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This morning, the City of Las Vegas, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada and UNLV publicly celebrated a partnership that has resulted in both personal development and for-credit classes being offered at the Center. The first one – Gender & Society, an upper-level, 3-credit course taught by UNLV Women’s Studies instructor Suzanne Becker – starts Monday, July 14.

Distance learning isn’t the only trend in higher education that’s all about taking learning to the people, instead of expecting them to come get it themselves on campus. Lots of universities are doing what UNLV is through its Community2Campus division: enlisting the help of other public entities and private partners, such as the Center, to offer highly localized outlets for their courses.

In this case, the City of Las Vegas, which has an economic interest in educating its citizens, ponied up the $500,000 necessary for UNLV to offer 20 credit hours per week for the first five years – enough time to establish the program in the community, estimates UNLV’s vice provost for educational outreach Margaret Rees. She says similar projects are underway at the 5th Street School downtown and five locations in Henderson.

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Who are the classes at the Center designed for? I asked Rees, as well as Community2Campus Executive Director Liz Baldizan and Center Interim CEO Tom Kovach to give composite descriptions of hypothetical students. A few examples based on their feedback follow:

1. The neighborhood adult learner. This person lives within a 1- to 2-mile radius of the Center, works full-time, started a degree 10 years ago and then, as Baldizan says, “life happened.” He or she has hit a professional plateau due to the lack of a degree and wants to go back to school to complete one. Having a community center nearby, where such folks can take a class in the evening, opens the door to their career advancement. The adult learner may also be a continuing education buff, who would rather to take a class nearby than at the main campus.

2. The lost boy (or girl). This late-teen, early 20-something may already hang out at the Center to play basketball or Web-surf on the free computers. He finds the prospect of attending a university daunting, but is nevertheless motivated to better himself, and his job prospects, through education. Kovach says a survey of computer users at the Center found many are updating resumes and searching for jobs, so professional development classes, such as the Job Seeking Skills one that starts in September, are a natural fit.

3. The UNLV student. This full-time academic needs one of the courses being offered at the Center to complete a degree, or is interested in the unique intersection of academics and culture found there. Using the upcoming Gender & Society class as an example, Kovach says a student might extend what he or she learns in the classroom to a hands-on experience by attending group discussions and other events at the Center, where gender expression and identity play an important role in the work being done.

For more information about the classes being offered at the Center, contact Sal Mora, assistant director and nontraditional learner advisor, at 702-895-2025 or Salvador.mora.unlv.edu.

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