Parkland offers little-known customizable degree

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

A customizable degree is offered at Parkland, a rare option for students who seek a more personalized path in their education.

Students are able to plan a customized degree that caters to their personal interests and career goals while attending Parkland College. Those planning to pursue a customized degree are encouraged to work closely with an advisor to ensure that their progress stays on track.

Students are able to plan a customized degree that caters to their personal interests and career goals while attending Parkland College. Those planning to pursue a customized degree are encouraged to work closely with an advisor to ensure that their progress stays on track.

Many students enter college not knowing what they want to do with their life. Other students may have an idea of what they want to do but are unsure of which degree would put them in the best position to move forward with their plans.

Students have to take many different things into consideration when choosing a degree, such as personal interests, what sort of skills they possess, what their career ambitions are, where they would like to live and so on. Most students who cannot find a program that suits their needs or cannot decide on a specific focus for their education will enroll in a General Education Degree program, which is a comprehensive program that enables students to begin taking care of some of required courses while they get familiarized with the experience of attending college and explore their career options.

Although less popular, another available program is the Customized Career Preparation Degree.

Historically speaking, there are only a handful of students who have taken advantage of this tailor-made degree but the program has been offered at Parkland for many years now. Perhaps the reason why not very many students have enrolled in this degree is simply because they are unaware of the fact that the program exists or it may be because they haven’t decided on a career path.

As former Dean of Career Programs at Parkland College Richard Lake explained, this degree is for ambitious students who know what it is they want out of college rather than students who are still trying to figure things out.

“I never expected large numbers of students with this major,” Lake said. “It takes a particularly mature and dedicated person to fulfill the planning and follow through required.”

Lake was employed at Parkland from 1997 to 2010 and, along with a few other people, he developed the program when he was the dean of career programs.

“The idea was, and is, to allow someone with a specific career goal, for which the college does not already have a training program, to be able to design an educational program leading to a credential,” Lake explained.

Lake emphasized the fact that students who pursue this degree work closely with an advisor and perhaps even a potential employer or practitioner willing to help students develop the skill set necessary for a specific career path. Therefore, everybody involved knows what is required for students enrolled in the program to become successful in whatever field it is that they are focusing on.

The Department Chair of Business and Agri-Industries, Bruce Henrikson, is currently working with a student enrolled in the program. He explained that the program is developed based on the wants and needs of each individual student who enrolls in it. The program begins with a course designed to help students figure out what classes they should be taking to prepare them for whatever career path they are pursuing.

“It’s a little different than just a general studies degree,” Henrikson said. “It’s certainly oriented more towards the idea that you are ready for a career. General studies is general studies. What does that really mean to me as a potential boss, employer, hiring person, etc.?”

Director of the Counseling and Advising Center, John Sheahan, explained that even though the CCP degree may not be appropriate for most students it does serve a niche market and enables Parkland to work with students looking for specific skills rather than turning them away.

“It was designed to be for someone who maybe had a unique interest and, therefore, to not say, ‘sorry, we can’t do anything for you,’ but to try and find a way to make a legitimate associate degree to help that person in what they wanted to do,” Sheahan said.

Students who are interested in the CCP degree can learn more by visiting the counseling and advising center in U276.