Indiana State University Newsroom

Program for non-traditional college students receives national recognition

September 18, 2015

Indiana State University is receiving national recognition for its efforts to help non-traditional students complete a four-year college degree.

The American Association for Adult and Continuing Education has selected Indiana State's Adult and Career Education program to receive its Malcolm Knowles Award for outstanding adult education program of the year.

Launched in 2010, the program targets people who have earned approximately 60 hours of college credit or more. It awards a Bachelor of Science degree to those who complete the accelerated program that focuses on online courses and provides credit for college-level learning gained outside the classroom. In the last four years, 61 students have graduated and university officials expect as many as 30 additional graduates this year.

"It is exciting to have our ACE program recognized as the program of the year on a national level," said university President Dan Bradley. "This program helps adults complete a bachelor's degree in a flexible and individualized manner so that they can seek more meaningful careers. It also helps address the state's goal of having more adults complete four-year degrees."

Ken Brauchle, dean of extended learning, said, "Indiana State is deeply committed to advancing the educational attainment of adults in Indiana. The university has committed significant educational resources to designing high quality degrees for returning adults such as the ACE program. A high quality curriculum coupled with wrap-around advising and student support services have made this program a success."

The Adult and Career Education program is designed to help Indiana residents advance in their current professions, change careers or prepare for an advanced degree. Students have the flexibility to design an individualized course of study. It is part of Indiana State's efforts to help Indiana and the nation increase the number of people with bachelor's degrees. Though housed in the College of Technology, the program is open to people with varied academic backgrounds.

"When first developing the ACE program, I researched what adults are looking for in a degree completion program," said Steve McCaskey, the program's coordinator. "As a result of that research, we have incorporated four components into the program; skills employers are looking for in new hires, an online program, accelerated eight-week courses, and the possibility to earn college credit through verifiable competencies achieved from prior life/work experience."

Martha Reed, an administrative assistant in Indiana State's Career Center, is a student in the program who is scheduled to graduate this year.

"A funny thing happened on the way to my education; life had other paths for me to take first," Reed said. "Upon returning to school, I was only taking one class at a time, and it seemed like it would take a lifetime to complete. The accelerated classes offered through the Adult and Career Education program has made the dream of finishing my degree a reality. The online class design makes it manageable to work full-time and still enjoy a healthy work-life balance."

Reed said each class builds upon another to prepare students for today's ever-changing workplace and she has found the faculty and staff in the program encouraging and always available when help is needed.

"No matter where you are in your career, the ACE program mixed with some hard work and determination can make a degree attainable," she said. "I never want to think again that dreams are not for people like me, and I'd like to set an example for others who are considering returning or starting school. Your degree can be achieved."

McCaskey credits campus-wide support for the success of the program.

President Bradley pledged more than $40,000 for marketing and promotions and created a scholarship for students in the third year of the program that could finish the degree with two semesters. Brauchle provided support through the creation of a new staff position to recruit students into the ACE program. Additionally, the staff in Extended Learning provides academic advising, the evaluation of transfer work, and answers admissions questions for the ACE program, McCaskey noted.

Initiated in 2004, the Malcolm Knowles Award honors Knowles' contribution to the theory and practice of adult education. Knowles built a comprehensive education program for adults at the central YMCA in Chicago, where he worked from 1946 to 1951, and later served as founding executive secretary of the Adult Education Association of the United States. In the 1960s, he launched a new line of research based on the notion that older adult students learn differently from children or 18-to-20-year-old college students.

The award recognizes programs that stress a relaxed, trusting, mutually respectful and collaborative learning climate; involves the student in planning their educational pathway to include experiential learning, inquiry projects and independent study; and involve evaluation by student-collected evidence validated by peers and experts in their field.

Indiana State officials say McCaskey was a natural to head up the Adult Career Education program. He returned to campus following a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy and his bachelor's degree was a 25-year journey from the day of his first college class to graduation.

The most commonly asked question he receives from adults taking a college class after a long layoff is, "What advice do you have for me to be successful in this course/program?"

McCaskey's typical response is, "Communication - Keep in touch with me. I've been through what you are going through and we can work out a solution."

Photo: - Stephen McCaskey, coordinator of the Adult and Career Education program at Indiana State, discusses the program with Martha Reed, a staff member at Indiana State's Career Center and a student in the program. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Contact: Stephen McCaskey, assistant professor in the department of human resource development and performance technologies and coordinator, Adult Career Education program, College of Technology, Indiana State University,

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or