“Where do you see yourself in five years?” That question, the one that terrorizes some students and pushes others into frenzies of goal setting and list making, is a smart one in any organization. What does the future hold? How do you hope to accomplish it?
Park University, perched upon the hill overlooking Parkville, MO, has the savvy to know that a five year plan is the best way to prophecy your own success. With the introduction of it’s new focus, “Park’s Promise: Serving those that Serve”, they are tapping into past successes and parlaying them into future goals.
Park University is no stranger to focus and planning. The school, which was started in 1875, has had a long-standing commitment to engaging with the community, and especially with the U.S. military.
With a main campus located on 700 acres, the school, which gained university status in 2000, has been working on Park’s Promise for the last year, enlisting the help of not only faculty and staff members, but also members of the student body. The result is a fivepronged plan that hopes to accentuate the strengths of the school and build towards a stronger institution in the future.
According to President Michael Droge, PhD., “The focus is that Park really will be serving those that serve their community and their country. We intend to do that with lifelong partnerships with individuals.”
While the fundamentals, are just that, fundamental, the execution of this plan is hitting at the heart of a nationwide problem: the accessibility and affordability of higher education. Droge says that this is problem is one that they are directly addressing by their alternative education focus.
“Park has a rich history of delivering programs that people need, in different locations, term lengths, delivery formats, whatever the student needs. That’s why Park over the decades has done such a good job with working adults,” says Droge.
This focus on non-traditional students doesn’t mean that Park is abandoning the traditional student either. In fact, their focus on flexibility means that no matter what the age of the student, a traditional college experience can be gained through in class instruction with a small student to teacher ratio, online classes or study abroad components. This flexibility is the key to the first fundamental.
Ensuring student success means, for Droge, developing more than just a four-year relationship with students. “We are confident that we can make good on this lifelong partnership so that we can serve people. We want them to come when they graduate and they have changes in their career, or have changes in their educational needs, through to retirement age. That’s a new twist. We want them to come to Park for life,” Droge says. So how are they doing that? Droge says that as the world shrinks, Park’s curriculum is becoming more globally oriented. The University has a longstanding tradition of welcoming international students, with the first student from Japan joining them in 1880. Currently the school welcomes more than 700 students from over 96 countries. Now, Droge says, they are turning their focus on American students’ global experience.
“It’s about quality education and we quickly realized in all of our planning that a quality education in the 21st century means a global education. We are going to set best practice models here at Park for something we are calling comprehensive internationalization,” says Droge.
Park’s Promise is broken down into five fundamental strategic priorities.
1. Ensuring Student Success
2. Strengthening the Park
3. Ensuring Customer Service and
4. Optimizing Leading Technology
5. Strengthening Fiscal Position
This means that beyond the traditional study abroad experience, there will be global content and global perspective built throughout degree programs. In addition, they are leveraging the experience of the international students as they interact and inform American students in shared classes.
The school boasts a great deal of international flavor. The International Center for
Music, headed by Stanislav Ioudenitch, welcomes more than 20 international students alone, in addition to student chapters of People to People International and the World Student Union. Cultural exchange is inevitable and enriching.
While Park University is well known abroad strengthening the Park brand means reaching out to the potential student population here in Kansas City, as well as near its nearly 40 out of town campuses.
“We feel like we are still a little bit of a secret in our own hometown,” says Droge. The campus in Parkville hosts more than 1000 students in a surprisingly affordable program. Although many may assume that a private education will land you in Sallie Mae’s pocket, at $17,000 per school year, Park’s tuition plus room and board just barely juts past UMKC’s instate tuition. “You can have a great education, but if you can’t afford to get through the door, it doesn’t do much good. We are committed to making education accessible,” says Droge.
This affordability makes it attractive to the traditional student, and indispensible to the military student. As their commitment to serving the servants grows, their focus on effectively educating not only active duty, but also seriously injured veterans, sharpens.
Their flexible on campus and online classes have always been well suited for military students, but now they have formatted an entire program suited to those that have been wounded and are integrating back into society. The introduction of an educational “buddy system” meets veterans where they are and takes their education step by step.
These expansions on the existing award winning programs encompass much of what the five year plan hopes to accomplish. Offering high demand courses of study ensures that students are graduating into a job market that is thirsting for them. Encouraging and requiring real world internships also ensures that students will be networking with potential employers before the ink is dry on their diplomas. Droge says that graduating with a job waiting is a great goal, but it isn’t the only one for Park staff.
“If we can deliver what we are promising on this lifelong partnership, then when they graduate, they’ll stay in touch about continuing education, certificates, etc. and they have help at Park,” says Droge. This promise of success to students is an ongoing one, and one that is demonstrated by the commitment of the faculty and staff of Park University. With a well thought out action plan and a focus on the long term, they are investing in their students every day.
“We don’t think of student success as having a job right when they graduate, we think of it as being
employed and having a fuller, richer life for their whole life,” says Droge.
Droge is clearly practicing what he preaches. “I like to tell people that when I retire, I’m going back
to school!” he says. Park University will be happy to have him. NL