Widener University underwent reorganization on July 1, combining the Center for Education with University College to form the new School of Education, Innovation and Continuing Studies.
The graduate programs in human sexuality, currently housed in the Center for Education, have become a new unit within the School of Human Service Professions named the Center for Human Sexuality Studies. This new center is the fourth unit in the school, which also includes the Center for Social Work Education, the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology and the Institute of Physical Therapy Education.
The merging of the Center for Education and University College combines the assets of the units. "Strong synergies already exist between the two," said Michael Ledoux, former associate dean of the School of Human Service Professions and director of the Center for Education. "A focus on the individual student, the adult learner and online and alternative delivery systems is part of the culture of both education and continuing studies."
"As a result of the merger, additional services, added expertise and a broader range of educational opportunities are available to serve the educational needs of the community both regionally and nationally," said Don Devilbiss, former acting dean of University College.
Because both units already have a significant online presence at the undergraduate and graduate levels, multiple satellite programs and a plethora of hybrid and seated programs, the "Innovation" in the new School of Education, Innovation and Continuing Studies name applies to many opportunities for course delivery, among other things. Leaders within the new school are already developing programs to ensure that this new configuration results in great opportunities for Widener University.
"I see potential for enrollment growth through virtual education, especially in the areas of certification and digital badges, including newly developing skill sets needed in the job market," Devilbiss said.
The new school continues to house all of the programs that were traditionally part of the Center for Education, with the exception of the human sexuality graduate programs, in addition to those that were part of University College, including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on Widener's Exton Campus.
"The new school offers cradle to grave education, starting with the education of preschoolers in the Widener Child Development Center and ending with adults post-retirement through the Osher program," Ledoux said. "We're certainly committed to lifelong learning and prepared to offer education programs to anyone at any age and any time."
While the name of the school is new, the faces have remained the same. Ledoux is now acting dean, and Devilbiss is associate dean. John Flynn, former assistant director for the Center for Education, is the assistant dean for education, and KayMarie Platt, former assistant dean of University College, is the assistant dean for continuing studies. The new school continues to occupy many locations: Kapelski Learning Center, Hyatt Hall, the Delaware Campus and the Exton Campus.
The formation of the new Center for Human Sexuality Studies has also brought about leadership changes. During the transition, Paula Silver, dean of the School of Human Service Professions, is taking on the interim role as associate dean and director of the center. Rather than move into a role with greater administrative responsibilities, Betsy Crane has elected to step down as director. She's moved into a full-time faculty role to focus on teaching and scholarship.
"Under Dr. Crane's leadership, our human sexuality program has gained national recognition, our student enrollment has grown significantly and our curriculum has been refined to better meet the needs of the discipline, our community and our students," Silver said. "We will miss her in her leadership role; however, we look forward to her expanded teaching responsibilities and to her continuing contributions to our program and the discipline."
The human sexuality faculty also created two new administrative roles: master's degree program director and PhD program director. Silver appointed Justin Sitron as master's degree program director and Don Dyson as PhD program director. Dianne Browne remains practicum coordinator. During this transition year, faculty and administrators will work to identify an associate dean to lead the program in the coming years. The Center for Human Sexuality Studies continues to operate out of its current home at 501 E. 13th St.
Crane sees the creation of the Center for Human Sexuality Studies as having important implications in terms of independence in policies and curriculum and for further development and growth of the program.
"This is a time for celebration," she said. "The interdisciplinary applied study of human sexuality, which began at the University of Pennsylvania in 1976 before moving to Widener's Center for Education 13 years ago, is now being recognized and resourced at a level as never before seen in our country."