Ruthie Vargas, a Southwestern Adventist University alum and educator from Oklahoma, says she never planned to do her master’s degree. She just needed some continuing education credits for her teaching license.
However, when she spoke with SWAU’s Interim Vice President for Academic Administration Donna Berkner, Vargas decided to take a few master’s classes. When she set foot on campus for her first three-week intensive, she made up her mind.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into class that first day, but I found a family in the colleagues that sat around me, and in the professors that took special care to create a wonderful place to grow and learn,” Vargas said. “By the end of my first summer of graduate classes, I already knew that I would definitely be signing up for next year.”
Vargas is one of many SWAU alums who have decided to continue their higher education where it began and enroll in the university’s summer intensive Master of Education program.
The program, like the Master of Arts in Counseling and Psychology program, can be taken online or can be completed via “three-week intensives” over four summers on campus.
With these nontraditional options, the programs are ideal for working professionals like Vargas. Students who choose the summer intensive option, however, still get to enjoy a traditional classroom setting, where they participate in “energizing and engaging conversations with other teachers coming right out of the field,” Berkner said.
SWAU Interim Chair of the Department of Education & Psychology Cheryl The, who specializes in curriculum and instruction in literacy, agrees.
“These teachers have face-to-face contact with colleagues and peers that they can’t experience online, and that’s a huge strength,” The said. “It makes the class very dynamic, and also a lot of fun. For example, in my class this summer, we had a mom who was returning after 19 years out of the classroom; we had another teacher with 9 years of experience; and another with about 25 years of experience. So they really offered a lot to each other in really interesting ways.”
Melissa Nash, an elementary school teacher from Arkansas who took The’s class this summer said in her opinion, the in-class learning was priceless compared to just working online with a syllabus, assignments and due dates.
“Everyone in the class had different backgrounds, so we all had a lot to add with respect to what we had taught and experienced,” Nash said. “That was really cool for me.”
Nash added that the in-person learning structure allowed her to “make some good friends” whom she plans to stay in touch with in what The termed a Professional Learning Community.
“We’ve been emailing each other this summer and helping each other out, and I feel like we’ll continue to learn from one another going forward,” Nash said.
With three specializations, leadership, literacy and history, the program is for any teacher who wants to advance to administration, gain expertise in teaching language arts or teach Advanced Placement history courses.
The Master of Arts in Counseling program, likewise, offers two specializations: school counseling or counseling psychology, which can translate to a broad range of options.
When asked how her training in the M.Ed. program is helping with her career, Nash said every single thing they read for class one felt she could apply back to her job teaching elementary at Bentonville Seventh-day Adventist School in Bentonville, Arkansas.
“As I prepare for my classes each year, I remember things I learned from Southwestern Adventist University,” Nash said. “Overall, I loved the program and would recommend it to anybody interested in continuing their education in this field.”
For more information on SWAU’s M.Ed. or M.A. programs, visit swau.edu.