Ashland University's Professional Development Services Sees Growth

8/26/10 ASHLAND, OH -- Ashland University's Professional Development Services celebrated a milestone last year -- its 30th year in existence -- and subsequently received a facelift for the start of classes this fall.

The professional development program at Ashland University, which was started in 1980, has seen tremendous growth through the years and is the largest program of its kind in the state of Ohio and one of the largest in the country, according to Dr. Dwight McElfresh, who has directed Ashland's professional development services for the past five years.

"We had 23,174 people taking classes last year and we conducted a total of 4,542 workshops," McElfresh said. "Most of the workshops are job-embedded in the school districts, but we do partner with many other organizations, including some high profile ones like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Canton Football Hall of Fame, Ohio High School Athletic Association and the Department of Defense."

The facelift earlier this year resulted in McElfresh being named dean of the newly created Founders School of Continuing Education, which encompasses many of the University's continuing education programs including professional development services, the Telego Center for Educational Improvement, the Gill Center for Business and Economics/EconomicsAmerica, the Prison Programs, Workforce Development, Degree Completion Programs, Certificate Programs, the Post-Secondary Program, and the Evening and Weekend Program.

"The Founders School of Continuing Education is really a natural progression of our entrepreneurial and outreach programs. It will provide opportunities for greater accountability, collaboration and communication among all of our colleges and allow us to better meet the needs of adult students," McElfresh said.

McElfresh said the professional development services area has seen many changes over the past 30 years.

"About 20 percent of the classes are now online, which is much different, and we are structured in such a way now that we use our regional centers in Elyria, Massillon, Columbus and Southwest Ohio much more than we did in the past," he said.

In 1990, professional development services had a total of 11,236 participants taking classes and generating 21,426 credit hours of classes. In 2000, this increased to 22,971 participants generating 32,322 credit hours of class. In 2010, there were 23,174 participants taking 4,542 classes generating 31,891 credit hours of class.

McElfresh said the biggest growth in recent years has been in the greater Cincinnati area where the university's Southwest center is located. "This center has done a terrific job of meeting the needs of teachers and administrators in the region, particularly in school districts that have experienced huge growth in population," he said.

"The professional development growth across the board has been phenomenal and there are several reasons for that," McElfresh said. "We have a reputation of being teacher friendly, with high quality learning opportunities that are researched based, taught by knowledgeable, experienced instructors in locations close to home. The 'Accent on the Individual' philosophy is personified by the five regional professional development directors who have relationships with educators throughout the state. With the addition of online opportunities, the Ashland University brand is now spreading to other states and regions of the country."

Ashland University (<>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.