Adult and Higher Education

Prospective students often ask us what kind of careers our graduates have or what type of work uses adult learning theory and practice. The careers are diverse, just as our students are and include work in the community, higher education administration, and the not-for-profit sector. Below are real stories of our adult education master’s degree alumni, the type of work they do and what led them to the master’s program.

Higher Education

Within the field of higher education, graduates hold positions as directors, deans, academic advisors, student life directors, career counselors, and other leadership positions in academic affairs and student affairs. In the non-profit sector, graduates serve as executive directors, assistant directors, program directors, project managers, and educational specialists.

Program Manager
Military/Veteran Resource Center, Anne Arundel Community College

Kat admitted to being “very nervous about enrolling in a graduate program since a number of years had gone by since she completed her Bachelor’s degree”. She said that all changed when she enrolled in her very first course. That’s when she knew the program was a “perfect fit for her”. “I felt very welcomed by the program’s professors, and my classmates were friendly. Our assignments were challenging and highly relevant, so they prompted fantastic conversations inside and outside of the classroom; I was fully engaged from day one!” Additionally, she felt as though her previous professional experience was valued and that the professors understood that each individual in the classroom had something meaningful and relevant to contribute regardless of how diverse their backgrounds and career aspirations were. “The program itself supported the very adult learning principles that we were learning about!”

Executive Director
National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Northwestern University of Chicago

“I knew earning a master’s degree was necessary in my aim toward academia. I needed the credibility of a graduate education and wanted to focus concentration on a deeper level than in my previous career – one that rewarded and often required a short attention span for the frenetic pace of media. The AHE program stressed exactly the concepts and theory that would help me better understand myself and how variously adult students learn. At first, online courses were intimidating. With a 30-year hiatus between my undergraduate and graduate degrees, a whole lot had changed. Those online courses proved to be more intense than the traditionally taught courses in my program. But the ability to have some courses with in-person opportunities to form learning communities with peers and instructors were critical too.”

Department Chair, Faculty of Veterinary Technology
York County Community College

One thing that Peg learned from the AHE program was how profound the impact of a good mentor can be in terms of supporting a life-long love of learning. As John Dewey notes – and Peg now shares with her students “Education is not preparation for life – education is life itself.” The relief that Peg felt as the result of the AHE program (to stop feeling like instructors had to have all the answers, but could operate as co-learners with the students) was an immeasurable gift. Peg notes that her first group of graduates-to-be are now authoring what will hopefully be an advanced certificate at York County Community College in veterinary technology.

Academic Advising

Courses that are foundational to the work of Academic Advisors include Program Development, Training and Development, Life Span Development and Counseling Skills. For example, the counseling skills of listening and asking probing questions to help others expand their thinking.

Academic Advisor
University of Southern Maine

“For the first time I truly felt like I was where I was supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I asked myself, ‘what are you doing?’ but in the end it was all worth it.” As adult learners, we typically are juggling multiple things, maybe too many things at one time, but Judi said she was quickly able to figure out how to best use her time. She also felt a strong sense of community which is a common comment amongst students in USM’s AHE program. Judi’s favorite course was College Mental Health and she feels it should be a requirement for all AHE students. She said that “the topics we discussed and the guest speakers invited in to talk with us really helped us to understand that we do not have to have all of the answers. We just have to know where to go to get the student the resources that they need.”

Academic Advisor for Education
University of Southern Maine

Christen’s favorite class was Program Planning for Adult Learners and at the time she took the course she was a program manager. She shares, “The course reinforced my affinity for structure and gave me new tools to use in my career. ”The Adult Learner course was another course that stuck out in Christen’s mind and one that she considers transformational. “The knowledge that I gained from The Adult Learner gave me the strength, determination, and confidence to make a drastic change. It was the most empowering and difficult transformation I have ever gone through. I owe this program my life, without it, I may not be here today.

Director of Academic Advising
University of Southern Maine

“My work is about helping students identify and achieve their educational, career and life goals. It is also about helping some students develop self-efficacy and sharing that you believe in them, and then watching them succeed. Sometimes, I am the first person who gets to say to a student, “Do you know that you’re smart and you can do this?” “The master’s program has allowed me to be more visionary about my work. I still value and enjoy the process of reflection that is a part of the adult education curriculum.”

Adult Education

Directors of Adult Education programs hire and train new employees as well as provide evaluations and opportunities for professional development to current employees. They also oversee program tasks such as their annual program budget, write federal and state grants, meet state and local reporting deadlines and manage data collection.

Program Director
Maine Senior College Network

USM’s Adult and Higher Education program felt like art school to Anne, not in a technical way, but more in recognizing the art of how adults learn. “Education helps you express yourself and also calls upon your creative self,” Anne adds, “Understanding your own learning while also understanding the role that our imaginations play, seems essential to self-empowerment.” USM’s program introduced her to such legendary adult educators as John Dewey, Stephen Brookfield and Carl Rogers. She was introduced to the concept of “experiential learning” or the process whereby knowledge and transformation occur through experience. She continues her own experiential learning, and as a result of the skills and insights the program provided, she can “now pass it on to her students.”

