Sep. 28—Mount St. Mary's University this month launched its new Center for Lifelong Learning to offer personal and professional development courses for people of almost any age.
The idea has been in the works for about a year and a half, said Jennifer Staiger, associate provost of the Mount's Division of Continuing Studies.
In addition to overseeing the new center — which opened two weeks ago — Staiger leads the Mount's graduate school and its Center for Accelerated and Adult Education, which offers bachelor's programs aimed at working adults.
The Center for Lifelong Learning, though, is filling a different niche, Staiger said. The courses don't lead to credits or degrees, and there are fewer hurdles to entry. Prospective students just sign up online, then show up to class.
"They don't need to become a Mount student to do this. They don't have to apply," she said. "It'll be just like purchasing a book on Amazon. But instead, they're selecting a class to buy."
The center will offer a wide range of programs, Staiger said, including single-day workshops, five-week courses and 12-week courses. Some may lead to professional certifications, she added.
It launched with eight classes. Staiger said the goal is to add more.
Classes will be split into separate categories, Staiger said, with some catering to an individual's personal interests or goals and others focused on professional development.
Current offerings on the center's website range from an Oktoberfest-themed class on the history and science of beer to a course on gender in the workplace. There's also yoga classes, a "coaching bootcamp" and a personal finance course.
Plus, Staiger said, the center will eventually offer custom workshops or courses for businesses that request it.
The center is opening as the number of "traditional college students" — 18-22 year-olds — is falling, and the number of older adults seeking university-level courses is rising, Staiger said.
"Like most colleges, we have been looking at ways to create educational opportunities for students of all ages," she said. "We have many more students who are not going straight to college. We have many more organizations and businesses out there that are no longer requiring colleges degrees. ... But there's still a need to train those individuals. There's still a need for workforce development."
Staiger said she hopes the new center will serve high schoolers through people in their 70s or 80s. Classes will either meet online or at the Mount's Frederick campus on Spectrum Drive.
Christina Green, who is teaching the center's current courses on gender in business and on yoga, said she hoped the new initiative would be a boon to Frederick's workforce.
"We want to build partnerships throughout the community," Green said. "And we see that we have some skills and services that professionals in our community could benefit from."
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