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Penn State Mont Alto: School at the Mall|
By Krista Weidner
Time to head to the mall. Do a little clothes shopping, pick up that new CD, have a snackand sign up for a college course? Sure, if youre shopping at the Chambersburg Mall.|
In August 1998, Penn State Mont Alto established the Chambersburg Center, stationed in the Chambersburg Mall, about 12 miles from the rural campus.
We opened our continuing education center with the idea of reaching out to our community in ways that the campus hasnt been able to do before, Dr. David Goldenberg, campus executive officer at Penn State Mont Alto, said. Judging from the response to the center in just this first year, I think weve clearly proven that the public is very open to alternative methods of delivering continuing education. I know were far more vital to our community today than we were a year ago.
Wed been thinking for a while about all the reasons why a continuing education center would work in this location, Karen Jewell, director of continuing education at Penn State Mont Alto, said. Offering education in a mall setting is a different concept. Were reaching people who might not go to campus. Theres accessible parking, its a safe and well-lighted area, and in todays busy society, families can take care of many things at oncecome for classes, run errands, do some shopping.
Because the Mont Alto campus is perceived as being far away, out in the country, many local residents may not consider traveling there once or twice a week for classes. The mall initiative was an attempt to make Penn State programming accessible to more people.
I think this was a wonderful move, Jewell said. Weve been greatly expanding our noncredit programming, and being here at the mall has allowed us to showcase that and simply to increase Penn States visibility in the area.
The numbers show the projects success, as well. In the past year, noncredit course enrollment rose by 87 percent, credit course enrollment increased by 35 percent, workforce development program participation climbed 107 percent and conference enrollment rose by 125 percent. All told, last year more than 2,600 people received some sort of education from the Chambersburg Center.
The center offers a full range of services, including credit and noncredit courses, workforce development programs and a conference program.
Were meeting a variety of needs, both personal and professional, Jewell said. One of our popular offerings is the associate degree in business administration, which is targeted particularly to working folks. Students have the option of taking courses here at the center or on campus.
Many students taking advantage of the mall location are adults in business and industry who are taking computer courses. Others are returning adults interested in credit or noncredit classes. The centers hours, 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., plus some Saturday hours as well, offer additional convenience for students.
The Chambersburg Center features three classrooms, one of which is a state-of-the-art computer lab.
Its very academic, Jewell said. Planners were very careful in the building of this center to maintain an academic atmosphere, to show that its simply an extension of Penn State Mont Alto. The classrooms look like classrooms youd find on campusthere are white boards on the walls, and its a very quiet learning atmosphere, thanks to special wall construction. And of course, there are Penn State pictures all along the corridor!
One particularly successful effort has been a health and wellness program, a cooperative effort between Penn State Mont Alto and Summit Health. A variety of course topics are offered, including arthritis, medical terminology, meditation, exercise during pregnancy, osteoporosis, cancer-fighting foods and foods that lower cholesterol. The center also features a community reading room with a variety of books, as well as a computer, which serves as a resource for those who want to learn about particular health and wellness issues.
Another popular offering at the Chambersburg Center is the Green Thumb program, aimed toward making older adults more viable in the workplace.
For 12 weeks, we had a class of people in their mid-50s and older, Jewell said. They came every day to learn about these strange things called computers. Graduation was a huge celebrationthere was a picture in the local paper, and we even had representatives from Bud Shusters Washington office attend. Were very proud that Penn State is giving people the education and tools they need for the workplace.
We are certainly on the cutting edge with the Chambersburg Center, she added. Some schools have been renting out community rooms or offering classes on Saturdays for years, but it took some testing the waters to see if people would accept the idea of taking classes in a mall. You also have to fight some perceptions. People ask, Is this the same course that I would get on campus? Of course, when they get here they realize that yes, this is Penn State, just in a little different setting.