Last school year, AU administration decided to discontinue the LEAD program, the Integrative Leadership major offered specifically for nontraditional adult students. The students currently involved in the major have been offered the opportunity to finish the program, which will officially end in May of 2018.
According to Dr. Joel Shrock, dean of the School of Humanities and Behavioral Science, “The adult studies program has been phased out as the Integrative Leadership (LEAD) major is being ended. The functions of the program have been shifted to the Associate Provost’s Office as the LEAD teach-out is in progress.”
Currently, there are 13 full-time and 10 part-time adult students pursuing a LEAD major. Outside the LEAD major, there are 65 full-time and 33 part-time adult students involved in traditional majors.
“This program assessment led to the decision to stop offering the Integrative Leadership major so that the university could focus resources on other programs,” said Shrock. “This is a normal process and all programs undergo cyclical review for effectiveness and demand.”
Nontraditional adult students will still have the opportunity to enroll at AU in other majors. However, adult students will no longer experience the flexibility of the LEAD program, which offered classes online and one night a week for adult students who faced the challenge of balancing schoolwork with full-time jobs and families. The program was also accelerated, offering adult students the option of attaining their degree faster than they would in traditional majors.
Current LEAD major Bryan Shields believes that the end of the major will be an inconvenience for many nontraditional adult students, who will be facing raised tuition prices and a more complicated class schedule after May.
“What made the LEAD program so beautiful was it was one night a week—4 hours of class nonstop—but you had so much time around it to live your life,” said Shields.
Shields, who is pursuing his dream of becoming a teacher of Biblical studies, is also a husband and father, and works at a hospital outside of classes. The LEAD program was the most feasible way for him to go from an associate’s degree in nursing to a bachelor’s degree without neglecting his many other responsibilities.
“I think there are extra pressures [as a nontraditional adult student],” said Shields. “I don’t think there’s any difference in the willingness to do well. I don’t think there’s any difference in ability to do well. I also don’t think there should be any difference in academic requirements, but I do think that adult students have extra life pressures.”
Tammy Stewart, current AU student and administrative assistant of the Kissinger Learning Center, is thankful for the opportunities the LEAD major has given her. Her success in the program inspired her to add a family science minor to her degree.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” Stewart said. “It opened my eyes to want to do more. If I had to go back and do this as a traditional major, I would never have finished this journey. It gave us the opportunity to open doors, and made me want to further my education.”
“It didn’t hurt me either way,” said Stewart, who will be ending her LEAD major in May and continue on to finish her family science minor the following academic year. “But when I think about the struggle that this community and this area is having, to end a program with a schedule that could be less intense to better individuals and give them an opportunity for employment was kind of sad, especially because we are the only four year university in this area.”
Although the program was announced to be ending last year and the adult studies office has since hung a “closed” sign, AU is still offering help and resources to nontraditional students.
The sign reads, “The Dept. of Adult Studies is closed. If you are a current student, contact the office of the Dean of Humanities and Behavioral Science, Decker 119. If you are a new student, visit Admissions, Decker 172.”
“Every program on campus requires countless staff hours to manage and there are many people on campus involved in working with adult students,” said Shrock. “We have an individual teach-out plan for every student in the LEAD major. The admissions office continues to work with any student interested in AU and has protocols for working with adult students.”
“I really do think that there is a huge amount of value and energy and power in lives that are already rooted in the community,” said Shields. “To me, there’s so much potential there that I would have expected the adult studies program to be expanded rather than dissolved. Hopefully, it will come back in the future, new and improved.”