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Dec. 2 , 2005
CONTACT: Ward Mullens

EMU adds additional open house in response to 'Return to Learn' interest

YPSILANTI - Their backgrounds range from housewife to business owner, but they have one desire in common – to return to college and finish their degree from Eastern Michigan University.

More than 100 students from Washtenaw and Wayne County attended the Nov. 29 “Return to Learn” open house at EMU’s main campus to find out how they can complete a degree. EMU also had open houses at its Brighton, Livonia, and Detroit satellite sites.

“We have worked very hard to get the word out through media interviews, advertisements and letters,” said Dr. Lynette Findley, coordinator of EMU’s “Return to Learn” efforts. “We targeted Washtenaw and Wayne Counties by sending out letters and it worked. More than 95 percent of the students at the last open house indicated that they had heard about the program from the letter.”

Findley said interest in the program has been so high that an additional open house is set for Dec. 20, 4-7 p.m., at McKenny Union on EMU’s main campus in Ypsilanti.

“These are students who started their college education at EMU and want to complete their degree here,” said Findley.

Although the current “Return to Learn” students will not begin their classes until 2006, here are several examples of students who took the step to complete their degrees at EMU:

• Jose Valderrama, a 38-year-old husband and father, left school 10 years ago, to work as an emergency room technician.  His friends and a mentor, who was an EMU graduate, however, saw his potential and encouraged him to consider a nursing career. He returned to EMU and will graduate from the nursing program in December. He will continue working in the University of Michigan’s emergency room, but in a new capacity – as a registered nurse. He considers his education an investment in his family’s future.

             • Sara Duvall was president and CEO for a film production company before retiring after 20 years. After retiring, the 56-year-old returned to Michigan and found herself substitute teaching. She loved it. Her excitement for teaching led her to enroll in Eastern Michigan’s doctoral program in educational leadership and counseling. She recently graduated and plans on working as a superintendent in a school district.

• Gary Nicholls is looking forward to the day when he finally graduates from EMU nearly 40 years after he first started college. Not only will he have earned his bachelor’s degree, but he also will have achieved a lifelong dream of teaching school.  Nicholls went back to school after he was let go from his job at a film production company due to the economy. It was a wake-up call for him. After considering his options, he enrolled in EMU. He now plans to become a social studies teacher in a middle school, something he thought he’d never have the chance to do.

“We have utilized every possible tool at our disposal to help get out the word about this great program,” said Pam Young, director of University Communications for EMU. “We have done radio interviews, run radio commercials and print advertisements, built a “Return to Learn” Web site with personal stories of some of the students the program is attracting, and provided ‘one-stop shopping’ with our open houses. Eastern Michigan University already had an array of programs available to adult students so gearing up for the “Return to Learn” initiative wasn’t difficult.”

“This is a great investment for us because it helps the students, it helps EMU and ultimately it benefits the state and the economy,” Young said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced the “Return to Learn” initiative at the beginning of November as an effort to double the number of college graduates in the state. Michigan is currently above the national average for percentage of adults having some college credit, but no degree. Granholm said that getting these people back in the classroom is vital to Michigan’s economic growth and public prosperity, because states with the highest number of college graduates also are the states with the strongest economies and the lowest unemployment rates.

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.


Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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