“Texas State is home to bold, creative minds, using new technology and hands-on experiences to prepare a new generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders,” says the University’s website. At least one administrator / instructor serving the organization has taken that statement to heart.
Combining creativity, technology and hands-on experience is Nicole Wesley, the Coordinator of Continuing Education in the Office of Distance Learning at Texas State University. Just six months into the job, she is already developing new programs and new relationships that hint at what the future of higher education may look like.
A Certified Laban Movement Analyst and a professor with TXST’s Division of Dance, the move into continuing and distance education came as a surprise to many of Nicole’s colleagues.
“I wanted to move into a more service-oriented role,” Nicole explained. “I’d been part of the dance faculty for many years, most recently as associate chair of theatre and dance, but I had also been on several committees and spent a lot of time in service to the university. It did surprise my colleagues because I was just one year away from going up for full professor, but I knew I needed a change and I know that nature of education, how we deliver it and how students access it, needs to change.”
Nicole started her transformation into the role of change-maker by adding to her own education.
“I took an online program in HR Management through Cornell and it was just fantastic,” she remembered. “It was so well constructed and I learned so much about leadership and management that I could immediately apply to my current work. This new position opened up at the Office of Distance and Extended Learning while I was still in the program and the learning curve has been steep in terms of learning software and about new modes of learning, but I am excited to be doing so much that I love to do in terms of building relationships and opportunities for students, for the university and for the industries that need skilled people.”
One program Nicole has fostered in collaboration with Saleen Automotive and Dr. Jitendra Tate, a professor with the Ingram School of Engineering, is a continuing education course in Composites. Students complete the learning modules in combination with work-study periods at Saleen and will hopefully receive a salary throughout the length of the program. The goal is for program participants to be hired by the automotive company.
“The beauty of the program is that the skills are transferrable to other industries,” Nicole said. “When students acquire knowledge about automotive composites, they can apply that knowledge to aerospace composites and construction composites as they move forward.”
Nicole has also helped re-launch the Texas State Intensive English (TSIE) program that had fallen dormant during the pandemic.
“As Texas State moves toward becoming a tier-one research institution, the TSIE program will give departments another conduit to attract international graduate students,” Nicole explained. “We are re-designing the program to meet their needs and support those international undergrad and graduate students when they arrive.
A hybrid program combining face-to-face and online components, TXST has been working with Sheila Fry of The Babb Group to develop the e-learning supplements, materials, testing and course management tools to support TSIE students.
“The great thing about Sheila is that she’s extremely creative and she’s very quick,” Nicole said. “She knows exactly what she’s doing because she is so experienced. Working with The Babb Group has really helped us prepare this program and meet all of our deadlines to get it up and running.”
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