On the occasion of SUNY Buffalo State's 150th Anniversary
The Office of Continuing Professional Studies originated in 1967 as the Continuing Education Office, with a focus on non-credit and avocational courses targeted to the Western New York community at large. The primary goal was to make all of the resources of the college accessible to the region as a whole. From the period of 1967 through 1982, the department was housed in Rockwell Hall, and then moved to Cleveland Hall. The programming itself evolved into an extensive professional development series available throughout the east coast.
In 1982, the Continuing Education Office reinvented itself as the Lifelong Learning Center, with a new mission of serving an adult learning population that was manifesting locally as the industrial employment base was shrinking. The Center coordinated and facilitated multiple levels of service for evening and adult students, and offered its own interdisciplinary degree designed to reflect the unique needs and abilities of those individuals.
Expanding its horizons, the Lifelong Learning Center partnered with the Center for Development of Human Services to coordinate an academic program for the Erie County Department of Social Services Employee Education Program; additionally, the Center provided off campus college credit programs to local employers.
The Lifelong Learning Center also met the need for non-credit community service programming through a comprehensive approach to learning, training and skill building. At times, programs were offered on a contractual basis, such as the Drinking Driver Program, or were developed to meet a specific need, such as real estate and insurance licensing test preparation, arborist training, and even a large, internationally taught program prepping accountants on multiple continents for proficiency in U.S. tax law for certification purposes.
In the late 1990’s, seeking to respond to the ever-changing needs of the community and its diverse populations, the Lifelong Learning Center moved back to Cleveland Hall, its current location; in 2005, the office was renamed the Office of Continuing Professional Studies (CPS). Over the course of the next 15 years, the Office of Continuing Professional Studies focused on fewer, but larger and more diverse programs, generating significant income for the college:
The Drinking Driver Program, renamed the Impaired Driver Program, was the longest running program managed by CPS operating for more than 20 years.
Until 2020, CPS was responsible for providing required teacher certification seminars to both campus and community constituents; over the years, the office also supported test prep for the various teacher certification exams required by New York State.
Our partnership with CAO Headstart provided decades of dedicated support to students pursuing degrees in education and social work, as well as individualized studies.
On the other end of the education spectrum, CPS also partners with high schools locally and across the state with about 25 College Access/Dual Credit programs, in which high school students earn both college and high school credit through specialized course work, jumpstarting their preparation for and success at the collegiate level. A recent development has been the assignment of the Middle Early College High School (MECHS) program to the purview of CPS. Its philosophy is to provide a nurturing learning environment to underserviced high school students; this four year program allows students to take a variety of courses to earn dual credit with the opportunity to earn up to 51 college credits upon completion.
The nationally recognized Say Yes program was initially housed in the Office of Continuing Professional Studies; it recently became a stand alone program as a result of the success it has achieved.
A regular summer offering has been made through our partnership with the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program, in which participants have had the chance to earn a stipend while receiving training in manufacturing and machining skills.
CPS is one of the few institutions to provide the six credit Work Based Learning credential to teachers across the state.
Community forward activities have been of a diverse nature, and included offering Equal Employment Opportunity Commission training to recertify local officers, CLEP and PearsonVue testing, Biology Teacher Academy, ESL programming, and the Entrepreneurship in the Arts program in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center.
Again looking to connect our resources with community needs, for many years the office provided Wastewater Certification training to constituents across the state.
Since 2014, multiple grant awards totaling millions of dollars have funded programs training underserved populations in the skills attendant to successful careers in Advanced Manufacturing.
This past year, the Office of Continuing Studies has undergone many changes, both in leadership and direction, as we work with our campus and community partners to assess the needs and respond to the new challenges that the pandemic has brought to all of us. Recent efforts included the Small Business Restaurant Recovery Program and Covid Training for Minority and Women owned businesses, in partnership with the Small Business Development Center. We successfully graduated the first cohort in the RISE Up Program (Restaurants Ignite Skills and Education) with each participant completing the program stepping directly into a job.
Of a more academic nature, in the summer of 2021, we partnered with the Charter School of Applied Technologies in a brand new, grant funded initiative that saw rising high school freshmen on campus earning their first three college credits. Over the course of the program, which will run through the regular academic year, participants will be able to earn as many as 55 credits toward a college degree prior to their high school graduation at no charge.
In the community at large, we recently presented two offerings. The first, "Be Creative" was made by request to a group of Middle Early College teachers. The session introduced the framework for being a creative leader in the classroom, with educators developing three core creative thinking skills: being open, curious, and inventive through deliberate practice. As each skill was introduced, educators were invited to practice the skill independently, with others, and guided to introduce the skills into their classrooms. The program garnered excellent reviews. The second, offered at the invitation of The Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences (BSNS), which oversees both the Buffalo Museum of Science and Tifft Nature Preserve, assisted in their reengagement in a strategic planning initiative that was halted by the COVID pandemic. In order to gain an accurate picture of the current state of affairs, BSNS reached out to the Continuing Professional Studies office for a facilitator for a select number of board members and current staff. CPS Director Kristin Fields led a session that resulted in a robust collection of successes and opportunities for growth that could serve as the launching point for the remainder of the strategic planning process.
We look forward to taking an active role in moving current programming into new formats, while creating and implementing new programming that is cutting edge and able to move with the fluidity necessary to succeeding in our new and everchanging world.