The students in the environmental studies program at the Johns Hopkins University look like typical businessmen and women -- most of the time. They go to class in the evening after work like many other continuing education students across the state. But when the weekend comes, they trade in their suits, ties and textbooks for canoe paddles, rubber boots and research equipment and head for the salt marshes, streams and woodlands of Maryland.
"Hands-on ecology is really the best way to learn," said Charles Stine, one of their professors and the coordinator of the program. "I want my students to see new things and I hope they will be in awe of the natural process. And when they see something of which they are in awe, I hope they will become concerned and not want to see it lost."
Field study trips are an important part of most of the courses in the environmental studies program. The classes are non-credit, so there are no tests and students receive only a pass or fail grade. But they must attend regularly and complete required assignments. And while it's not a degree program, students may choose to complete the required seven courses and earn a certificate from the liberal arts division of the School of Continuing Studies at Hopkins.
The program was started last fall to provide business professionals and other concerned community members with in-depth information about the environment. It is just one of the many options in continuing education for adults at Hopkins and at many other Maryland institutions.
Continuing education varies greatly from one school to the next. It may be non-credit or credit, degree or non-degree, college preparatory, undergraduate or graduate. There are programs just for retired people.
Each school or department within a college or university might provide its own continuing education courses. Or, there may be a completely separate school or department just for continuing education.
All of the schools at Hopkins offer their own continuing education programs. In addition, the School of Continuing Studies provides business and education graduate programs as well as a liberal arts division with credit and non-credit courses. Its new leadership development program for outstanding minority managers recently earned a national award.
"We must be responsive to the needs of adults in an increasingly changing and complex workplace," said Stanley Gabor, dean of the School of Continuing Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. "There is a need for adults to continue to learn to keep themselves updated in their careers. We also have people coming back for cultural enrichment -- for the sheer pleasure and stimulation of learning.
"The role and mission of the school is to provide high quality academic programs for adults who study part time in both the credit and non-credit areas," Dean Gabor added. Prospective students for the Certificate in Environmental Studies program are invited to attend an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 19 in Shaffer Hall on the Homewood campus. Call (410) 516-7428 if you want to attend.
Hopkins student and landscape architect Gregory Hoer manages the planning of major transportation projects for the engineering firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas. He already has three undergraduate degrees, but enrolled in the certificate in environmental studies program to update his professional knowledge.
"Landscape architects are involved with humans and the way they use the landscape," Mr. Hoer said. "I hope to tie what I learn in this program into my everyday work. As a designer, this will give me the opportunity to learn why people don't want to see certain projects occur."
Brendan Donegan, director of design and construction at the Johns Hopkins University, hopes to become a more environmentally sensitive architect through his studies and then work to raise the ecological consciousness of the professional community through lectures and writing.
"I am constantly in wonder of the environment we live in," Mr. Donegan said. "There is a fascinating complexity and wholeness to it. As an architect, I have to very carefully work with the land. By increasing my knowledge about the systems I am affecting, I hope I can be more responsive to the environment as I plan buildings and roads."
Classmate John Bouton would like to use what he learns to help recycling and conservation efforts in the community. "I was raised on a farm and I've always been close to the land," said the staff development instructor at Sinai Hospital who has a master of science degree in nursing. "I love the outdoors."
And Caroline McKeldin, 25, would like perhaps to teach one day and believes that what she is learning in Dr. Stine's class should be a part of every school's curriculum. Her father, Theodore McKeldin Jr. -- a lawyer with the firm of Weinberg & Green and son of the late Theodore McKeldin Sr., a governor of Maryland and a mayor of Baltimore -- was her classmate in the course.
"I haven't taken a course since law school," Mr. McKeldin, 54, said. "I'm taking this purely out of interest and it has really been fascinating. It gives you a greater appreciation for your environment and its fragility."
Growing numbers of so-called "non-traditional" age adults are enrolling in classes, and the demand for a broad range of continuing education programs is on the rise. Last year at Hopkins, 42 percent of all degrees were conferred in continuing education.
And nationwide, part-time enrollment has tripled over the last 20 years, according to Noah Brown, director of governmental relations and public affairs for the National University Continuing Education Association, a non-profit higher education organization based in Washington.
"We would argue that the term non-traditional is now a misnomer because part-time enrollment is roughly equal to full-time enrollment," Mr. Brown said. Of about 14 million higher education enrollments, he added, a little more than 6 million are part-time. And that doesn't include the adults who attend school full-time.
"Continuing education programs tend to be consumer-driven," he added. "In large metropolitan areas, for example, a lot of working adults are seeking to add to their credentials so they can advance or change careers. And continuing education helps to smooth the transition for women who are returning to the work force or entering for the first time."
At Loyola College, the continuing education department is a part of the school of business. The college's degree programs for adults are not considered to be a part of continuing education.
"Those are part of our regular offerings," said Gail Yumkas, assistant dean for the college's Joseph A. Sellinger, S.J. School of Business and Management. "It is part of the mission of the college to provide undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Continuing education at Loyola is over and beyond that. It is lifelong learning for the professions."
Loyola has professional development seminars and in-house training for businesses. In addition, there are recertification workshops for teachers, non-credit pastoral counseling studies
and non-credit workshops for speech and hearing therapists, Mrs. Yumkas said.
In many continuing education programs, courses are taught by part-time faculty who are also professionals working in the field. While some classes meet on-campus, others are held at satellite locations that are convenient to working students. And many institutions will bring custom-designed training programs right to the job site.
Loyola offers off-campus classes in Columbia and Hunt Valley. The School of Continuing Studies at Hopkins has off-campus centers in Columbia, downtown Baltimore and Montgomery county. And the University of Maryland University College, one of 11 degree-granting institutions within the University of Maryland system, holds classes at more than 25 locations in Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia.
Its students of management can even finish the last two years of their bachelor's degree via cable TV classes they watch in their ++ homes -- a first nationwide.
"When you're working with adults you have to be extremely responsive to their demands," said Lissa Brown, director of University Relations at the college. "They are quite serious when they enroll and they know exactly what they want. Programs have got to be responsive to those needs."
University College has a non-credit division -- its Center for Professional Development. Its credit division has 30 bachelor's degree programs and master's degrees in the fields of management and health care administration through its Graduate School of Management and Technology.
"Most of our students tell us they are here to earn a degree," Ms. Brown said. "They're looking for career advancement or the opportunity to change directions in their career. Some people who come here have quite a bit of success in their field but the lack of a degree has been a barrier to them."
And because many of the students have extensive work experience and are mid-level managers, the emphasis is on the practical application of information instead of theory.
There's an extraordinary transfer of learning to the workplace," Ms. Brown said.