by Emily Warner

Students are not the only ones taking classes at the College of Charleston.

Thanks to the Staff Training Program, faculty and staff in permanent positions with at least six months of employment can take one class each fall and/or spring semester (see below for additional restrictions). And the best part is, it’s free.

Employees may enroll in any course (assuming any prerequisites are met), even if the course doesn’t directly relate to their professional fields.

Deana Richardson, who manages the Staff Training Program in the Office of Admissions, says staff members can apply as either degree or non-degree students in undergraduate or graduate courses. To earn credit from a course, employees must earn a grade of C or better. Courses cannot be audited (taken as non-credit).

When he’s not teaching classes, Gardner Marshall, a senior instructor of physics, enjoys taking classes in other science fields. Through the Staff Training Program, he has taken several chemistry courses (up through organic chemistry) and is currently taking introductory biology.

“I teach in the physics department and was motivated to take advantage of this program to learn about other disciplines, see firsthand how faculty in other departments structure and teach their courses, and to remember what it’s like being on the other side of the lectern,” says Marshall.

Syndia Hill, administrative assistant in the Department of Accounting and Business Law, is another employee who has taken advantage of this perk.

“I have taken a course that studies the methods and practices (and much more) of English studies,” says Hill. “Presently I am enrolled in a physical education activity class. I am learning about Pilates, its theories and methods and the practice of its movements.”

Marshall and Hill exemplify the Staff Training Program’s goal of providing professional development opportunities for College of Charleston employees.

Sam Jones, senior vice president of Fiscal Services, believes that the program is a worthwhile investment in the College’s faculty and staff. He estimates that in any given year about 40 College employees take courses through the program.

No matter what type of classes employees take, staying on top of coursework and being exposed to new subjects helps improve critical-thinking skills, says Jones.

“Critical thinking is a talent that is necessary in every position here at the College,” says Jones. “The program also provides employees with the opportunity to network with faculty and others across campus that they may not otherwise have a chance to meet. This helps to develop community.”

In talking with employees about the program, Jones says the most common reasons for taking courses through the program include the fact that it’s free, classes are conveniently located for employees and it provides a sense of connectedness with other members of the campus community.

Marshall believes that taking courses has made him a better instructor.

“Actually sitting side by side with students taking a course and learning new material has reminded me of a lot of little details about what it’s like being a student,” says Marshall. “It has definitely impacted how I teach my own courses. I have also enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of the program, and I am more able to relate topics in physics to potential applications in other sciences based on my experience.”

Many staff members who use this program see it as an opportunity to build upon or develop skills that can improve their personal and professional experiences.

“Probably the biggest reason I take classes here at the College is because I am able to and it is free,” says Hill. “But also, it would be a challenge to find a benefit offered anywhere that not only lasts a lifetime and cultivates you as a person but can never, ever be taken from you; you take it with you wherever you go.”

How to apply: The registration deadline for fall 2020 courses through the Staff Training Program is June 1, 2020. No applications can be accepted after this deadline.

To take courses through the Staff Training Program, employees must be eligible for admission at the College and hold a permanent position (full or part-time of at least 30 hours per week) or be employed in a temporary grant-funded position, or time-limited project position with at least six months of state employment service on or before the course start date. Please contact the Office of Human Resources to verify your employment status.

Employees can take one course per fall and/or spring semester excluding Maymester/Summer. Maymester/Summer staff training is reserved for faculty and staff who did not take a course in the fall and/or spring semesters.

Employees can access the application form on the Employee tab of their MyCharleston account. After selecting the Employee tab, locate the application under Employee Forms: Staff Application for Credit Course.

Featured Photo: Gardner Marshall, a senior instructor of physics, and Syndia Hill, administrative assistant in the Department of Accounting and Business Law, take courses through the Staff Training Program. Photo by Heather Moran.

This article was written by Emily Warner, a senior from South Carolina studying English at the College of Charleston.