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Drake Center for Professional Studies takes ‘market-driven approach’


Over the past year, Drake University has retooled its Center for Professional Studies, and is now taking what it calls a “market-driven” approach to continuing education for professionals, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all master’s degree program, as part of the university’s strategy to become an educational resource for the entire community.

“It’s a major repositioning of the university and of this college toward the local community,” said Charlie Edwards, dean of Drake’s College of Business and Public Administration. “We’re doing it with programs that in a lot of cases weren’t in place a year or two ago. And I think the community and the professional community are already responding very positively because all of these enrollments are up dramatically. I think that says something about the workplace – that there’s a need for these programs.”

Drake brought the Center for Professional Studies into the College of Business and Public Administration 10 months ago, providing administrators the opportunity to integrate it with existing undergraduate and graduate-degree programs.

“Most of the things that we’re doing in the center support those areas of study and areas of professional development,” said Lance Noe, the center’s director.

Using a market-driven approach, Drake has developed a portfolio of certificate programs, workshops, seminars and specialized consulting services, all designed to address the needs of businesses and professionals.

“It’s not driven by us telling the market what we think is in their best interest,” Edwards said. “It’s us responding to a request from an organization, or you coming in and saying ‘I feel dead in the water, I’m stuck in my position, I need an advanced degree.’”

Ames-based Mary Greeley Medical Center approached program administrators more than a year ago to discuss the creation of a custom-designed program that would address management issues related to the health-care industry. The hospital wanted a provider that could bring a program on site, and could also mold it to meet the needs of non-traditional students, who could then apply their classroom experiences to their workplace.

“I feel that it is extremely important that in health care we give our managers the tools they need to be visionaries to help bring their staff along,” said Mary Greeley Vice President Toni Shropshire.

Twenty-eight Mary Greeley directors completed the program, earning a certificate in health leadership and management. The second cohort will begin next month.

Drake and the hospital’s administrative team collaborated to create what Shropshire called a “very comprehensive” 12-month on-site program, taught by Drake faculty. The course of study addressed several broad goals: to effectively motivate and lead people and groups; to enhance professional skills and knowledge in order to enhance productivity, efficiency, quality and customer satisfaction; to actively respond to the problems of environmental complexity and uncertainty, technological and social change, competitive forces and multiple performance demands; and to identify future opportunities.

“It’s almost a soup-to-nuts kind of program,” Shropshire said. “It’s pretty intense, because today in health care we probably didn’t give enough hours to management development. This is just the first step for Mary Greeley Medical Center in providing ongoing management development.”

Drake and the Mary Greeley administrative team further collaborated to identify projects specific to the hospital’s strategic goals, including a comprehensive evaluation of human resources within the health-care industry, which was presented to senior leaders May 20.

More than half of the students were so pleased with their experience in the certificate program that they have decided to pursue a management degree, which was a stated goal of the Center for Professional Studies. The program allows students to receive credit hours toward a master’s degree for their work in the certificate program.

“This is the vision that we’re trying to put together – this whole integrated educational experience,” Noe said.

The Center for Professional Studies went further in its certificate programs, responding to a request from Greater Des Moines non-profit organizations to provide their leaders with instruction in areas such as human resources and budgeting. Through the leadership of Vernon Johnson of PACE Juvenile Justice Center and a grant from Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Drake established a program that earns graduates a certificate in non-profit leadership and administration. The second cohort of that program will begin in June.

Also next month, the Center for Professional Studies will begin the fifth cohort of its nationally accredited certified public management program, which is completed over an 18-month period. Approximately 150 upper-level public-sector managers and directors at the city, county and state levels have graduated.

“A whole extra set of learning and experiences come through that cohort concept that doesn’t happen when you randomly sign up for a one-day course,” Noe said. “So that really makes for a far richer experience.”

In addition to the certificate programs (the center will add a certificate in financial management this fall), Drake has incorporated several workshops for individuals and businesses on topics such as resolving day-to-day organizational conflicts and leading in tough times for managers and directors.

The Center for Professional Studies has also incorporated the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, the Kelley Insurance Center, which provides continuing education for insurance professionals, and Business Link, which brings in up to 200 professionals to a half dozen workshops throughout the year on topics such as diversity in the workplace.

By working one-on-one with companies, Drake can do something that consultants can’t: connect workers with the university and its resources. All of the coursework is developed and, with occasional assistance from outside experts, taught by faculty from the College of Business and Public Administration. That, Edwards said, adds an element of integrity to the college’s programs.

“It makes it a much more dynamic place for our undergraduates if they have graduate professional programs going on,” Edwards said. “It’s much more dynamic for the faculty as well if they’re dealing with different levels and different types of background and experience.”

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