“It is exciting that adults still want to learn,” says Suzanne Montgomery, director of the Samford After Sundown program of non-credit classes offered each term at Samford University. “They are not finished. You are always a student if you are open-minded and want to continue learning.”
Non-credit courses like those offered at Samford have long been a fun, inexpensive way for people to take up new hobbies or develop their creativity.
They can also assist in career development or lead to a new vocation through a certificate program.
Samford After Sundown is offering a new set of classes for the fall term – both on campus and online. There are courses in the arts and humanities (including calligraphy, creating writing and visual art), home arts (including knitting and cake decorating), languages and photography, as well as such areas as business, retirement planning and building websites.
Samford After Sundown – which Montgomery says has been in existence for about 40 years – offers about 70 to 100 on-campus classes per term, as well as numerous online classes.
Courses are offered in three semesters – fall, winter/spring and summer.
And while the classes are non-credit, that doesn’t necessarily mean they lack real-world applications, according to Montgomery.
“You couldn’t transfer them to a degree program, but you do get Continuing Education Units (CEUs), and a lot of businesses like their employees to get CEUs,” she says, citing school teachers as an example.
Samford also offers several certificate programs, including photography and natural history, as well as a Pharmacy Technician Certificate, a Healthcare Interpreter Training Certificate and an Alabama Naturalist Certificate. Samford will soon offer a certification in Microsoft Office.
Many of the students who have earned photography certificates at Samford after Sundown use them as starting points for their own enterprises as, say, wedding photographers, according to Montgomery.
“A lot of them start businesses from this when they get a certificate or when they get the courses they want that fulfill their goals,” she says.
The classes draw a diverse population, Montgomery says. “We have a lot of doctors, lawyers, judges, all ages, all income levels, whether they have finished their degrees or have upper-level degrees, but they are all in the same classes.”
And many come not for any utilitarian purpose but for personal enrichment. “They may want something they enjoy and to do something they have always dreamed of doing,” according to Montgomery. “They don’t want to put their dreams on hold. We have accountants who want to do something totally opposite from looking at numbers and will take photography or art classes.”
And with the demise of UAB Special Studies in 2004, Samford is one of the few college campuses in the area offering non-credit courses in a classroom environment. Montgomerybelieves that it is important to offer students the chance to have that traditional on-campus experience.
“I feel strongly about it, because we have a huge number of people who want to do online [classes], but when they call to register, I will tell them, ‘You know, if you have time, you should consider doing it in a classroom,’” she says. “We don’t have everything in the classroom that we can offer online, but it’s important. For example, in the foreign languages, we have English-speaking people who want to learn Italian or Spanish. You need the interaction with the instructor, who will know if you are pronouncing it right. You can’t do it by yourself. You need the classroom interaction.”
According to Montgomery, Samford After Sundown does extensive marketing in order to reach far beyond the suburban home of the campus to draw students. “I take it seriously that the community is not focused in just a five-mile radius,” she says. “We send out 50,000 catalogs.”
She also tries to freshen up the course offerings regularly. According to Montgomery, she tries to be “open-minded” about the range of classes they develop. “If it’s of interest to me, it might be of interest to someone else,” she says. “We try it and get students and try to grow it from there.”
Despite these efforts, Montgomerysays that many people in the Birmingham area are unaware of the non-credit classes at Samford. “I set up at Pepper Place [Farmers Market] about a year ago, and that’s a pretty open-minded, well-educated customer base, and I was amazed that many of them still didn’t know about Samford After Sundown. We passed out catalogs, and we had a lot of people sign up. A lot of people don’t know we still have this program and how strong it is.”
For more information or to register for a class, call (205) 726-2739 or go to www.samford.edu/sundown.
If you would like to teach a class, go to the web site and submit a Samford After Sundown course proposal form.
Other local institutions offering non-credit courses include Jefferson State Community College, which offers an extensive selection of classes in such areas as the arts, business, computers, law, education, health care and career development.
For information about classes offered online and at all four locations of Jeff State, including the Jefferson and Shelby-Hoover campuses, visit www.jeffstateonline.com and click on “community & corporate students.”
The Birmingham Community Education Department makes use of the facilities at several city schools, including Parker and Woodlawn high schools, to offer non-credit classes, including some career and vocational courses. Learn more at www.bhamcityschools.org. Click on “departments,” then “community education.”
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens offers numerous classes about plants and the environment. There are adult and family classes, field trips, children’s programs and plant adventure programs. There are also internships and many photography classes. To learn more, call (205) 414-3950 or go to www.bbgardens.org.
Jesse Chambers is the editor of Weld Local. Send your feedback to email@example.com.