A few years ago, employment opportunities for aspiring teachers and counselors a were mixed or uncertain. Today, many of those students are looking at brighter prospects as they pursue advanced degrees from SCU’s School of Education and Counseling Psychology (ECP).
“They’re not so much bucking a trend, as they are riding a wave,” said Dean Nick Ladany.
In the 18 months since Ladany has served as dean of the ECP, from fall 2012 to the current winter quarter, student enrollment in the school has increased by 45 percent. The rise in numbers, according to Ladany, can be attributed to several factors, both internal and external.
“The new Affordable Care Act means that more people will be seeking needed therapy,” he explained. “Estimates are that about 25 percent more therapists will be needed in the next decade. The concern over gun violence has also resulted in the government encouraging more proactive mental health treatment—and returning veterans will significantly increase the need for added resources and programs.”
Although the demand for teachers is not expected to be quite as steep, Ladany said that newly minted educators still will find a more welcoming job market. “Teachers are retiring at a higher rate now and schools are looking for qualified replacements, including more educational leaders and international instructors.” And in diocesan schools, he noted, “there is always a large need for good teachers with a strong commitment to Catholic values.”
As head of the ECP, Ladany intends to help fill that specific need. “One priority is to enhance our outreach efforts and make more connections with Catholic education in the San Jose area, as well as throughout the state and even nationally,” he said. SCU’s Blended Learning Academy, a professional development program for San Jose Diocese teachers, got the ball rolling last summer. The project, according to Ladany, has already led to conversations with seven of the nine dioceses throughout California. “Word has spread,” explained the dean. “We were very responsive in that initial foray and quickly developed a high-quality program that people now want to know about.”
Since his appointment as dean, Ladany has stressed the importance of responsiveness, in the form of customer service, and quality throughout ECP—especially in the area of recruitment and retention. Those traits, he believes, have a direct impact on enrollment increases.
“We’re finding that most applicants are acknowledging our customer-student service and responsiveness,” he said. “We are more thorough with information we provide and do things faster. We show competence in our admissions process and get back to people quickly. We get faculty involved in student meetings. All this makes a big difference in recruitment.”
Student numbers have also increased because of ECP’s more targeted marketing efforts, according to Ladany. “We’ve done more outreach to multicultural groups, students of color, and those likely to be committed to social justice,” he explained. “Students who want to work with underserved populations find that our programs are a very good fit.”
Many of those programs, he noted, are particularly appealing to specific student groups. The Department of Counseling Psychology, for example, offers an emphasis in Latino counseling, one of only a few such programs in the nation. And, SCU’s one-year teaching credential program “is huge,” he said. “Students want to stop accumulating debt and get out there and work.”
Another recent change, according to Ladany, involves scholarships being distributed at the time of acceptance, rather than during the year. “It all goes back to being responsive to student needs and giving good customer service, backed by quality programs,” he said. “It’s what sets us apart.”
During the coming year, ECP will work on a number of goals, the dean noted. These include more involvement with the Diocese of San Jose in teacher training and education, more recruitment of international students, and more online courses. “We have a Clear Teaching Credential program now fully online,” he explained, “and we’re looking at other cost-efficient, targeted professional development courses for teachers and therapists.” One new offering will be a certificate program in church management, scheduled to begin in the summer.
“We still have work to do,” Ladany acknowledged, “but we’re in a good position to innovate; it’s a very exciting time for us.”