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The entertainment management major at the University of Central Florida has approximately 200 students enrolled, even though degree underwriter Dr. Kelly Semrad expected 50.

Todd Freece, the Director of Continuing Education at the University of Central Florida, sat in his structured and practical office.

Graduation Record Examinations and Graduate Management Admission Test preparation books lay strewn about on one side, while computer training and project management brochures are stacked neatly on the other side of the foldout table by his desk.

“If you look at the UCF Mission Statement, Continuing Education is part of its core,” Freece said. “It offers individuals the ability to improve him or herself academically, professionally and personally.”

Continuing Education offers programs to prepare individuals for the next steps in college or careers, and helps growth in life.

“Your growth as a person and a professional does not stop once you get that degree,” Freece said.

Although preparation, training, professional development and career advancement information of all levels is available and accessible on the Internet, Freece said that it is incomparable to programs that guide individuals through disciplined processes that help synthesize all of that knowledge and ultimately, make assessments of individuals to show prospective employers their qualifications for the job.

“You’ve got an institution like UCF that has faculty who observed, trained and assessed you, so it has merit,” Freece said. “There is value in completing a course under a branded institution.”

Continuing Education also offers courses for individuals who are employed part-time or full-time with families. This was important to Tiffany Olivia, 31, senior health informatics and information management major.

“The program was easily accessible with an instructor who was ready to assist at all times,” Olivia said.

Olivia completed the Excel Level 1 program and is currently enrolled in the Excel Level 2 program offered through the department. She is also currently employed as a part-time writer for Walt Disney World and married with two children.

Olivia said her hours spent preparing, applying and reviewing the material were methodical.

“As a mom, wife, first-generation college student and upcoming graduate, taking online courses via UCF’s Continuing Education department was ideal,” Olivia said.

However, Yolanda Vila, 49, UCF alumna and full-time Orange County Government employee, feels differently. Vila was enrolled in Continuing Education’s LSAT Preparation Part 1 and 2 courses.

“As the course progressed in difficulty, it was hard to get a quick answer or guidance from an instructor since it was only offered online,” Vila said. “LSAT is all about logic and you can’t logically learn without interacting on a one-to-one basis or classroom setting.”

The online programs offer students a unique opportunity to access programs on their own schedule. However, Freece acknowledged online programs can be challenging when students desire a high degree of interaction with instructors, and values feedback from students.

Continuing Education also offers discounts to UCF alumni, staff and faculty, with the discounts averaging between five and 15 percent.

“There is a plethora of opportunities for growth in life always,” Freece said.“What better way than to return to your university and look for resources to help you. If you value the education you received at UCF, why not come back and look what other opportunities we can offer you?”

First published Sept. 20.

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