NISKAYUNA The non-traditional nursing program is what attracted Mary Beth Hanner to Excelsior College, which over 20 years later she now leads.
Hanner, a Niskayuna resident, was recently appointed provost and chief academic officer at Excelsior College, which is an accredited nonprofit distance learning institution. In Hanner’s new position she’ll oversee curriculum, online instruction and faculty within each of Excelsior’s four schools; the School of Liberal Arts, School of Business and Technology, School of Health Sciences, and School of Nursing. Before her appointment, she served as interim provost. Also, four years before her last position she served as vice president for outcomes assessment and institutional research.
“I was delighted,” said Hanner of her recent appointment. “It was a nice progression.”
As vice president of outcomes, she helped Excelsior develop initiatives for measuring student learning outcomes to make sure they were succeeding in their goals. Unlike a traditional college, a student just doesn’t simply move from semester to semester. Often times they might take some credits and complete a course, but not take classes again immediately due to family or life issues.
“It is always challenging to try and work with students that are not physically here,” said Hanner. “We try to develop a relationship with them at a distance.”
The college tries to build career paths for students, she said, by teaching some basic skills, how to find a job and how to enter the workforce. As unemployment rises and the job market becomes more competitive, she said, having certain skills could help one be successful.
“It allows people to go as far as they want,” she said.
The college has had more than 140,000 graduates, she said, with up to 30,000 students all over the country, sometimes overseas, currently learning at the college. When she came to the college, more than 20 years ago, the Internet didn’t yet exist. Now, the college has benefited from technology advancements. Currently there are 400 courses online, which sometimes might have students in atypical learning environments.