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Off-campus MEd Program Graduates First Students

Kayce WardenWhen Master of Education student Kayce Warden was considering a master's degree, she wanted a program that offered face-to-face instruction and would accommodate her firefighter husband’s irregular schedule while raising her three-year-old son. She began the University of St. Thomas’ off-campus master’s program in spring 2010, taking classes close to home at CyRidge High School.

Warden is a member of the first group of about 139 students in UST’s off-campus Master of Education program who will celebrate their graduation on Dec. 16. The program began in fall 2009 with cohorts in the Aldine and Cy-Fair independent school districts with 188 students. UST’s regular Master of Education curriculum is taught by UST faculty members at 14 different sites in the Greater Houston area, serving about 900 students in the program in a variety of suburban school districts.

Students can study concentrations in bilingual/dual education, counseling, curriculum and instruction, educational diagnostician, educational leadership, reading and special education.

Warden teaches eighth grade Pre-Algebra at Waller Junior High School in Waller Independent School District. She is studying curriculum and instruction with the hope of becoming a curriculum coach or instructional specialist. Warden has seen the difference an engaging curriculum can make in students’ excitement for learning.

“Junior high students can be a particularly tough crowd to inspire and motivate mathematically,” she said. “When students who initially came into my classroom with bad attitudes started coming in with smiles and excitement, realizing they were good at math, I knew all of that work had paid off. I wanted to continue igniting that love for math in more than just my students.”

The UST education courses are taught on a seven-week compressed track program, with two courses each semester. Students attend a face-to-face class each week, then complete online assignments as part of a blended program.

Warden said taking one class at a time makes the course load more manageable.

“Rather than having multiple mid-terms, major projects, research papers and finals all happening at the same time, the compressed track courses equally split the course loads,” Warden said. “As a teacher and a mom, not having to worry about this has been a huge help and relief.”

Off-campus MEd Program Graduates First StudentsDr. Nora Hutto, former dean of the School of Education, said the seven-week format is becoming more common at universities.

“It really allows the students to focus on the learning concepts in each course,” Hutto said. “In the traditional program, students take two regular classes at the same time over 16 weeks. In the off-campus program, students are completing one course in seven weeks and focusing on the key concepts.”

Warden also said the face-to-face component was a non-negotiable factor to her when choosing a master’s program.

“I’m a traditional student,” she said. “I like to interact with professors and my peers in person. The face-to-face portion has been wonderful for building relationships with those people who you interact with during the online portion of the class.”

Patricia Lyerly, education workshop coordinator, said these classes are a valuable way to extend the UST learning community and meet students close to home.

“We are making learning convenient to them,” Lyerly said. “They’re so busy teaching classes during the day. By making master’s classes available close to home, they can take advantage of them.”

UST is expanding the off-campus master’s courses with new cohorts in Alvin/Texas City, Galena and Pasadena school districts in the spring.  For more information, contact Dr. Eduardo Torres at 713-942-3416 or