A faster track to education

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SUSCC offers class scheduling options to meet workers’ needs

Special to the
Opelika Observer

Too busy to go back to school?  Maybe not, thanks to two new innovative class scheduling options being offered this fall at Southern Union State Community College’s Valley Campus.
Those programs, which are designed to make education more accessible to people with busy work and life schedules, include Flexible Accelerated Success Track (known as “Fast Track”) and Saturday-Only class options.
According to Robin Brown, SUSCC’s Valley Campus director, both programs were developed with working people in mind. Recognizing how difficult it can be for many employees, especially those who work rotating shifts in the area’s manufacturing industries, to take the classes they need for personal career advancement, Brown and SUSCC’s Dean of Academics Dr. Linda North began to look for solutions.
“The idea of offering classes on schedules that fit workers’ needs is so important,” Brown said. “It’s been a dream of mine for some time now.”
“The focus of these programs is to provide those students who have barriers related to time and their jobs the opportunity to go to school,” said North. “We want to make it easier for these people to get classes during a time that accommodates their work schedules.”
After discussions with managers at area manufacturing plants about how best to help their employees further their educations, Brown and North developed the Fast Track program, a shift-friendly class schedule that provides daytime and evening classes on rotating 28-day cycles that better match employees’ work schedules. Through Fast Track, students can take core classes or work toward an associate’s degree in Business Management and Supervision. In the near future, Brown and North hope to expand the program to include other degree tracks and technical certifications.
The Saturday-Only program is aimed at students whose work and home schedules don’t permit them to take classes during the regular workweek. Offered in both mini- and full-term programs, Saturday-Only classes allow students to take core classes and complete course work toward certifications or, in just six semesters, earn associate’s degrees in Business Management and Supervision or Science.
“Both the Fast Track and Saturday-Only programs provide wonderful opportunities for us to reach out to a population of students in our service area who perhaps thought that they couldn’t go to school because of their family responsibilities and work schedules,” North said, adding that being responsive to community needs is exactly what a community college such as SUSCC should be doing.
And that’s just what the programs are doing for people such as Cheena Favors of Lagrange, Ga., a first-shift employee at Kia’s training center who wants to pursue a Business Management and Supervision degree through the Fast Track option. “One of my co-workers told me about the program,” said Favors, who was interested in Fast Track because of the flexibility of the class schedule.
Trevor Dunson, also of Lagrange, who works rotating shifts in Kia’s painting shop, heard about the Fast Track program during a team meeting at work and immediately registered for this fall’s classes.  “I like it because its flexibility works with our rotating shifts,” he said.
The Saturday-only option is also opening new doors for Amy Siggers of Lanett, Ala., who has worked as a medical assistant and transcriptionist in Valley for the past 10 years, but has long dreamed of becoming a registered nurse. She had not pursued that dream until recently because she could not take weekday or weeknight classes.
“I work a 40-hour-a-week job, I have a husband and a son at home, I am active in my church and I have other responsibilities,” Siggers said. “Saturdays are my only free days.” When she found out about the Saturday-Only option, she was elated and registered for classes beginning this fall.
“I know that Southern Union is where I want to be,” said Siggers. “I love their flexible class scheduling options and everyone there has been amazing. They go out of their way to be there for working people, and I appreciate that.”
“It’s great to think outside the box and provide this opportunity,” said North, but it’s especially gratifying when she and Brown see how students appreciate the opportunity. “Robin said it best,” North commented. “When you see students with tears in their eyes because they see an opportunity to finally go to school, that makes this worth it.”
Registration for SUSCC’s Valley Campus Fast Track or Saturday-Only class options begins Aug. 2 and classes start Aug 20. While these scheduling options are currently only available at the Valley campus, Brown and North said they may soon be expanded to other SUSCC campuses based on student demand.
To learn more about the programs, contact Brown at 334-756-4151 or rbrown@suscc.edu.

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