Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

University College introduces degree-completion program

At 29, Brad Dickerhofe has already opened and closed his own small business. But he has yet to finish his undergraduate degree. 

“Finishing college has always been a personal goal of mine,” Dickerhofe says. “I don’t want the lack of a degree to stand in my way.” 

Dickerhofe is among the 24 percent of those over 25 nationwide who started college but have no diploma. He is also among the more than 70 new students enrolled in a University of Denver program designed to help them finish their degrees. 

After more than two years of intensive planning and preparation, DU’s University College launched its Bachelor of Arts Completion Program this fall. 

University College Dean James Davis says the program is designed to offer a degree similar in quality and outcome to traditional DU programs while addressing the different needs and schedules of working professionals. 

“It’s been like opening a small college,” Davis said.

The new degree was developed — down to course titles and descriptions — with the help of 26 DU faculty members. 

The program offers five majors: communication arts; leadership and organization studies; public policy and social services; science and technology; and global studies. Students’ previously completed courses transfer as electives. 

Students are required to complete 40 hours in “common learning courses” — which include topics in communication, leadership, ethics, science and international issues — and 40 hours in their major. 

Dickerhofe enrolled in the leadership and organization studies major. Now that his once-successful business has gone under, he hopes to gain skills that would help him launch a new business or succeed in a corporate environment. 

He said he chose DU’s program because of the real world content of its courses and the credibility of a DU degree. 

At 61, Linda Pendleton is at the other end of her successful career. But like Dickerhofe, she enrolled in the completion program for personal and professional reasons. 

Pendleton has been a professional pilot for 32 years, and for the last four years she’s worked in Jeppeson’s navigation and jet training program at Jefferson County Airport. 

Pendleton attended four-year and community colleges on and off during her career but has yet to finish her degree. She says she hasn’t had time to attend a four-year program and hasn’t had the patience to sit through “less-than challenging” community college classes. 

Instead, she plans to finish her degree online with DU — during the wee hours of the morning, studying in her pajamas with her cat on her lap. About 60 percent of the program’s offerings are designed as online courses. 

“Not only will I get a piece of paper on the wall,” Pendleton says, “but it looks like I will learn something that will help my career.”

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