CHICAGO, March 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At a time when "non-traditional" students are a growing presence on college campuses, Thomas F. Gibbons, the dean of Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies, has been elected to lead a national higher education group on adult education.
The University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), a Washington-based organization that represents public and private colleges and is one of the nation's oldest higher education associations, has elected Gibbons to serve as president-elect in 2011-2012 and as president in 2012-2013.
"Today, the new 'traditional' student is not the 18 to 21-year-old," said Gibbons, "but instead adult learners who comprise the majority of students in higher education."
Adult students are the fastest-growing demographic in institutions of higher learning, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. Between 2006 and 2017, the number of students over 25 will increase nearly 20 percent, a growth rate almost double that among younger students, as projected by the National Center for Education Statistics.
UPCEA conducts research, works to enhance the skills of those who educate adult learners, and promotes the importance of continuing education. Gibbons has served on the UPCEA board of directors for the past three years and recently served as chair of the association's Presidential Knowledge Network Task Force.
Gibbons said the association will play a vital role in helping to answer the call from President Obama and industry experts to achieve rapid educational gains, an imperative to compete successfully in a global economy.
"At a time when the nation's economy demands a more educated and skilled workforce," Gibbons said, the association can underscore "the great value we as a society should place on adult learning."
During his tenure at Northwestern, Gibbons has made his school a national leader in adult education. In that time, the School of Continuing Studies has more than tripled in size through new and innovative programs. He has developed many award-winning distance education initiatives, and launched the university's first online professional master's degree. Gibbons, who has law degrees from Yale Law School and DePaul College of Law, has won three faculty awards at Northwestern for his teaching in negotiations and conflict resolution.
In today's knowledge-based economy, employment analysts say that continuing education is more important than ever. In the view of Gibbons, colleges must be prepared to enhance the talents of ambitious workers who are determined to keep pace and move ahead, even as they balance job and family obligations. He said schools must tailor programs to fit the real-world needs of employers.
Adult learners are "demanding greater access to quality education," he noted, "whether through distance learning opportunities, innovative curriculum design and pedagogy, or professional master's and doctoral degrees tied to specialized knowledge."
Gibbons lives in the Chicago suburb River Forest with his wife, Marti, and their children.
Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies
The mission of Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies (SCS) extends the resources of Northwestern University to undergraduate and graduate students whose lives include significant professional and personal commitments that place limitations on their schedules and affect the pace at which they may achieve their educational goals. Consistent with Northwestern's dedication to excellence, SCS makes distinguished teaching available to nontraditional students and, to the greatest extent possible, provides access to the University's other resources, such as libraries, laboratories, recreational facilities, and events.
SOURCE Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies