Columbus State Reaching out to Thousands via Classes, Camps

COLUMBUS, Ga. Continuing Education at Columbus State University enjoyed a healthy surge in participation during 2011-2012, with enrollment in its 800-plus courses and programs up 9 percent.

Ballroom dancing

In all, 7,397 people registered in 816 Continuing Education classes during the year ending June 30. The non-credit classes focusing on personal and professional development run the gamut, from children’s summer camps to certification programs in career areas such as Medical Coding and Billing, Paralegal Studies and Project Management.

Enrollment in professional certificate programs rose nearly 10 percent in the past year.

“Many people are either unemployed or under-employed and need to update their skills without investing an enormous amount of time.” said Susan Wirt, CSU’s executive director of Continuing Education since 2003.  “Professional certificate programs are an affordable and efficient way to gain credentials to be ready for the job market or get a better job.”

Certificate programs that meet certain criteria are particularly attractive to military families, thanks to a Department of Defense program to fund participation in “portable” certificate programs by spouses of active-duty military personnel. Certificates require multiple courses in a given topic area, followed, in some cases, by testing to ensure proficiency.

A self-supporting division of Columbus State, Continuing Education has a full-time staff of nine, supplemented by more than 50 part-time instructors. “We spend a significant amount of time determining the needs of the community and developing programs to meet those needs,” Wirt said.

Classes are held seven days a week, mostly at two locations. The Rankin Arts Center, on CSU’s RiverPark Campus in Uptown Columbus, houses the Rankin Arts Photography Center, which is home to a new Digital Photography Certificate program that’s helped Continuing Education enjoy 164 percent growth in digital photography classes since their introduction in 2009. The Rankin is also home to the CSU Dance Conservatory, which is a partnership between Columbus Ballet and Continuing Education.

Other classes are held at the Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center for Continuing Education on the southwest corner of main campus

sewingSummer is a particularly busy time for Continuing Education, mostly thanks to the Activ8 camp program that serves kids from age 4 through their teen years. Summer camp enrollment has risen 43 percent from Activ8’s birth in 2008 to 2011, and Continuing Education is on track to set a new record in 2012.

“We love the energy that the camps bring to the Turner center this time of year,” said Wirt, whose office is there.  “The children get a sense they are attending `college,’ and we want them to all be future college students.”

In 2009, Activ8 won the Georgia Adult Education Association’s annual award for Outstanding, Innovative Program. Most CSU summer camps fall under the Activ8 umbrella that covers everything from artistic crafts to a more serious introduction to computer programming. All CSU summer camps, including those offered by Athletics, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Oxbows Meadow Environmental Learning Center and the Math Collaborative, are detailed in the Activ8 catalog published each February, plus at

In 2011, CSU Continuing Education established the Empowered Youth of Columbus program, an arts-based, after-school program for at-risk youth. Initially funded by CSU and Columbus’ Crime Prevention Board, EYC will expand dramatically over the next five years, thanks to a $2.25 million Georgia Department of Education grant announced in mid-July. The grant will allow Continuing Education to hire more “teaching artists” to use the arts to help children with core subjects such as math and science.

“We are so proud to have received this grant and know that it will change the lives of at-risk children throughout Columbus,” Wirt said.

Another growing outreach program offered by Continuing Education is its English Language Institute, which was established in 2002 to help prospective CSU students whose native language was not English, as well as local residents. Today, ELI’s services extend beyond the university, by offering English as a Second Language classes at Fort Benning and also by hosting large groups of international students who visit Columbus and learn English via “immersion experiences.”

Learn about CSU’s Continuing Education classes, certificates, camps and more at

# # #

Media: Select photos to access high-resolution originals. Photos by Kristin Barker.