Ridgewater, St. Cloud State sign cooperative agreement

WILLMAR -- Amanda Flood is on track to graduate from St. Cloud State University next year with a degree in criminal justice studies. What makes her story remarkable isn't just that she's a non-traditional student earning her degree while working ...

WILLMAR -- Amanda Flood is on track to graduate from St. Cloud State University next year with a degree in criminal justice studies.

What makes her story remarkable isn't just that she's a non-traditional student earning her degree while working full time. Flood will make a bit of history as the first student to complete her bachelor's degree in criminal justice studies taking classes at Ridgewater College in Willmar.

Presidents of the two schools signed the official agreement for the program on Tuesday at Ridgewater.

"It's a huge positive for both institutions," said Ridgewater President Douglas Allen. "In higher ed today, we do need to work together."

SCSU President Earl H. Potter III said he believed the agreement was a good model for the rest of the state.


"The partnership between a four-year university and a two-year college is essential throughout Minnesota," he said.

Potter said he was especially pleased that a student's efforts created the "pipeline" between the two schools.

Sheree Morgan of Spicer, now the coordinator of off-campus programs, was the student who helped develop the partnership.

Morgan was a non-traditional student who earned an associate degree at Ridgewater. She continued her education at St. Cloud State once she could afford a car that would reliably make the trip.

Ridgewater offered some opportunities to earn four-year degrees, "but not anything I was interested in," she said.

After she got a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, she worked as a probation officer for a time before going back to St. Cloud State for a master's degree in criminal justice.

While working as a graduate assistant in the department, Morgan said, she talked to faculty members in St. Cloud and Willmar about providing the opportunity to earn a four-year degree at Ridgewater.

Now, she is an SCSU employee who works in an office on the Ridgewater Willmar campus. While criminal justice is the first four-year degree offered by the partnership, "we're hoping it will expand to other areas," she said.


The program started with two students and currently has a dozen enrolled. Students can register, buy books and take care of other matters through Morgan's office in Willmar. The program offers a variety of traditional, interactive TV and online courses.

Flood said she has taken advantage of all the different types of classes, choosing "whatever fit in" with her job in adult foster care. It wouldn't have been possible for her to work the hours that she did and to drive to St. Cloud for classes, she said.

Once she finishes her degree next year, she plans to look for work in probation and may eventually study for her master's degree.

"I can't believe this went as smoothly as it did," she said.

The faculty has been a great help in making sure she could register for the classes she needed, Flood said. "That's the reason I'm so far," she said. "They really pushed to get my classes."

"This offers a local student an opportunity to complete a four-year degree without having to leave the area," said Mike Kutzke, law enforcement instructor at Ridgewater.

The degree students earn will be a broad-based liberal arts degree that will allow them to work in many areas of law enforcement, he said. "It allows students to be more competitive in the career area with a four-year degree," he added.

The diploma students receive will be from St. Cloud State. "We just facilitate it through a partnership here," Kutzke said.


The program is designed with the flexibility that non-traditional students need, Kutzke said.

St. Cloud State officials said the cooperative program offers a good alternative for students who can't move or drive to a four-year school or prefer a smaller school.

"St. Cloud is a nice university, but some people prefer not to go to a bigger university," said Bob Prout, chairman of the criminal justice studies department there.

Prout said he was in favor of the arrangement when he heard about it, but Morgan deserves the credit for developing the idea. "She took the leadership role," he said. "She's the one that wrote the proposal. ... It was her drive that got it done."

The program is self-supporting, and is "a good model" for others to follow, said John Burgeson, dean of the Center for Continuing Studies at St. Cloud State.

University class schedules often aren't set up with non-traditional students in mind, but this program seems to work for them, he said. "I think this works primarily because we have an online component," he said.

Patricia Aceves, director of distributed learning in the Center for Continuing Studies, said colleges and universities are doing more to accommodate adult students.

"I'm hopeful the success of criminal justice will help spur some new (cooperative) programs," she said.

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