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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 6, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 14
A Growing World of Adult Ed

Sarah Steinberg, associate dean of KSAS's Advanced Academic Programs.

Sarah Steinberg looks at past and future KSAS programs

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In 1876, the year the Johns Hopkins University accepted its first class of students, it also opened up its doors to nonmatriculated adults to take part in a series of public lecture courses. In essence, the concept of a Johns Hopkins education for part-time learners was born.

Today, adult education flourishes at the university as thousands annually enroll in its various degree- and certificate-granting programs. Last year the number of master's degrees conferred on part-time students exceeded the number of those conferred on full-time students.

A significant portion of these part-time students participate in the School of Arts and Sciences' Advanced Academic Programs. Founded in 1992, the division initially offered degree programs in biotechnology and writing; in its first year, it enrolled almost 250 students. Today, the AAP offers 10 master's degree programs and two certificate offerings, and enrollments exceed 5,200 annually.

To guide the growth of this emergent division, Krieger School Dean Daniel Weiss announced in October the appointment of Sarah Steinberg to the new post of associate dean of Advanced Academic Programs, a position she officially assumed on Dec. 1.

As associate dean, Steinberg will be responsible for strategic planning concerning all aspects of this growing 12-year-old graduate program for part-time students. The AAP serves the regional community in disciplines such as applied economics, bioinformatics, government, writing and liberal arts and, more recently, drug discovery technologies and homeland security. Its classes are offered at the Montgomery County Campus, the Bernstein-Offit Building in Washington — soon to be the administrative headquarters for the AAP — and the Homewood campus.

Steinberg worked for more than a decade at the Whiting School of Engineering, where she had served since 2001 as executive director of Engineering and Applied Science Programs for Professionals. Before coming to Johns Hopkins in 1993, she was a marketing manager and senior engineer at Froehling and Robertson, an engineering firm in Sterling, Va. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Cornell University and a master's degree in finance and marketing from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. Her thesis will analyze the impact of part-time education at Johns Hopkins.

The Gazette sat down with Steinberg last week to talk about the past, present and future of the Advanced Academic Programs, which traces its roots to the 1947 founding of what was then known as McCoy College.

Q: The AAP now offers 10 different programs. What is driving this demand?

A: A lot of different reasons. When part-time students are surveyed, they generally talk about the need for change in a career or advancement in their current career; those are right there at the top. Occasionally, and this especially happens in programs like liberal arts and writing, there are also personal enrichment goals.
    The reason people go part time as compared to full time is simply convenience and financial reasons. When we ask why they come to Johns Hopkins, it's the reputation and the fact the programs are convenient and accessible.

Q: Has something changed culturally or otherwise that makes part-time education more attractive and embraced?

A: Adult education has its roots back to the Colonial days. There has always been this desire to take advanced education at the adult level. Today, across the country there are almost 70 million people who consider themselves part-time students. These are people over 17 going back for a GED or, the majority of whom, are on track for a master's degree.
    When Johns Hopkins got into the business in 1876, we immediately began offering public lectures. Hopkins had set up a format where 20 or so courses each year were open to everybody, both men and women, although Johns Hopkins was male-only at the time.
    If you look at the national trends, the interest in, or enrollment in, these adult education courses has risen steadily all the way through the 1900s. The real expansion started occurring in 1960. From that point on, considerable growth in enrollment has occurred across the country, and you can see the parallel growth at Hopkins.

Q: What about the recent growth? Is it responding to need?

A: Yes. It's driven by job growth and job changes. It also means it's driven by what the economy is into and what companies need.

Q: The AAP has recently added programs for a master of science in bioscience regulatory affairs and a certificate in homeland security. Will we continue to see rapid growth in offerings at the AAP?

A: All of the programs are focused on the quality of education that they are delivering. People are expecting a level of service, easy access to billing or registration, nice facilities. So growth has to be controlled in that you want to be able to continue the quality of the academic experience and not let that get out of hand. I think that the real opportunity for growth in Arts and Sciences is not necessarily in adding additional programs right away; it's in developing collaborations and partnerships to find new opportunities for the programs we are already offering.
    I plan to reach out to organizations that have employees that might be interested in our programs so we can expand our reach even further. I will also look for additional collaborations with other Hopkins divisions. For instance, we have a master's degree program in bioinformatics that is a joint degree between Arts and Sciences and Engineering, and we have the M.S./M.B.A. in biotechnology that is a joint degree between Arts and Sciences and SPSBE. We are looking for ways of expanding those programs into larger markets.

Q: Does having the Hopkins name attached bring with it a certain level of expectation?