Director of Adult Education
RSU 40

She realized in the beginning of her graduate journey that she needed to slow down and stop running towards the finish line because in adult education there is no finish line. Kayla said, “I had been so focused on completing my education that I didn’t realize that I needed to slow down and soak up everything. There is no such thing as completing my education.” One of her favorite courses was Facilitating Adult Learning because she learned the importance of listening and responding. Kayla also said, “I never would have imagined I would have grown so much as both an educator and as a learner.”

Nonprofit & Community Education

Within the area of public education, graduates are employed as adult education directors, teachers, and curriculum and staff developers. In the area of community education, graduates hold positions as program directors, project managers, and community educators.

Finance Authority of Maine

“One of the most important takeaways is that the program feels like it’s designed for you. In my cohort, there were people from all sorts of careers and fields, and we all felt like the program was tailor made for us. That’s because you do papers and projects based on what you’re already doing or are interested in. It’s an extension of your work but broadens your understanding of the ins and outs of learning and teaching. Folks who are drawn to this program seem to come with such interesting backgrounds and knowledge. Despite being fully online, I remember some very robust and interesting conversations taking place in the discussion boards. We learned from each other as much as, if not more than, our texts or the faculty.”

Food Systems Professional
University of Maine Cooperative Extension 

“The AHE program helped me to deliver adult education programs that are effective learning methods for program participants. I have also expanded my knowledge and practice of culturally-sensitive curriculums for serving diverse audiences.  I appreciate the depth and breadth this program delivers about current matters in the AHE field, as well as the ability to choose electives that fulfill our interests. I most value the community of practice I gained and the skills of facilitation, marketing adult programs, writing curriculum, developing educational study skills, and designing effective evaluation tools.”

Regional Manager
New Ventures Maine

“I fully appreciated the ability to take advantage of an online learning environment to acquire my Master’s Degree. I live in Aroostook County and traveling, while raising a family and working full time, in order to earn my post-graduate degree was just not possible. In addition, I felt that this program honored and appreciated my life experience. As students, we were really able to support and learn from each other, with full support from great instructors. In addition, becoming comfortable navigating an online learning environment allowed me to feel more confident offering online curriculum and education for New Ventures Maine, as after completing my degree, as we began to offer more virtual classes to our participants. I had a unique perspective having been a student in an online learning environment that served me well in delivering online training.”

Healthcare & Municipalities

In the government and healthcare arena, graduates serve as directors, department heads, staff trainers, and educators.

Chair of Emergency Medical Services Department
Southern Maine Community College (SMCC)

Scott was previously a paramedic in the Waterville area, and taught courses for the public as well as for the hospital, such as the American Heart Association’s CPR/First Aid classes, EMT continuing education, and community health classes. At the same time, Scott was also working at SMCC as an adjunct instructor. It wasn’t until he was in USM’s Adult and Higher Education program that Scott realized he wanted to move toward teaching. The wide-open freedom of AHE classes gave Scott the opportunity to explore and get comfortable with self-directed learning. “Mike offered new perspectives and opened doors to explore new pathways, and Karen pushed when I needed it”. “The Adult Education program provided the resources and tools to learn how to facilitate and understand adult learners.“

MMC Institute
Maine Medical Center

Katy typically has four projects going on and spends most of her time doing research and planning related to these projects.”She enjoyed what she was doing yet before this experience had never imagined working as an educator. Though encouraged to get her master’s in nursing, Katy was energized by working with adult learners so this teaching experience prompted her to look for a graduate program that suited a role in health education. “I was on my yearly fall search for more education in some yet unknown subject area and fortunately fell into a life-changing conversation with a woman in the graduate office at USM.” The Adult and Higher Education program provided Katy with an “on-ramp” to enter this new field. Katy says, “Being in the student role allowed me greater flexibility to take risks.”

Companies, Consulting, & Staff Development

In the corporate sector, graduates work as managers of corporate training, human resource management, assistant vice-presidents, and workplace educators.

Worsted Spinnery/Consultant

Since graduating with his Masters in Adult and Higher Education Greg has taught an undergraduate course at USM entitled, “Choices, Changes, and Careers” and a graduate-level one in career development. In addition, Greg chose to grow his private consulting practice in order to enjoy more autonomy, developing unique concepts to help others in career transition and in the world of work. “The relationships with and between faculty and co-learners make this one of the highest quality programs available. The program has the best professors around.” Reflecting on the most difficult part of pursuing this degree, without hesitation he stated, “Online courses, while convenient, are simply more work.” Students need to be committed to the time required. His advice is simple: “Commit the time to real openness, authenticity and empathy; easy in concept, much more challenging in practice.”

Founder & CEO of SchorrFIRE, LLC
Previously, Program Manager for Development and Marketing in the
School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Anne Arundel Community College

Dan changed his focus three times during the course of the program. He began the program as a way to improve his existing practice in program development and towards the middle of the program found an interest in research, and by the end was excited about teaching. “I don’t think that could have been possible in many other programs in the country. The ability to customize and explore different facets of adult education was the cornerstone of the program for me. At the beginning of the program I wouldn’t have said that was an important feature, but by the end I would have been sorely disappointed if I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore research and teaching”.