Shannon Schwaebler felt “lost” in college, and now as the new Director of Continuing Education, she wants to accommodate adult students in achieving their dreams at Tulsa Community College (TCC).
On July 25, Schwaebler became the new director of Continuing Education. In a small hallway past the Starbucks Cafe on the Northeast Campus, the Continuing Education office could be easily missed by a prospective TCC student looking for information in the Academic Advising and Financial Aid offices.
Schwaebler remarked that students do not often come to the office in person. The office most often helps students to explore their hobbies or career development education online or over the phone. Nevertheless, the office provides access to innovative programs, such as the Cyber Skills Center and expansive online learning opportunities.
According to her, “Continuing Education supports the lifelong learner outlook at TCC. Our department’s mission is to serve as an education resource providing an innovative impact on social, economic, and workforce development. Our programs offer knowledgeable, experienced, and student-centered instructors for a wide variety of areas. These include personal and professional development opportunities.”
Her story of working in higher education and becoming the director of Continuing Education was as “lost” as some TCC students. “I didn’t intentionally plan to enter the field [of higher education]. My undergraduate degree is in chemistry, and I had intentions of going to medical school. I didn’t truly understand what that meant and when the time came to take the steps to apply for medical school, I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do.” She continued, “College was expensive, and I was sort of ‘lost.’”
This mindset directly influenced how Schwaebler took on the role as the new director. “Many of the individuals we serve in Continuing Education are immersed in their lives. They might have family they’re taking care of, working a full-time job, wanting to move up in their organization, and/or are looking to change career paths entirely. Many of these factors could make traditional learning cumbersome and overwhelming. The thought of going back to school as an adult is intimidating, even to myself.”
Within the Continuing Education office, she would like to develop Coursera programs, which is an online learning resource, to build confidence for adult learners, to provide immediate skill building within a small increment of time, to offer flexibility for learner’s schedules through online programs, and to be affordable to all learners.
She changed her major multiple times but eventually graduated with a degree in chemistry. However, she said, “I was heavily involved on my campus, and I didn’t have a plan but knew I needed to figure something out.” She went to graduate school for Higher Education Administration on the recommendation of a supervisor.
Schwaebler’s engagement in conversations with students in her role in campus programming brought her to Northeastern State University as its director of Career Services. She said, “The work I did in Career Services was directly connected to workforce development…Unfortunately, the majority of critical occupations within the state require more than simply a high school degree…the experience I had at NSU will allow me…to help move the needle on upskilling, reskilling, and developing the Tulsa regional workforce.”
More information about the Continuing Education office’s programs can be found on the TCC website.