Unique opportunity for students in southwest metro
When the doors of the South of the River Education Center (SOTR) opened in 2013, it was the start of a unique partnership.
A collaborative effort between the Minnesota Workforce Center, Inver Hills Community College, Dakota County Technical College and Metropolitan State University, SOTR offers a convenient and flexible way for adults to earn a degree.
“We try to be a one-stop shop as much as possible,” said Center Coordinator Stephanie Atkinson.
Atkinson said the focus of the SOTR has been to serve as a regional learning hub in the areas surrounding Burnsville, where there isn’t a brick-and-mortar institution nearby.
“Our goal is to help adult learners in this area,” said Atkinson.
Before the center opened, people living in the southwest metro interested in going to school either had to resort to online programs or a long commute. The center fills that void and allows students the opportunity pursue an education close to home.
Location, location, location
For student Taylor Lassi, the location made a big difference. “What brought me to South of the River Education Center is a want to further my education at a location that was easy for me to access.”
Lassi, 21, works full-time as a manager at Caribou Coffee. She’s in her third year and seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education with a minor in theatre. She hopes to transfer to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the fall to finish her bachelor’s degree and then continue on to get a master’s degree.
“My experience at the South of the River Education Center has been amazing,” said Lassi. “It offers classes at times that were much more convenient for me and at a much more accessible location. The staff there is amazing, especially Stephanie.”
Power of partnership works for students
Located along County Road 42, the South of the River Education Center shares a building with the Minnesota Workforce Center in Burnsville. The center offers a variety of courses ranging from general education to business to continuing education.
Created with adult learners in mind, most of the courses are accelerated, meeting once a week for eight weeks. Courses generally meet during weekday evenings and credits count towards degree completion the way they would on the main campus. While designed with adult learners in mind, courses at the SOTR are open to any student.
Students can take classes through SOTR by going through the enrollment process, which can be completed in five easy steps. Prospective students start by applying to the partner school they are hoping to attend: Inver Hills, DCTC or Metro State. They can then apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If they have previous college or university coursework, students should submit prior college transcripts to be evaluated for possible transfer credits. They may also need to take assessment tests (ACCUPLACER). From there, students will begin their education by attending orientation on their school’s main campus, where they will register for classes.
More about Stephanie Atkinson
Stephanie Atkinson started with South of the River Education Center (SOTR) in May 2014. Since then, she has worked to make SOTR a one-stop shop for students. From admissions questions, helping with the FAFSA, advising on course selection and registration, Stephanie is able to assist prospective and current students with their college questions.
How did you come to work as the education center coordinator?
I’ve had a variety of professional positions within colleges and higher education, so when I saw the position was open, it seemed like it would be a good fit and would bring all of my experiences together.
Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
I have worked in study abroad, international education, student services, and admissions. It was working in England with a study abroad program that I got the desire to go to graduate school and focus on higher education leadership. I received my master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas and have continued working within higher education ever since.
What do you do day to day?
Every day at SOTR is very different. Oftentimes, I am meeting with prospective students to discuss their options or advising current students on their degree plans. There are days when I am at workshops or career fairs and events, speaking with folks about SOTR and our partnership. Other days, I am meeting with folks from the partner schools to discuss scheduling options at SOTR and talking about strategic planning
What do you enjoy about the work?
I LOVE helping students connect the dots between what they want to do and how to get there. It’s incredibly rewarding seeing those ‘light bulb’ moments.
What goals do you have as the SOTR Coordinator?
I hope to continue growing this site and making us a really established presence to help learners in this area work towards their educational goals.
What do you see as SOTR’s strongest asset?
One of the greatest things about SOTR is having such a strong support system backing this site, at all of the main campuses. I know if I ever have a question, I can call my colleagues for assistance. It’s a wonderful collaboration to be a part of and it couldn’t be done without a strong team effort.
To learn more about the South of the River Education Center, contact:
Education Center Coordinator