By Kristy Kennedy, Special to the Tribune
2:35 PM EDT, September 9, 2013
Making its first foray into Illinois, Indiana Wesleyan University is operating a service center in Naperville aimed at helping online students in the area.
The center is a first-of-its-kind operation for the university. IWU has a 3,000-student campus in Marion, Ind., along with 17 education centers with classrooms and libraries in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio serving about 12,000 students. The Naperville center is the first to work exclusively with online students. Although the center opened in January, IWU hosted a dedication ceremony for the Naperville location last week.
"The quaintness and location of Naperville made it a perfect place to set up a service center to meet the needs of our online students," said Carson Castleman, associate vice president of regional education for the university. "The service center has a cafe feel to it. It's a place where online students can go to do research and work. It's a quiet place to study."
About 200 online students from Illinois are enrolled at IWU, with most living within 50 miles of Naperville. The Naperville center, at Illinois Route 59 and McDowell Road, was purposely positioned next to a coffee shop. Center staff includes an office manager and four enrollment counselors.
"Illinois was a market we wanted to test," Castleman said. "It has done very well for us. We have seen aggressive growth in the last eight to nine months and a 30 to 40 percent increase in enrollment in Illinois students."
He attributed that success to having a presence in Naperville and to IWU's efforts to do some marketing in the area to increase name recognition.
While the Indiana campus caters to younger students just out of high school, IWU's online programming is geared toward working adults with an average age of 30 to 45. Many have families.
The school offers associate, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees online. Some programs require campus visits, but most are completely online, with class sizes ranging from 12 to 18 students. Degrees are offered in fields such as accounting, business, nursing, criminal justice, ministry, computer information technology, human studies and general studies.
Based on the early success of the Naperville center, Castleman said the university is considering expanding in Illinois and building more service centers in other states.
"Naperville has been such a great success for us," Castleman said.
The evangelical Christian university offers education taught from a Christian world view and strives to provide convenience. For instance, books are delivered to students' homes.
"You can work full time and be there for your family and still receive a full-time education to earn a degree," Castleman said.
Every course includes a Christian and Biblical perspective.
"We want to come in and be an institution that brings the values of character, scholarship and leadership," Castleman said. "We are an institution from a Christian perspective changing lives through education."
For more information, go to indwes.edu.
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