University College Re-Imagined

Washington University in St. Louis — Goal 2 Initiative University College Re-Imagined

Washington University has used a community input and prototyping process to re-envision adult education as an independent school with a focus on St. Louis social mobility. This school will provide unique educational opportunities for adults to learn new job skills, embedded in experiential, critical thinking courses, focusing on the socially and economically disadvantaged as a primary student audience. Specific programs will be created in a collaborative spirit with regional institutions. Components of success include dramatically increasing the number of community members enrolled in adult learning, positive professional outcomes for alums, and more broadly, the reduction of economic inequality in the region.

Continuing education and professional programs have been a hallmark of Washington University since 1908. As we reaffirm our commitment to making higher education in its many forms available to students from all walks of life, at every stage of their educational journey, we are working to ensure that the new University College and related programs are evolving to meet the changing needs of our student population and the St. Louis region. This is a significant step forward in our renewed commitment to St. Louis.

Andrew Martin, Washington University in St. Louis

Initiative Differentiators

Washington University has never had a school dedicated to adult students with a mission to reduce social and economic inequality. This school, and most of its academic programs, is designed with regional, working adult learners in mind. In the past, we have had several, distributed part-time academic programs, design largely as extensions of our residential student programs. The re-imagined program will put adult learners and their needs for advancement and growth as its starting point.  This school is also a place to explore new forms of collaboration across disciplines without the constraints of the residential academic programs, but with the constraints and formats of teaching working adults.

Key Interventions and Milestones

There are four core actions to create this new school. First, the program cultivates relationships, in which program coordinators will build authentic relationships that respond to student, instructor, and community partner contexts. This includes reorienting our recruiting process to focus on relationships, recruiting diverse, community-based instructors, and building partnerships with employers. Second, the program creates distinct experiences, which focus on the part-time, adult students working to advance or switch their careers. This includes creating specific opportunities to try out new experiences, integrating experiential learning, and making career paths accessible. Third, the program aligns locally, working with other institutions to address workforce opportunities and needs that are specific to the St. Louis region. Finally, the program seeks to remove barriers in order to make higher education more accessible, including communicating costs clearer, addressing tangible needs like timing, and access to support services.

Expected Impact

The initiative aims to increase equity across race, gender, parental status, socioeconomic background, and other factors. The program will boost successful career advancement or transition of student participants. Over time, the initiative will increase the number of students enrolled in St. Louis and target increased reported satisfaction and engagement.