Author: Marshall Green
Date: October 31, 2013

Over the next several months, Houghton College will begin restructuring its traditional academic design in order to maximize educational resources and better serve current and future students.  These adjustments in the existing educational structure will seek to improve the college’s focus, flexibility and forward thinking. 

“Currently, higher education across the United States is going through sweeping changes,” commented Eric Currie, vice president for enrollment management at Houghton.  “These can be viewed as scary or as an opportunity to establish Houghton College into the new normal of the 21st century.”

“We are examining every area of our academic programs, looking for ways to create and renew flexible, sustainable, compelling programs,” said Linda Mills Woolsey, dean of the college.  “We are working to cut costs and, at the same time, foster continued interdisciplinary dialogue.” 

The college has announced that it will be reducing some of the educational offerings and staffing that have the least impact on the student body as a whole and reallocating these resources so that they better serve and stimulate other programming and the academic community. 

Mills Woolsey stated, “Houghton is committed to offering our students an education that equips them with skills that will serve them well in the workplace and the world, even as we continue to offer the rich experience of learning in a community that has been a hallmark of a Houghton education.”

Along with the traditional main campus in Houghton, N.Y., the college will increase its presence with a new satellite campus at a local church in Buffalo, N.Y., additional majors being offered with the Adult Education program, and through enhancements in online course offerings.

Over 20 years ago, Houghton was one of the first colleges in the United States to develop an adult education program, and the first to do so in Buffalo.  Currently based in West Seneca, with locations in Jamestown, Olean and Lockport, the Adult Education program has granted bachelor’s degrees to approximately fifteen hundred adults in the Buffalo area and Southern Tier regions.  A proposed expansion of the program will offer three new majors designed to meet the needs of adults going back to college to better prepare them for today’s workforce.

Building upon the success of the adult education program in Buffalo, Houghton has been working diligently over the past year to begin a non-residential associate of arts program in Buffalo.  This program has received approval from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is awaiting final approval by New York State. A tentative launch date is set for the fall of 2014. The First Presbyterian Church at One Symphony Circle in Buffalo will be the campus for the new associate’s degree program, and Houghton has already begun construction to redesign the existing structure to better serve the students’ needs.

The new associate’s degree will enable students to begin a Houghton education while residing in the Buffalo area. 

In order to manage the existing adult education program, the new associate’s degree program in Buffalo, and developing a more robust online program with a more comprehensive menu of courses that will appeal to a diverse student base, Houghton has hired Dr. Scott E. McClelland to take on the new role of dean of extension studies for the college. 

In today's world the higher education community is increasingly taking new forms with hybrid methods of delivery that combine online and face-to-face learning, and with online and non-residential options. “Because of these changes, high on the academic priority list for Houghton is expanding its online course offerings,” said Mills Woolsey. 

With the success of last summer’s online options, Houghton has expanded next summer’s online offerings, which are composed of mainly entry and second year level classes, in order to have a broader appeal to non-Houghton students.  These classes are being offered at prices competitive with community colleges.

Houghton is also making an increased effort to assist its student base not only in the classroom but also post-graduation by developing VOCA, a new office for vocation opportunities and career advising.  The name VOCA is derived from the Latin term for “calling,” or vocare. This new office will marry the rich tradition of vocation education and programming led by Houghton faculty, staff and student leaders with clear strategies to sharpen and hone a student’s market readiness.

Rob Pool, vice president for student life, commented, “Houghton students expect that their degrees will have marketable meaning in the broader world after graduation. As well they should. They ask themselves: Will employers value me?  The VOCA office will break down the entire student experience from the first moments during a campus visit through early alumni life.”

When asked about the overall picture of increased emphasis of new programs and new education delivery methods at Houghton, President Shirley Mullen stated, “Since its founding in 1883, Houghton College has specialized in enlarging the worlds of young men and women through the gifts of high quality Christian higher education—and empowering them with the desire and the opportunity to make a difference in those worlds.”

“This animating vision compels us to think in new ways about making a Houghton education accessible in today’s world.  Our vision for ‘One Houghton’ would provide the hallmarks of a Houghton education—high quality academics, personal and spiritual maturity, a mentoring community—for students here on the Houghton campus, as well as through online access, expanded adult programs, and teaching sites in key urban areas of the state.”