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20120406_UPX_LEG3757MISSION — The University of Phoenix (UPX) and South Texas College (STC) developed an academic partnership to encourage STC students to continue their education at UPX.

This partnership is the fifth of its kind in the nation UPX has developed in a community focused on serving its people.

Through the enterprise, UPX and STC will work with businesses and leaders in the area to identify workforce needs. The school will develop focused curriculum and career pathways to address workforce skills gaps in the Rio Grande Valley.

Students will have the opportunity to earn an associate degree at an STC campus and then seamlessly transition to a bachelor’s degree program at UPX. Current specific areas of study are manufacturing, healthcare, business and criminal justice.

Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president, said she is optimistic about the partnership adding the majority of the students at STC are busy students – parents, full-time jobs.

“The convenience of being able to pursue their bachelor’s in an online environment I think is going to make a tremendous difference,” said Reed. “It’s going to be easier to balance work schedules, family responsibilities, and just get your degree done.”

The effort won’t be easy. The student will have to be disciplined to follow through. The student should be committed from the beginning to achieve that bachelor degree at the end, said Reed.

UPX Campus Director Mikal Powers said the collaboration marks the beginning of a relationship that invests in the future of the students, graduates and community providing more opportunities for local students.

“When two educational leaders such as South Texas College and University of Phoenix come together to address community needs, results are innovative solutions to real community issues,” said Powers.

They will be preparing the local workforce for the jobs that make the Valley better, Powers said.

“Preparing students today for the jobs of tomorrow should help inspire more students to further their education,” said Powers.

James Eickhoff Jr., UPX senior vice president workforce solutions, said the alliance helps them develop a focused curriculum specified to this region and sponsor career fairs. He added UPX is committed to serving its local people and developing education solutions that will benefit the community.

Reed said half of the adult population in the Valley does not have a high school diploma, and half of those don’t have higher than a ninth-grade education.

“There’s no shortage of work to be done,” said Reed.

Yvonne Gonzalez, CEO of McAllen Workforce Solutions said the Valley has daunting challenges and the alliance will help move the community forward. It will lead to more jobs, opportunity and growth. This is a win-win partnership, she said.

“This is the future,” said Gonzalez. “You are leading the charge in facilitating that opportunity for those folks that may not have thought it could be done.”

UPX Regional Director of Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Phillips said UPX wants to make an impact and wants to help people. He added he sees that same passion at STC.

Phillips said more often there are more nontraditional students – students working or have a family and are receiving an education at the same time. They retool and become lifelong learners. That professional experience can also earn credit in UPX programs, he added.

Education offers individuals a better quality of life, said Juan Mejia, STC vice president for academic affairs.

“We believe in this,” said Mejia. “It’s about working together to make this country better.”

Dr. Frank Wilkerson, UPX region vice president, workforce solutions, said he was very impressed with STC’s commitment to not only education, but also their commitment to the community, the people, and their students.

“The heart of this partnership, is not just education,” Wilkerson said. “But it is the weaving of education into the very fabric of the lives of people and into the life of your community.”

Liz Stenhouse, a graduate of STC and UPX said after receiving her associate’s degree in public service administration from STC in 2003 she decided to further her education by pursuing a bachelor degree in management. She chose UPX because of the flexibility they offered her.

Stenhouse, who is involved with the City of Mercedes, serves chairwoman of Keep Mercedes Beautiful, and plans to run for Mercedes City Commissioner next year, said what she has done is only possible because of the education she received at the two schools.

The partnership between STC and UPX is more than just a match, she said.

“South Texas College gave me the foundation,” said Stenhouse. “The University of Phoenix polished it off.”

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