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Adult education focus of Webster

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by Abigail Beggerly

SBJ Staff

New educational opportunities are now available for area businesspeople wishing to pursue post-baccalaureate degrees while maintaining their careers. St. Louis-based Webster University opened its doors this fall in Springfield, offering six graduate programs in business.

"Our interest is in adult education," said John LaNear, campus director and faculty coordinator for Webster University's new Ozarks Regional Campus.

The extended campus is designed to cater to the educational needs of students with full-time careers, giving them the opportunity to continue their education through evening classes. Three, nine-week sessions are to be offered each year at the Springfield location, with each class meeting once a week.

"The acceleration of the programs allows completion in about half the time," LaNear said. "It allows for students to, more importantly, continue their working and outside interests, such as their families, church, etc."

Surveys were conducted with 75 of the area's largest companies regarding the academic field in which higher adult education was needed before selecting the graduate programs.

The programs offered by Webster's Springfield campus include a master of business administration degree and a master of arts degree with an emphasis in business, management, computer resources and information management, health services management or human resources development.

"In addition to the accelerated rate, we offer what we call reality-based education," LaNear said. "What that is, is a combination of theory and real-world applications in the classroom."

The majority of the class instructors at the local campus are businesspeople from the Springfield area with prior teaching experience. Some of the instructors have taught before at other Webster University campuses at Ft. Leonard Wood or Rolla. "In every field we have contacts willing to teach," LaNear said.

Webster University has 74 extended campuses like Springfield's in 15 states and throughout the world in Austria, Bermuda, England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, China and Thailand. All of the extended campus locations offer adult education programs.

Webster has more than 15,000 registered students globally, LaNear said. Of those, 5,000 are undergraduate and graduate students residing on the main campus in Webster Groves Mo. Graduate students from the 73 extended campuses make up two-thirds of the total student population.

Springfield was chosen by Webster University based on the results of several market studies conducted for southwest Missouri that showed a need for adult-based education, LaNear said.

Many students from the area were attending Webster classes prior to the campus opening in Springfield. "One of the reasons this became a reality for Springfield is that we had classes held at Rolla and Ft. Leonard Wood, and we had Springfield people driving there to take the classes," LaNear said.

Springfield's growth rate was another factor taken into consideration in the decision to open a local Webster campus. "The potential in southwest Missouri is virtually unlimited," LaNear said. "Growth has surpassed our goals so far, and we think it will continue to do so."

For now, the Springfield campus will remain where it is, on the second floor of the Missouri State Bank at the corner of Campbell and Battlefield, but the university is not ruling out the option of eventually building a campus in Springfield. "I'd love to do that, and I think growth will allow us to do that, but we have a great relationship with Missouri State Bank, and we have a newly renovated area," said LaNear.

The second floor of the Springfield bank houses six classrooms, each with a capacity of approximately 30 students and a computer lab for 10 that enables students to connect to the main library in St. Louis or discuss classes online with students on other Webster campuses.

Webster chose Springfield based on the area's need for a particular kind of educational program, not to compete with the existing institutions of higher education, LaNear said.

"I don't think we compete with what they have to offer," LaNear said. "We supplement the opportunities for education in southwest Missouri, but we don't compete directly with them."

Webster is now enrolling students for the second fall session, which begins Oct. 19. The cost is $307 per credit hour, and enrollment can be completed through an appointment with an academic adviser at the Springfield campus.

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