hennessy Hall and now occupies the majority of the ground floor.
The western Kansas program also has classrooms in Garden City, Liberal, Arkansas City, Wellington, Parsons and Independence. The classrooms are located in a variety of buildings within those locations including a church and on other college campuses. Students enrolled in the program are also from various cities throughout Kansas.
This is all possible because of the flexible, hybrid learning environment of the program itself. Using a course management system called Canvas, professors find creative ways to engage students through online teaching while providing meaningful and essential coursework.
A large majority of the students are working adults and have family obligations as well as schoolwork. Webster said delivering a high-quality program that’s adaptable, keeping the students’ best interest at heart, is a top priority for her team.
The fall 2020 cohort has an additional challenge to face — learning in a COVID-19 world. Because each school district is different in the way they have returned to their 2020-2021 academic year, required class observation hours are completed in a way that works best with the school district each student is assigned to.
“(Observation hours) can be a challenge depending on what school districts will allow because students go into classrooms that aren’t theirs,” said Webster. “(We) work closely with the school districts and already have many partnerships in place. This allows us to have open communication with districts about how our students can complete the required observation hours. Some students are able to log in to live classrooms that are being taught remotely. We also use a resource that allows students to watch previously recorded lessons.”
Webster said the record-breaking fall enrollment was a group effort. She and her team worked closely with students from their first inquiry into the program. She added that the accelerated elementary education program at Newman has a good reputation and is known for being a quality program.
“We work to build relationships with these students and take a genuine interest in them and their specific situation. We believe in the mission of Newman University. We embrace all humanity and understand our purpose is to serve others. And we work tirelessly to have our students live out the mission of transforming society.”
For more information about the Newman University western Kansas outreach program, contact Webster at (620) 227-9616 or [email protected].