Continuing Education Classes Teach New Skills to a Diverse Crowd

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    A student in Continuing Education's cake decorating class practices some frosting techniques.
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    Judy Hundley prepares to board a boat for her "Sailing for Beginners" Continuing Education class.
July 25, 2017

WACO, Texas (July 25, 2017) – It seems unlikely that a 7-year-old and a 70-year-old could be classmates, but it’s a common occurrence in a Baylor University Continuing Education course.

Baylor students, faculty and staff connect with Wacoans of all ages and backgrounds through Continuing Education’s personal enrichment and professional development courses. Registration is now open for fall classes, which include calligraphy, conflict management, Cantonese Stir-Fry, family dining etiquette, American sign language, Brazilian jazz guitar and more.

New and Improved

Continuing Education began in 1974 as an option for nontraditional Baylor students to earn a degree by taking night classes. Several years later, the program transitioned into noncredit classes offered to the public, until it ended in 2005.

After a long hiatus, the program reopened in spring of 2017 with 20 noncredit pilot classes. Gabriela Colman, Baylor’s director for community relations and continuing education, said the program’s return was met by an overwhelmingly positive response.

“Humans have this innate desire to continue learning. I think sometimes when we are well established in our careers, we may forget that we have that longing and just focus on what we’re already experts in, but the desire is there,” Colman said.

After the success of the spring semester, continuing education was able to open up even more courses in the summer, including Photoshop, Latin dance and cake decorating.

Passing On a Passion

Alisa Dabney’s friends and family always knew that if they needed a cake for any occasion, her mother was the best person to make it.

“When I was little, I would always watch and help her. Some of my first memories are of her showing me how to do borders and stars and how to decorate and do these big wedding cakes. She’s always had a passion for it, and she passed that on to me,” Dabney said.

Now a senior analyst and programmer for Baylor's information systems and services staff, Dabney has taken on her mother’s role as the designated baker for her family and friends. When the Continuing Education staff heard about her talents, they asked if she would teach a cake decorating class.

In her four-week class this summer, Dabney taught her students the basics of working with buttercream and demonstrated various techniques. Her goal for the class was to instill confidence in her students and show them that anyone can bake.

Audrey Johnson, Baylor’s continuing education and community relations specialist, said that although many Continuing Education instructors are Baylor faculty and staff like Dabney, the program also reaches out to local experts, or even graduate students.

“If you have an expertise that you want to share with the world, teaching a Continuing Education class is the best way to do it,” Johnson said. “It’s a class full of people who are eager to learn and excited to be there. There’s something so energizing about a room full of people who, of their own free will, have set aside time out of their busy schedules in order to gain knowledge about a topic they’re interested in.”

“I Laughed All the Way into the Water”

After working in the education sector for nearly 50 years, Judy Hundley understands the importance of seeking out opportunities to learn. This summer, she took several Continuing Education classes at the Pullin Family Marina at Baylor to learn how to sail, canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard.

One of her course requirements was the ability to swim in deep water, which Hundley said came in handy more than once.

"The very first class, we were demonstrating some things, and we just went right in the water headfirst. Even then, it was really fun, and I laughed all the way into the water,” Hundley said.

Sailing for beginners was Hundley’s first time in a Continuing Education class, and she said she plans to sign up for more.

Hundley received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Baylor, and her children are the third generation in her family to attend the University. She said she is grateful for the opportunity to take classes at her alma mater once again.

A Lifetime of Learning

Baylor alumnus Tom Purdy shares in Hundley’s enthusiasm for learning new skills in his retirement. A former Baylor development officer, he now serves as the publicity director for Lifelong Learning, a membership-based group within Continuing Education geared towards retirees.

The curriculum committee of Lifelong Learning decides on courses based on their members’ interests. Upcoming classes for the fall include 'The Heritage of Hispanic Wacoans,' which includes a private tour of the Waco Hispanic Museum taught by Brad Livingstone, a history teacher at Vanguard College Preparatory School and husband of Baylor President Linda Livingstone.

After 10 years in the group, Lifelong Learning has connected Purdy with people from all walks of life that he never would have met otherwise.

"It is a really diverse group. Learning is fun, whether you are a young child or you're starting your second childhood, we really enjoy the excitement of learning," Purdy said.

by Kassidy Woytek , student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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