When Weinberg sophomore Christina Minich was looking for a class to fit into her schedule last year, she ventured into an area of CAESAR that most students see, but rarely enter: the School of Continuing Studies. To most Northwestern students, it’s a thing of obscurity. You’ve heard its name thrown around campus a couple of times and seen it on CAESAR, but you may not quite know what it is.
The school is designed to offer a traditional Northwestern education to non-traditional college students.
“The mission [of SCS] is to serve the educational needs of adult students who are working,” says Peter Kaye, assistant dean of undergraduate programs at the school.
SCS has 19 different majors with classes in 42 subject areas that closely mirror Northwestern’s traditional course offerings. Throughout the year, SCS offers courses in subject areas ranging from accounting and advertising to history and foreign languages.
The school has a mix of undergraduate students and those with degrees looking to take classes to prepare for graduate or professional school. Occasionally, students sign up for a course through the School of Continuing Studies without wanting to obtain a degree. For example, someone who is already working may sign up for an advertising class just to brush up on skills needed for a job. These students are called students-at-large or non-degree-seeking students.
Although Minich felt intimidated because she was the youngest person in her SCS class, she said it was on par with other university courses she’s taken. “It was a great class,” she says. “It was more of a community environment than some of my actual undergraduate classes…I had a great professor.”
Even though the school doesn’t cater to the traditional student, the classes tend to follow the traditional NU structure. Masha Kisel, a first-time professor and past student in the School of Continuing Studies who is teaching Love and Sex in Russian Literature during Spring Quarter, said she was designing her class similarly to any NU course.
“Class will be divided into lecture and discussion portions,” Kisel said. “In lecture, I will provide a historical context of the works and tell the students about the authors. Then…we will discuss the psychology of characters, their relationships and conflicts.”
In accordance with Northwestern policies, SCS ensures all of its students receive “thirty hours of contact time [with professors],” Kaye said.
The school looks for top faculty for all of its programs. “About 80 percent of our faculty at the undergraduate level is people who have NU appointments or are top graduate students,” Kaye said.
Even though the structure may be standard, most classes are offered in the evenings and on weekends in Evanston, Chicago and the Loop to best suit students’ needs.
Although the school has a different student composition than the rest of NU, its organization is not unlike Northwestern’s traditional schools.
Kisel says she enjoyed her own experiences as a student in a SCS course. “I felt intellectually stimulated and challenged,” Kisel said.
“The SCS offers a lot of freedom to instructors,” she said. “This often means that the teacher will be truly passionate and excited about their class.”
Another way SCS upholds high educational standards is by examining Northwestern’s program and comparing it to programs at other elite universities like Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania.
“We take our educational mission very seriously,” says Kaye. “We work closely with NU partners to provide a Northwestern-quality education to adult students.”
Additionally, SCS works to ensure its student receive the same quality of life offered to traditional students. “Students do get access to the library, NU gym facilities, career services and they get a WildCARD, so they are definitely considered part of the larger NU community,” Kaye explains.
While most don’t recognize the school during the year, SCS is famous for the university-wide summer session.
The summer session is designed for all Northwestern students, according to Stephanie Teterycz, the director of summer session and special programs. It includes about 350 courses for credit compiled from six schools: Music, Communication, Weinberg, McCormick, SESP and SCS.
While some summer courses run for the duration of the summer quarter, others can be completed in three weeks.
Several students opt to take intensive classes during the summer sessions because, as Teterycz explains, you can complete an entire year of organic chemistry in just nine weeks.
In addition to summer session, SCS provides special programs called Summer Institutes. According to Teterycz, many of these programs are geared towards high school students because they provide a college preparatory experience.