A USF education in Pleasanton 'without the fog'
For those of us who earned our college degrees in crowded classrooms in ageing brick and mortar campus buildings, life's much better for today's students. Last week, the University of San Francisco officially opened its new branch campus in Pleasanton, a gleaming facility with large windows overlooking groomed gardens and just a stone's throw from Stoneridge Shopping Center and the West Dublin-Pleasanton BART station. Students for the most part carry laptops or iPads to class with a small notebook and ballpoint pen in reserve, but the No. 2 pencils and blue books are history.
Overseeing this transition to a wireless, online, computer-driven education is Carol Batker, hired just a few weeks ago by USF as vice provost of branch campuses. Pleasanton's is one of four outside of San Francisco with the others in San Jose, Sacramento and Santa Rosa. USF recently opened a branch in the Folger Building in San Francisco's financial district and now has a branch at the Presidio of San Francisco. The branch campuses are similar, but Pleasanton's is more advanced in offering night and weekend classes with a healthy amount of online course work. In some of the newer online programs, you may never come actually face-to-face with your professor, who stays on the USF main campus on Fulton Street. But that's OK, Batker says, because the instructor can see you, single you out on the screen and have a conversation, and then wide angle back to show everyone in the class each other and the assignments. The system even works to the advantage of teachers, as Batker knows from her years in the classroom, because the shy student who used to like the back row in a typical classroom is now often onstage online and more of a contributor.
Batker, who works with Desiree Shaw, director of the Pleasanton campus, in setting up programs and online courses, has considerable experience as a teacher and community communicator. She holds a doctorate degree in English, cross-cultural studies and women's studies. She's also the author of a book that was published in 2000 on women's literature and journalism. While teaching at Florida State University, she recognized the benefit for local public schools of partnering with the college, and brought the college experience into classrooms to encourage younger students to continue their education. From there, she moved to New Hampshire University as the dean of the new online and continuing education division, and later to Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., part of the 35-campus State University of New York (SUNY) system. SUNY was organized on a "distributed campus model," Batker says, which makes her new role as the USF vice provost in charge of branch campuses and online education a perfect fit.
Batker says the USF education adheres to the admonition stated at last week's Pleasanton campus celebration by the Rev. Stephen Privett, USF's president. He said that the university's mission is to provide a Jesuit education not only with knowledge and skills but also by inspiring and motivating students to use their education to fashion a more humane and just world for all. He also quipped, while standing in the bright sunlit student conference room where the celebration took place, that the new campus offers a quality USF education "without the fog."
Batker emphasizes that its that special USF experience that sets the university apart from other online-focused and night and weekend colleges, whether private, nonprofit or for-profit schools. It's an amazing relevant education utilizing the best "bells and whistles" of today's technology with a 450-year old tradition established by the Catholic order of Jesuits.
For more information about USF, sign on to its website at www.usfca.edu or visit the Pleasanton campus at 6120 Stoneridge Mall Road.