In my day-to-day work as Executive Director of Regis University Dual Language Campus in the Denver area, I am immersed in a world of remarkable individuals who in increasing numbers are finding their way back to the classroom. From the student perspective, I find that one or a combination of the following factors drive this behavior:
-Adult students seek to improve quality of life for themselves and their families, and thus see education as a path to professional advancement and/or entrepreneurial activities.
-The Dual Language Campus offers an opportunity to complete a program that was out on hold by life’s serendipitous events. Over 50% of adult students are mothers. Some wish to complete a degree before children enter demanding elementary school years, while others have raised families and are refocusing on their own careers and potential.
-In some cases, adults have professional credits acquired abroad they wish to apply to new academic pursuits or a career change.
-Career executives face the need to update and expand professional skills -especially in areas of technology, language, and cultural skills- in the face of globalization and an increasingly competitive job market.
-Adults may have embraced a social cause and seek the professional skills to work toward a mission or activities that fuel their passion. I see growing enrollment of professionals across industries, transitioning to nonprofit management.
-The 50/50 education model of the Dual Language Campus, where classes alternate weekly between English and Spanish, provides Spanish-dominant speakers a unique higher education setting where degrees can be completed as English language skills are strengthened. For native English speaking professionals, the campus opens the window of global opportunity, immersing them in Spanish language and Latino cultural training as they work toward their degrees. It offers competitive skills for career advancement and business development in the $1.2 trillion U.S. Hispanic market.
An overlooked aspect of bilingualism and higher education, though, is the faculty. In conversations with our growing talented and accomplished bilingual faculty, I engage professionals from across the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe, who affirm that at Regis University Dual Language Campus they have found a cultural home. There is a vibrant academic environment as many Ph.D.’s and Masters of all fields of professional expertise converge to give back to the Denver community. This group of distinguished faculty members breaks ground in bilingual higher education and professional cultural competency every day.
The Denver area community has embraced this new campus. Community leaders are supportive of its work and adults believe in its potential. I also agree that for adults with English language challenges, this campus may represent the only opportunity for higher education and societal advancement in the Western region. Yet there is something more that can be felt in the halls of this university campus. It explains why adults drive from as far away as Cheyenne, Wyoming once a week to attend its classes, despite the hardships of long winter commutes. It is the energy of those forging a new path to the future and success and it is a privilege to share this experience in 2013.
As a student recently told me with a smile, “We are making a difference in American society.”