Indiana Wesleyan University has a new hometown this year with the opening of a Naperville, Illinois-based service center in the western suburbs of the Chicagoland area.
The storefront location, on NEC Route 59 and McDowell Road just south of I-88, not only marks IWU’s first physical location in the state of Illinois, but also a foray into a new model for interacting with students and prospective students.
IWU Naperville is the first IWU service center designed primarily to serve online students. Though IWU has a 3,000-student campus in Marion, Indiana and 17 education centers throughout Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, with classrooms and libraries for onsite education, 68% of the more than 12,000 students in the adult and graduate program take their classes in an online format, according to David Rose, Vice President of Adult Enrollment Services in the IWU College of Adult and Professional Studies.
“In the mid-90′s, Indiana Wesleyan University was one of the first universities that offered a full degree online,” said Rose. “Many schools were doing some electives and a course here and there, but we took the MBA and did it from beginning to end in an online format.”
Students can get online degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.
IWU decided that increased emphasis on online education necessitates a different kind of on-the-ground facility. Rose said that it remains important to have a physical presence, since a location in a well-trafficked area makes a strong impression on the surrounding community. But that office can be much smaller, offering the support structure needed by a student who does most of their learning from home.
“It [the service center] is not built out with multiple classrooms,” Rose said. “It is built out to be a hub of operations to be able to reach students who are interested in going back to school in an online format, creating a local presence in a suburb of Chicago, so that they see it’s a real, tangible school.”
The center has been open since early January, and already IWU feels quite welcome in the community.
“We’ve actually had folks walking in the door when we have not done a plethora of advertising,” Rose said. “So far we have been very warmly received.”
And though the Chicagoland area has an incredible variety of educational options, Rose believes that IWU has the ability to stand out.
“We have a strong repertoire of online programs, from associate to graduate, from education to business to nursing to counseling,” Rose said, “offered from a Christian worldview with a Christ-centered curriculum that equips individuals to be world changers in their environments.”