Thousands of degree-seeking students returned to the University of Arizona this week, but they aren't the only ones who will be setting foot in UA classrooms this semester.
This fall, the UA Outreach College is offering more than 150 new noncredit continuing education courses for adults in the general community. The courses will be offered through the college's new division of continuing education.
"We see learning as lifelong, and know that adults want to explore the humanities, arts, sciences, social sciences and other areas of interest in flexible and accessible formats," said Rita Martinez-Purson, assistant dean of the Outreach College.
"Our new division of continuing education respects the broader interests of adult learners. We seek to provide relevant, quality, affordable offerings that fit into the schedules of adults who love to learn," she said.
The noncredit courses cover a variety of personal enrichment and professional development topics, ranging from the practical – like entry-level language courses and technology classes – to the inventive – like a class on artisan bread and one on mountain biking.
The new offerings are part of the Outreach College's ongoing efforts to engage the broader community with the University.
"We recognize that universities need to be engaged with the community, and the Outreach College's mission is to create a bridge between the campus and the community," Martinez-Purson said.
While the Outreach College has maintained active programs for children through its Arizona Youth University and for older adults through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the new courses are designed to reach a larger and more diverse adult population, Martinez-Purson said.
Many courses meet for only one session – like "Break Bread With a Professor" classes, in which participants can sit down for an ethnic dinner and discussion with a UA faculty member from Greece, India, Mexico or Russia.
Other courses – including professional certificate programs, a variety of writing classes and an "Investor Bootcamp" that teaches the basic rules of investing – will take place over several weeks.
The college's professional development offerings were designed to meet growing demand by employers for formal job training, Martinez-Purson said.
"Business, industry, nonprofits and government agencies are expressing the need for new skill sets in an economy that requires top-notch, up-to-date knowledge," she said.
Registration is now open for the classes, which are priced as low as $39 and will be offered at various times throughout the semester, with the first ones starting Sept. 5 and others starting as late as December. Classes will be taught by a mix of UA faculty members and subject-matter experts from the community and will be held on campus, online and at a variety of locations throughout Tucson.
This year's new courses are just the beginning, Martinez-Purson said.
"This is our initial launch of a broader approach to noncredit continuing education. In the coming semesters Tucson will see us fill out a growing portfolio of offerings," she said.
"We recognize that now is the time to address the interests of adult learners through a broad range of both professional and development and personal enrichment offerings."