Serving One and All

USD graduate in police uniform


The role that Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) plays for USD is to serve working professionals who seek to enhance or build their careers. But PCE’s roster of choices — certificate programs, master’s degrees, online courses, customized training, elevating K-12 educators’ knowledge, test preparation and much more — demonstrates that virtually anything is possible.

“We want to get students at every stage,” says Roxanne Morrison, acting director of PCE and director of its online education programs.

“We have students in the master’s degree programs who are in their 60s. They just want to do it for themselves, and I say, ‘More power to them!’ People really do want to learn. For K-12 teachers, how can we improve their learning, not only for them, but for the students they’re impacting? That’s the kind of reach we have.”

PCE degree offerings link to USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering and the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate within the School of Business. From high school students in the GenCyber Academy of Excellence summer camps to international students learning English to those pursuing online degrees, Morrison says the versatility PCE has for lifelong learners is key to the division’s offerings.

“We’re very student-centric,” says Morrison, who notes PCE-affiliated programs enrolled nearly 1,900 students, as well as just under 600 for online degrees in 2017-18. “We contribute considerably to the mission of the university, serving the community through outreach to underserved populations. We’re self-sustaining and we give back.”

One recent example of PCE’s success is the law enforcement and public safety leadership (LEPSL) degree. Erik Fritsvold, PhD, LEPSL academic coordinator and associate professor of sociology at USD, describes the steps the program took prior to its Fall 2015 launch.

“I’m convinced the key to the success of the program is that we listened first,” Fritsvold says.

“I originally drafted a traditional criminal justice degree, but after several meetings with key stakeholders, we quickly learned something much more innovative and contemporary was needed to serve the needs of the modern law enforcement community. Subsequently, we did years of interviews with professionals in the field, listened carefully, and developed the themes into the unique skills-based program we see today.”

Upon launch, a 29-student cohort was the goal. “We enrolled 92, more than 300 percent of our goal,” he says. The program, which has a diverse student population, has topped 110 or more students each semester, including highs of 179 in the Spring of 2017 and 177 in Summer 2018.

“But it’s not the size that’s been most impressive,” says Fritsvold. “It’s the fact that the quality of our students, and our unique faculty team sets this program firmly as a flagship for USD.” — Ryan T. Blystone

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