Neumann University

Posted on July 1, 2009

Liberal Studies Adult Degree Program

Since 1985, the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation has enjoyed a partnership and shared commitment with Neumann University to provide assistance to Mature Students who want to earn their degrees. Linda W. Coburn, a former Newcombe scholar, wrote about the impact of her education at Neumann and the Newcombe connection: “The Charlotte Newcombe Scholarship offers more than just financial help; it is encouragement that continues long past the academic years. I received this scholarship in 1993, when I returned to school as the working mother of three. My goal was to teach, but with the pressures of home, family, and work, there was not much energy left to devote to myself. I was overjoyed at my nomination (for the scholarship), not only because of the financial help, but because it offered me validation that what I was doing was important. Since receiving my B.A. from Neumann in 1995, I achieved my M.Ed. in Reading from West Chester University in 2003, and I am now working on my Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. One of my greatest joys is returning to Neumann to teach in both the Continuing Adult and Professional Studies Program and the Arts and Sciences Department. I am honored to be among the many women who were helped, not only financially but compassionately, through the Charlotte Newcombe Scholarship.”

The Newcombe Foundation celebrates the success of this and many other students who have benefitted from the mission and impact of Neumann’s program for adult students.

Neumann University, founded in 1965 as Our Lady of Angels College, and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, is a Catholic co-educational liberal arts institution of higher education in the Franciscan tradition. When Our Lady of Angels College opened its doors in September 1965, the total enrollment was 115 women students. Since that time, the student population has grown to more than 3,000 students. Neumann University, renamed in 1980 for Bishop John Neumann (1811-1860), who assisted the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, offers an education based on the principle that learning is a lifelong process and that knowledge, while inherently valuable, is best used in the service of others.

Responding to the interests and needs of mature adult learners is at the foundation of Neumann University. Initially designed for working women, the program serves adults in the Division of Continuing Adult and Professional Studies, providing those who may have earned previous college credits or who did not attend college after high school the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree. Liberal Studies, offered online and in the classroom, is now one of several degree options of particular value to women who wish to complete their college education, explore different career options, or pursue lifelong learning interests after years out of school.

Three current adult women students at Neumann University shared their stories at a meeting between representatives of Neumann University and staff from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation.

One unique feature of the program is its six-credit seminar format. Each seminar requires that students blend theory and practice by participating in Experiential Learning Projects (ELP), a learning tool that connects the college classroom to the careers, interests, and work done by adults in the real world. These ELPs, which culminate in an experience-based research paper and oral presentation and demonstrate that the student has applied classroom learning to their project, can be professional initiatives that enable students to further research and develop projects originating from their places of work–a return on investment for employers. ELPs can also be projects that have personal meaning; for example, a student may develop a new community initiative, start a small business, explore a family related project, or launch a new career. An ELP for a course in Human Resource Management, for example, may grow out of a student’s workplace project of creating a new employee training initiative. For another, a student may develop a new community program for students with specific needs and challenges.

In addition, individualized program plans are designed and tailored specifically for each prospective student. Because adults bring their own personal backgrounds, experiences and prior learning, each program plan is unique. Adults work one-on-one with a personal advisor to develop their plan and review the many ways they may obtain credit toward their degree. For example, professional development from workplace experience can be translated into credit if it is evaluated as college-level learning. In addition, adults may opt to challenge exams, or document their experiences in the form of a portfolio with the guidance of selected expert faculty members. With individualized guidance and available options that are based on each student’s unique background, experience and interest, advisors often help students realize that they are closer to degree completion than they originally thought.

Supporting adults during their time at Neumann and beyond, Continuing Adult and Professional Studies offices, as well as faculty and staff, offer programs and support services. For example, the Learning Exchange is a series of workshops offered in collaboration with Alumni Relations and Career Development. The Exchange includes networking opportunities and programs on resume writing, presentational speaking, marketing, and career planning. In addition, counseling, flexible scheduling, extended hours and weekend appointments, online teaching and learning support, library resources, tutoring through the Academic Resource Center, and service opportunities create a rich learning community for adult learners at Neumann. Many adults involve themselves in committees, focus groups, and student activities as well.

Neumann is known for its celebration and personal support of adult learners, as illustrated in its rich history with working women.

For more details regarding Neumann University and the Division of Continuing Adult and Professional Education, please visit their Web site.