Students at the McPherson center relax in the lounge area before class starts. The center offers classes from microbiology to algebra, enabling students to complete an entire degree. Jeff Leddy
McPherson has a practical nursing program while Newton is a more extensive career and technical education center as well as having an EMS program. Each center includes a bookstore that provides study aids and school supplies. Financial aid travels to the sites at least once a month and counseling is offered to ensure students are on the right academic path. Interactive television rooms allow additional classes to link up one teacher to multiple locations. This also provides more accessibility to high school students HCC has been reaching out to the community and areas outside of Hutchinson for two decades. “Twenty years ago we started the full service outreach centers, but we had a presence well beyond that,” Torgerson said. “We have had a presence here for years and years. Dr. Berger, in fact, was the one who used to go around to all the areas high schools and start classes at McPherson high school and Newton high school. Before we had centers we were still going out to high schools at night and offering classes we just didn’t have full service centers at that time.” While the mission of the outreach program has always been the same, the demographic of students has changed over the last twenty years. “Twenty years ago, if you looked at the outreach population, we were probably between 70 to 75 percent non-traditional, and that number has steadily gone down. Our average age at that time was in the mid 30’s, and now that has really kind of gone down and
our population is a little bit younger now,” Torgerson said, “I think that students and parents are looking at HCC in their community as an option opposed to ‘I need to pack up and go to a four-year school’ or that sort of thing. They are looking and saying ‘wow I’ve got these many classes, and step ahead credits so I think I will go to the center in McPherson or in Newton and maybe get my first year out of the way and then go off.’ So that’s really kind of leveled out our population so we are not as much non-traditional, we are a little more split.” Along with the quality and accessibility of the education, financially, the outreach centers appeal to ma y students. “It gives people that option, they can stay at home, they can save money, they can get a quality education, and they don’t have to pack everything up and move, at least for the first couple of years,” Torgerson said. A student can remain in their hometown, stay in their community, and access programs from HCC that sometimes aren’t even offered at main campus. For example, the only Practical Nursing Program through HCC is housed in McPherson as well as Fort Riley. Smaller class sizes are a uniqueness of the centers that benefit students. “Generally speaking our instructor-student ratio is a little bit smaller, I think that does provide some uniqueness to the learning environment,” Torgerson said. Instructors at the outreach centers are primarily part-time employees. “The faculty are out in the discipline working, so it may be a physician that is out there practicing, it might be a vet that’s practicing, and then they come in here during the day or in the evening and teach a class for us on Anatomy and Physiology or General Biology,” Torgerson said. “So it’s kind of the best of both worlds for our students because they get someone who is academically qualified, because we do have to meet the same standards that they meet for full time, they are academically qualified but they are also still out in the work world and bringing that related work experience into the class room.” Just like main campus, the outreach centers are student oriented. Constant evaluation of schedules and listening to the students’ needs are ways the sites strive to provide a better experience. “A good example of that is when we first started offering classes off campus before we had centers, it was more of those types of classes that you don’t need a lot of equipment, like general psychology, speech, or English Composition. We actually now, at both locations, have full functioning science labs,” Torgerson said.
HCC Outreach Centers • Business & Industry • Newton Institute • McPherson • Ft. Riley
DRAGON'S TALE • FALL 2016
008-011 OutreachCenter.-FA.indd 10
10/28/16 11:14 AM