September 19, 2011

SUNY Empire State College to Offer Online Master of Arts in Adult Learning

Empire State College

Alan R. Davis, president of the State University of New York Empire State College, has announced that the college will offer a Master of Arts in Adult Learning degree beginning in January 2012.

This new online master’s program will benefit many professionals including individuals working in literacy and English as a second language programs, job retraining and workforce development, higher education, corporate training and those working with career changers.

The information age and the global economy require lifelong learning. Further, adults, 25 years and older, learn differently than do teenagers and children.

The college’s 40 years of success educating adults and its national and international leadership in distance and online learning led to the development of this advanced degree program, which is delivered entirely online.

The program will help the current and next generation of adult educators to gain the knowledge, skills and educational vision to serve adult learners in the private sector, in community organizations, and in post-secondary education.

“All around us there are calls for change and innovation in higher education so we can better meet the enormous challenge of ensuring quality and opportunity for all those currently underserved,” said college President Alan R. Davis.  “Because Empire State College has been at the forefront of innovation in adult learning for 40 years, we have much to share with our colleagues throughout the world, and we also will gain much from those who we hope will join us to teach and to learn.”

“A degree in adult learning is mission critical for us,” said School for Graduate Studies Dean Robert Clougherty. “It is what we do best, and more importantly, it is what we value. As the economy progresses in this millennium, adult learning will be a cornerstone of each individual’s life.”

The New York State Education of Department has approved the college’s proposal to begin to offer the online Master of Arts degree with the first cohort of students expected to enroll in January.

The Master of Arts in Adult Learning is a 36-credit hour, fully online program that consists of a 12-credit core, 18 credits devoted to the student’s area of focus, and 6 credits related to the final project. The curriculum provides solid grounding in the field of adult learning, focusing on the theory of adult learning and the modeling of best principles and practices. The combination of core courses and credits devoted to the student’s area of focus facilitates individualization and flexibility.

Students are able to meet individual goals and customize their degree programs to meet those needs. Therefore, students entering the program are encouraged to propose a final project – i.e., a concrete and focused task in the field of adult learning – around which learning goals will be formulated. The individualized degree plan is approved by program faculty and revisited on a regular basis to ensure that it remains relevant in the face of new learning, felt needs and ideas.

The program is responsive to the range of practice and purposes in adult learning and education including learning in organizations, online learning, adult learning in international contexts, adults in higher education, adult literacy, and adult learning for social change and community engagement.  It is organized to respond to the particular needs and interests of learners by providing multiple options for individualized study and program design.

Dr. Dianne Ramdeholl, of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been named coordinator of the program. “I’m honored to be part of an effort that will potentially have such a tremendous impact on people’s lives,” she said. “Adult learning has, by and large, operated from the margins with not much visibility or access to resources. To have a degree where students can draw from the field’s rich history as well as contribute to a larger, dynamic conversation with other scholarly practitioners through writing and by conducting research, is both critical and exciting.”

Program History

In 2009, a small group of faculty and administrators met to set the stage for developing the master’s degree. School of Graduate Studies Prof. Elana Michelson, who coordinated the planning stages of the program, said, “Many faculty, administrators and staff have seen the synergy between the work we do, the scholarship we undertake, and the need to educate the next generation of scholars and practitioners in the field of adult learning.”

“Empire State College is a laboratory for adult learning,” Michelson continued.  “In some cases, students may be able to use the college itself as a site for their learning through internships; working with faculty to design new Center for Distance Learning courses; working on developing materials for assessment; actually doing an assessment; or teaching a study group. In other cases, it may be more appropriate to use their own organizations and communities as a focus of inquiry in order to develop expertise in their specific area of practice.”

Michelson added that the new program is consistent with some of the objectives in the college’s Vision 2015 document, specifically an expanded profile for Empire State College as a leader in adult learning. “The college is committed to practice what we preach,” continued Michelson. “This program will draw on and extend the college’s commitment by modeling good adult learning practice.”

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College, celebrating its 40th year throughout 2011, was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SUNY. Students learn through independent studies, online courses, seminars and residencies. Learners also may earn credit for prior college-level learning from work and life experience

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 63,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, not-for-profit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, and more.

For additional information, visit More information about the college’s 40th anniversary is available on the college’s 40th anniversary web page.

Media Contact

David M. Henahan, Director of Communications
518-587-2100, ext. 2918

(after 5 p.m. and weekends)

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