Postal worker, family going back to school

September 4, 2003, vol. 28, no. 1
By Diane Luckow

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 Mike Farrer (left), a manager at Canada Post, is also studying for a degree at SFU in a unique program that recognizes work experience.
-- Mike Farrer is checking on his school supplies in tandem with his kids as they all get ready to return to school this fall. Farrer, an operations manager with Canada Post, will begin the second year of a three-year liberal and business studies program at SFU's Harbour Centre campus. The only program of its kind in Canada, its flexible admissions policy recognizes and informally credits participants' work experience, enabling participants to earn a bachelor of general studies degree over three years of part-time study while they continue to work. “The program is designed to provide access to individuals who ordinarily wouldn't be able to attend university due to admission or registration restrictions,” says program director Ruth Price. Participants must have a minimum eight to 10 years of work experience and some post-secondary experience, which can include college or university credit courses, corporate courses or informal certificate programs. Price says the program often appeals to those who have found they can't be promoted without a university degree or who have simply always regretted not acquiring a degree. Says Farrer, 46, “I was at SFU years ago and never finished my degree because of work and family. I'm at a point in my life where I have time and my employer is willing to support me, so I'm going to finish it.” Inaugurated in September 1995 for company-sponsored employees only, the program began enrolling non-sponsored participants in 1998. This fall, the program will also be offered in Kitimat and, if there is enough interest, classes will commence as well at the Thomas Haney centre in Maple Ridge in January 2004. The new Kitimat program is a step in a new direction says Price. Professors will fly into Kitimat for some of the lessons while others will be offered online. “We're hoping that with the development of this new mixed-mode program we'll be able to take it elsewhere in the province and even Canada,” she says. Price would like to see other universities offer a similar program. With more than 150 graduates, she says, the program has proven itself. “I think our society can benefit from people coming back to school and learning,” she says. “Why not make university more accessible to adults?” Farrer agrees. “I enjoy school and I also enjoy my classmates,” he says. “I'm looking forward to more.”

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