For colleagues Jami Boyd, Paige Vanderhyden and Sandra Mol, the University of St. Francis’ Training & Development program was a perfect fit.
The women, who work in the Division of Workforce Development at Joliet Junior College, recently graduated with their Masters’ in Science in Training & Development and rave about the experience. “The Training & Development master’s is exactly what we do every day in our job,” Boyd said, noting her classes on strategic planning, budgeting and grant writing.
The Division of Workforce Development, which is entirely grant funded, provides comprehensive assessment and training services for the workforce—young and old—helping individuals become self-sufficient. Vanderhyden, who received her bachelor’s degree from USF, was the first of the three to enroll in the Training & Development master’s program in 2005. “I figured I’d always go back to USF for my master’s and this program is really relevant to what I do,” she said. The next semester Boyd enrolled and Mol followed suit a semester later.
“I would come to work and the classes were just so relevant I would tell them all about it,” Vanderhyden said. “It mirrors what we do daily. They probably said, ‘If Paige can do it, we can do it.’” Though Mol, who is the director of Workforce Development and Boyd and Vanderhyden’s supervisor, started the program last, she finished first. With her children grown and a husband who frequently travels, she had the time to accelerate the program and take two classes each semester.
Now only two years away from retirement, Mol said she was “very nervous” about going back to school. “The first assignment took me 12 hours,” she said. “I was just so nervous that it wasn’t going to be perfect. Paige and Jami still make fun of me.” Mol said she was happy to find that the other students in the class were working adults with the same fears about returning to school after so many years. “I had the support of other people in my classes. They were all adults, all professionals,” she said. “Now I have that piece of paper in my hand so I can go and do something else after JJC.”
The Training & Development program is offered entirely online to meet the needs of busy adults. Boyd said returning to school after eight years and doing so in the online format wasn’t too difficult. “It wasn’t as hard for me, but I had to be extremely organized to do the coursework,” she said. Vanderhyden balanced the program with work, a husband, three children and a position on a school board. “That really fit my lifestyle,” she said. Vanderhyden even led a webinar for the class while on vacation. “That was really a neat thing,” she said. “I showed that you can be anywhere, anytime doing a training program.” Mol also was impressed with the online format and was able to stay engaged while she vacationed. “When people think online, they don’t realize the amount of interactivity online,” Mol said. “All the resources are available to get a lot out of the program.”
The program also encourages its students actively apply the curriculum to their place of business. For Mol’s final project, she created a Mature Workforce Center “from start to finish” to cater to the employment training needs of individuals ages 50 and older. The project drew on everything she had learned in the Training & Development program, including development of a business plan, budget and marketing concepts. “Everything we studied was relevant,” she said. “It really enhanced what we were doing on a day-to-day basis.” Mol later submitted her final project as a proposal for a highly selective grant. She was awarded funding for the program, which now operates out of her division at JJC.
This practical application of her coursework ended up being a big benefit to the college and the community it serves, she said. “I would highly recommend the program at USF,” Mol said. And, she has.
A fourth member of JJC’s Workforce Development division is enrolled in the program.