Community Education: Something for Everyone!
Beekeeping. Astronomy. Storm chasing. One look at breadth of programs offered through Waubonsee’s Community Education department, and there’s no doubt that there’s something for everyone.
"When people find out everything we offer — the volume and caliber of programs and events we bring in — they’re totally surprised," says Doug Grier, Dean for Community Education. "They can’t believe how much they could learn so close to home." By teaming up with area businesses and educators, Community Education can offer students an affordable, accessible and extensive range of courses, programs, workshops, trips, tours and special events to satisfy every interest, regardless of age – all with a focus on personal enrichment. "Typically, we add anywhere from 20-40 new classes each semester. There’s always something new available," Grier says.
Some students turn to Community Education to learn a skill with a practical application to their life – something like personal finance, cooking, art or wellness. Others come to study a topic in which they’ve always had an interest but never explored. It’s truly all about the learning, without the added pressure of credit or a degree. According to Grier, "Our primary goal is to promote lifetime learning. We’re the ‘community outreach’ arm of the college, so we try to be responsive to what people want. We’re always open to suggestions, ideas and requests from our area residents – and if it’s a good idea and we can make it happen, we will."
Due to the diversity of programs and age ranges covered, there are no "typical" Community Education students. "We truly cover the whole lifespan," Grier says. For instance, Waubonsee’s innovative Programs for Youth have been getting a lot of attention recently. The new Xcelerate summer enrichment camps allow children entering grades 2-6 to spend a week exploring exciting topics like robotics and computer technology. Community Education also benefits area high school students by offering effective ACT test preparation courses, as well as hosting summer classes for high school credit. For adults over 50 interested in expanding their perspective and skill set, the college partners with the Lifelong Learning Institute – an open-membership organization that provides a refreshing, academic environment and thrives on the shared experience of its students. "It offers an experience to learn and enjoy new friends with like interests," says LLI member Kally Klose of Batavia. "It's just great – like a mini-vacation."
Waubonsee also provides several low-cost or free learning opportunities for area residents. For example, the Brighter Futures initiative has made career counseling available to residents struggling with unemployment. "We try to keep our programs relevant, helping to address current needs and interests," Grier says.
When asked what he enjoys most about leading this eclectic department, Grier says, "It’s the creativity of constantly coming up with new and exciting courses, events and speakers. Also, I love hearing from students who truly enjoyed their experience with us. It makes all the hard work worthwhile."