A: Yes. People expect the Hopkins product. They make some assumptions about the quality of the program based on the name. It's our responsibility to make sure that is exactly what is delivered, that there is no difference between these offerings and those that are in full-time programs. A master's from the AAP is absolutely not a second degree, or a part-time degree. It's the same quality of education, just for a different purpose. And it's OK to have a different purpose. It's about somebody who wants to apply their degree immediately in their job. For example, someone who is taking our bioinformatics degree wants to right away be out there practicing in the field, and they want to be able to get a job at a place like the Institute for Genomic Research. Someone in a full-time master's degree program, on the other hand, is probably headed toward an academic- or research-oriented career, not necessarily applying tomorrow what they [just] learned in the classroom. So there are differences, but that does not mean one is lesser quality than the other.

Q: Are there any concerns about rising tuition costs?

A: We are sensitive to tuition levels, and in setting them, we look both externally and internally. We are concerned about covering our costs and having enough funds to have a quality program. We are not going to cut corners on that account. Externally, we are always looking at the marketplace to see what the competition is offering so we stay competitive.

Q: Do you see the faculty makeup changing much?

A: That is an issue that I will be working on with the program chairs. I don't have a strong view on the topic at the moment. It's always advantageous to have full-time faculty teaching in the program, and there are. More of them would be wonderful. On the other hand, it's also wonderful to have practitioners in the classroom who bring the value that they are out there in the work force focused on any number of practical problems. I think a mix is a good thing.

Q: Is physical space an issue?

A: We are relocating by early spring 2005 all the admissions and registration staff, and those in finance, marketing and IT, down to 1717 Mass Ave. [the Bernstein-Offit Building] in Washington. There is not an abundance of space in Washington either, but we can do some reconfiguring and put them all in a nice facility. Consolidating all the administrative personnel there puts us close to the center of gravity for our students so they can benefit from better responsiveness and more accessibility. But, yes, to answer your question, we are always in need of space.
    One of my goals is to make sure that the facilities are the same at all of our locations. When a faculty member walks in, they can expect the same thing — a faculty lounge, a resource center, a mailbox, administrative services, etc. The same with students; we want the same level of service at all our campuses.

Q: Are there any plans for expanding marketing efforts?

A: We have a pretty substantial marketing program already. But, yes, we will continue to look for new marketing avenues; there is no question.

Q: How much has Johns Hopkins embraced professional education for part-time students?

A: Every single school is working with part-time students, one way or another. Johns Hopkins has a huge commitment to educational programs to part-time learners, and we passed the "threshold" in academic year 1992/1993, the year the Advanced Academic Programs [then called the Part-Time Graduate Programs] was founded: From that point until today, the number of master's degrees conferred on part-time students has exceeded the number of master's degrees conferred on full-time students. The numbers are quite significant.

Q: We have dropped the "part-time" moniker from the name of the Arts and Sciences program. Why?

A: It does increasingly have a negative connotation. We did a survey of the names across the country, and "professional programs" has become the more common term. The other term is "continuing education," but that has also sort of dropped out of favor.

Q: Why is AAP good for Johns Hopkins?

A: One of the questions we must continue to ask is, Why does the university have a commitment to part-time education? There really are two reasons for the commitment. One is that there is a public service obligation that the university feels, and has felt, since the beginning, and it hasn't changed — to reach out as a way of disseminating the research that we have so successfully accomplished and are accomplishing at the university. Education is one way to disseminate those research results. In the beginning, there were public lectures; today, it's degrees and certificates. The MLA program here, for example, has a long history, and there are people who would rise in protest if we suddenly said we are not going to have that program anymore. It's a public service.
    The second reason is financial. I don't think we should shy away from that. There are financial reasons why we have other programs elsewhere in the university as well. Part-time programs generate revenue that is used to help develop and underscore the research elements of the university. It is an important aspect of the life cycle to the university. If you just focus on the financial reasons, you get a distorted view, but it's one reason we have part-time programs. It completely furthers the mission of the university. It goes back to the beginning. It's a core institutional value.

Q: Would you agree there might be some risk involved in expanding too much and diluting the Johns Hopkins name?

A: Right. Which is why the answer to expanding is not simply to get more students, offer more degrees so we can make more money. Is it the appropriate program? Can we do it in a quality way? Does it further the mission of the university? If all of those things are satisfied, then sure, we should expand.

Q: What are the main challenges you face?

A: Growth. We can't add programs just because George Washington University or someone else has added a program and we aim to go head-to-head with them. Again, it goes back to the question, Does it make sense for Johns Hopkins to do it?
    I have a real simple vision for AAP, and that is that I want it to be the highest-quality, most sought-after part-time graduate program in Arts and Sciences in the country. I didn't say I want it to be the biggest; I want it to be the highest quality, because people associate the name Johns Hopkins with the highest quality. We are not going to have a program that drags down that quality.
    I want it to be the most sought after because I want it to set the best practices in the country for student and faculty services so people say you have a good experience if you come to AAP. You not only come to learn what you've enrolled for, but you are going to recommend it to someone else because it was a good experience for you as well. Although we have sizable marketing budgets, 70 percent of the students come because a friend recommended the program to them.

For more about Advanced Academic Programs, go to


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