A look back, a look forward: SNL transitions to School of Continuing and Professional Studies

SNL celebration 2019
On May 31, DePaul hosted a gala celebrating the School for New Learning and its transition to the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. (Diane M. Smutny/DMS Photography)
The School for New Learning was founded nearly half a century ago. As the newly branded School of Continuing and Professional Studies, it continues to offer adult learners innovative programs that meet their needs. 

When SNL opened its doors in 1972, the nation was in the midst of what came to be known as the nontraditional student movement. 

“This meant the student came before the institution. That sounds basic now, but up to that time, the questions were always ‘what did the institution think’ not ‘what did the student think,’” recalls SNL founding Dean Howard Sulkin in a 1998 documentary DePaul produced in honor of the school’s 25th anniversary. 

With professionally oriented degree programs, recognition of life experiences, emphasis on applied liberal studies and commitment to community, SNL offers working adults a pathway to higher education in a way that meets their needs. 

“SNL was built upon educational principles that value students’ prior learning from experience, their workplace-based knowledge and skills, and their perspectives as older students that traditional students wouldn’t learn about in textbooks. This is what makes adult learning such a fascinating and exciting project,” says Interim Dean Don Opitz. 
Don Opitz
Interim Dean Don Opitz shared remarks during the spring gala. (Diane M. Smutny/DMS Photography)

For Associate Professor Susan McGury, producer of the anniversary documentary, SNL is like no other place for adult learners. From its inception, SNL has placed students from the working world in command of their learning pathways.
 
“This method of education puts the student in the driver’s seat while surrounding them with lots of supports and resources. Add to this the lifelong-learning element, which is about building skills, and the result is the confidence to know that you can teach yourself anything,” she says. 

Having graduated its 10,000th student this past summer, SNL continues its commitment to serving a unique learning population, even as it pivots to respond to changes in its market. 

According to recent studies, SNL students are older, average age 36, work more hours than other DePaul students, 68 percent work 30 or more hours per week, and attend part time, 87 percent. They also express greater satisfaction with their advising and academic experiences. Also, the proportion of SNL’s African-American students is significantly higher than the same demographic for adult learners across DePaul. 

SNL continues to reinforce its commitment to the larger community.

“Students who come to our programs are already very much engaged with their communities. This is something that DePaul values and SNL especially emphasizes,” Opitz says. 

This summer, SNL will officially become the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. 

Building upon its strengths in online and flexible degree program options, the school will become even more competitive in an already competitive marketplace by offering more specialized degrees. This includes new undergraduate degree programs in business administration, computing and health care administration in partnership with the College of Science and Health. 

“These developments will enable us to reach a wider net of students and be more successful. I’m excited about us being more innovative as we explore new degree programs and engage in the business of certificates and stackable credentials,” Opitz says. 

Looking ahead to a future under the SCPS banner means both change and consistency. 

“One thing is sure: The school is proudly advancing its unique mission of engaging adults in learning that connects their academic studies with endeavors at work and in the community,” Opitz says.

View a photo gallery of SNL's celebratory gala in Newsline​.
​​​​