How Saint Joseph’s Is Embracing the ‘60-year Curriculum’

students studying outside

The first portable computer was released in 1975, weighing 55 pounds and retailing for the equivalent of almost $42,000 in today’s dollars. After almost five decades of innovation, we now have smartwatches immeasurably more powerful than the original laptop.

As technology has evolved, workers have been expected to keep up. We now need to acquire skills faster than older generations, and because of longer life expectancies and financial limitations, we’re also working later in life. 

To help provide educational development opportunities to professionals who want to stay competitive, educators across the country are updating their syllabi to appeal to a wider range of people, reaching far outside the traditional college student. Enter the 60-year curriculum, the younger brother of “lifelong learning.”

grad open houseThe 60-year curriculum provides continuous learning opportunities to people of any age who want to learn new skills, switch careers or become more competitive in the workforce, without necessarily enrolling in a traditional higher education program. Students can take different courses, gain certifications or enroll in programs that mirror their individual desire for continuous learning. 

“A prosperous society depends on a constant quest for knowledge. Academia is evolving, we’re living longer, we’re remaining curious,” says Vana Zervanos, Ed.D., associate dean of Saint Joseph’s Erivan K. Haub School of Business. “But graduate education is moving beyond traditional master’s degree offerings.

“Companies aren’t paying for their workers to earn advanced degrees at the rate and to the financial degree that they used to,” Zervanos says. “With many students now paying for the programs themselves, they need to see a clear path to getting a return on their investment.

“While the University has an ideological commitment that learning is an end in itself, [students] are consumers and want to make sure that education is something that will not only help them learn and acquire competency but also be some sort of means to an end,” Zervanos says.

“A prosperous society depends on a constant quest for knowledge. Academia is evolving, we’re living longer, we’re remaining curious. But graduate education is moving beyond traditional master’s degree offerings."

Vana Zervanos, Ed.D.

Associate Dean, Erivan K. Haub School of Business

To that end, Saint Joseph’s and other universities are increasingly creating programs that are “stackable” or allow students to earn micro-credentials, Zervanos says. These certification programs or groups of courses build upon one another and are accumulated over time, requiring less commitment from the student while still allowing them to move along a career pathway. SJU and GroupWork Consulting’s 125-hour Coaching Leader Program is just one example.

“Just a master’s degree isn’t as attractive of an option anymore. People are looking for more cost- and time-efficient options,” says Joshua Power, Ed.D., executive director of graduate and extended studies in SJU's College of Arts and Sciences and School of Health Studies and Education. “The idea of a 60-year curriculum is encouraging us to think beyond traditional degrees, and even beyond credit.”

Power explains that moving beyond the traditional credit-based pricing model can free up universities to offer more flexible content. “One example of a non-credit offering is the Horticulture Certificate offered at the Barnes Arboretum at Saint Joseph’s University. Courses range from 4 weeks to 28 weeks in duration, and can be completed ala carte or as part of a three year program. We exploring offering the courses in even more flexible packages and modalities to cater even more to working professionals.”

In fact, most of the 60-year curriculum is designed around the working professional. “Because the assumption is that the more and more of our students are working professionals, we’re seeing more online, evening and hybrid classes. We’ll see more new programs follow these models,” says Power.

One of those new programs at Saint Joseph’s is a new Senior Auditor Program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Launching in fall 2020, adults over the age of 50 can audit undergraduate classes for a minimal fee. “We hope that we can expand access to our coursework to an adult population, either members of the community or to re-engage alumni,” Power says.

According to Power, the program will have the added benefit of bringing unique perspectives into courses traditionally taken by 20-something undergraduates. “Intergenerational learning can offer real value to both the traditional undergraduates and the auditing adults,” says Power.

“Because the assumption is that more and more of our students are working professionals, we’re seeing more online, evening and hybrid classes. We’ll see more new programs follow these models."

Joshua Power, Ed.D.

Executive Director of Graduate and Extended Studies, College of Arts and Sciences and School of Health Studies and Education

In addition, says Zervanos, “we’re developing MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) so that employees can get a feel for a grad program at Saint Joseph’s. The growth of online learning has allowed more people to access higher education, and we try to be flexible in responding to that. At the same time, we’re aware to not compromise rigor and the experience of being in the classroom, so we’re conscientious to still provide experiential opportunities — internships, co-ops, etc.”

Saint Joseph’s University currently offers a variety of ways to begin, build upon or return to learning, including:

Graduate Programs

Saint Joseph’s graduate degree programs are for anyone looking to further their education via a more traditional path. You can find a graduate program that works best for you by using the SJU Program Explorer. Those interested in graduate programs can also get an up-close view of the options available at Saint Joseph’s at the March 9 Graduate Open House.

Certificates and Endorsements

For those who also want to pursue a more traditional path but don’t want to commit to a graduate degree program, Saint Joseph’s offers myriad certificate programs that allow students to take a deep dive into niche fields. Available programs include certificates in cybersecurity, financial planning and data analytics. Saint Joseph’s also offers endorsement programs for teachers looking to gain specialized skills in specific areas, including working with students on the autism spectrum, English as a second language and social, emotional and behavioral wellness.

Barnes Horticulture Certificate

The Barnes Horticulture Certificate Program is a three-year program that takes students through the ins and outs of horticultural science, designs and methods. Participants spend time getting hands-on experience in the renowned Barnes Arboretum, interacting with rare species of woody and herbaceous plants. This course meets once per week during the academic year and provides participants the option to sit for the Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist exam upon completion.

Barnes Workshops and Classes

Individuals seeking to further knowledge of horticulture in specific fields can also take individual workshops or classes at the Barnes Arboretum. Offerings include a class on contemporary botanical illustration and a free workshop called “Laura’s Favorites: A Bark Appreciation Walk,” which focuses on different trees that were favored by Laura Barnes, the original caretaker of the Barnes Arboretum.

Public Lectures and Events

Saint Joseph’s frequently hosts lectures and events open to the public, sponsored by the University’s colleges and programs. These events can range from student musical recitals to lectures by well-known scholars, authors, government officials and others.

Other opportunities include corporate and nonprofit organizational training and non-credit certificate programs offered through the Center for Professional Development. The CPD offers one-day seminars, educational tours, leadership and diversity training in a number of topics, and a prep course for those interested in earning a project management certificate from the Project Management Institute. The center can also provide subject matter experts to serve as keynote speakers, panelists or moderators for any type of program or event.

Saint Joseph’s also recently approved a 10% tuition discount for alumni for credit-bearing work. The discount is effective summer 2020 and can be added on top of a merit-based scholarship, but not other discounts.