Nicole Westrick: A Holistic Approach to Continuing Education

Nicole Westrick: A Holistic Approach to Continuing Education

Exiting college to enter the working world, Nicole Westrick didn’t envision a career dedicated to continuing education — but she probably should have.

“My very first job as a work-study student at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was in the Continuing Education department,” said Westrick, Associate Vice Provost for Temple’s University College. “I was a teaching assistant in Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 classes; ushered summer camp students between buildings; and worked on some very early distance education classes that taught manufacturing systems to engineers. I’ve come full circle from my first college job to now.”

Since joining Temple University in 2012, Westrick has been involved in all aspects of the University’s continuing education programs, providing unique experiences for students from age eight to octogenarians and beyond. She was integral in the implementation of DestinyOne, the university-wide registration and payment system for non-credit and continuing education programs.

“Nicole worked diligently with each program to understand their business processes and practices and to gain a detailed and nuanced understanding of their offerings. Her background in instructional design, business process analysis and data-driven decision-making have allowed her to develop creative and innovative solutions to complex problems in continuing education,” said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College. “She developed connections across the University, building relationships with faculty and staff who have since become engaged with University College and have also gone on to develop their own non-credit and continuing education programs. Her efforts have been critical to supporting our wide range of continuing education programs and raising awareness of the value, importance and the impact of these programs on Temple University’s mission.”

In February 2016, Westrick was appointed Associate Vice Provost for University College, providing strategic direction and leadership for six continuing education units, including the Office of Non-Credit and Continuing Education, the Office of Off-Campus Programs and Training, the Real Estate Institute, the Osher Lifelong Learning Society, Summer and Special Programs, and Continuing Education Systems.

“Our programs range from summer camps for children and teens and continually growing lifelong learning programs to workforce development, personal enrichment and professional training,” said Westrick. “Temple has some of the most innovative continuing education programs available whether its pre-college programs in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture or Strengths-Based Leadership education at the Harrisburg Campus. Temple takes a holistic approach to meeting the educational needs of a broad diversity of learners with each school and college doing what they do best.”

Westrick’s ongoing commitment to innovation and excellence in the continuing education field has not gone unnoticed. She was recently honored with the Alexander Charters Emerging Professional Continuing Educator Award at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s (UPCEA) Mid-Atlantic Region Conference. The award recognizes “the scholarship, leadership and contributions to the profession of a person who has entered the continuing, adult and professional education field in the past five to ten years.” Dr. Alexander Charters helped to mold the field of continuing and adult education during its formative years through his work at Syracuse University and his involvement in numerous national associations, according to the UPCEA. Recipients are also nominated for the corresponding national association award — the Adelle F. Robertson Emerging Professional Continuing Educator Award — which will be announced in March 2020.

“Alexander Charters truly represented the idea of education as an essential lifelong pursuit. It is an honor to receive an award named for such a pioneer in the field,” said Westrick, who has been involved in UPCEA since 2015 and has chaired the organization’s Business and Operations Network at the national level. “Continuing Education is about collaboration and cooperation. It is important to engage in the broader continuing education community, working with other institutions to improve the programs that we offer and meet the needs and goals of our students.” 

 The first word that comes to mind when describing Westrick is “bridge,” said Dr. Ana-Rita Mayol, Associate Director of the Master of Chemical Sciences program at the University of Pennsylvania, who has collaborated closely with Westrick through the UPCEA.

“She is highly successfully at building relationships and fostering collaboration across programs and institutions, always thinking outside the box. She is able to effectively conceptualize, implement and grow programs that have a wide breadth and spread,” Mayol said. “Her passion is to provide professional development and workforce development programs to returning citizens and individuals who have historically been shut out of the workforce.”

Mayol said Temple’s Vocational Certificate in Urban Greening and Sustainable Land Care is a perfect example. The program is designed to teach inmates within the Philadelphia Prison System the skills necessary to achieve employment in a variety of green industry fields. The program was also recently honored with an award by the UPCEA.

“Nicole worked to re-conceptualize the program to add business skills, including résumé writing, interviewing, budgeting and public speaking to better prepare students for work,” she said. “She also extended the internship time. These changes resulted in significantly low rates of recidivism among participants.”

Ulicia Lawrence-Oladeinde, Director of Community Education in Temple University’s Office of Community Relations, had the opportunity to work closely with Westrick on several efforts, including “the submission of a Department of Labor Grant for returning citizens; the development of workforce training and career readiness programs; and a strategy to create meaningful career pathways through education and apprenticeship experiences.”

“Nicole is creative and is able to draw connections between seemingly unrelated topics or ideas. She is skilled at building connections with a wide-range of individuals from students in the vocational certificate program to staff in the Provost’s office,” she said. “Her ability to build relationships with community members, businesses and non-profits provide the support and resources needed to support all learners. She is an advocate and champion for education and learning as tools to break the poverty and prison pipeline.”

Kate Wingert-Playdon, Associate Dean and Director of Architecture and Environmental Design in Temple’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture, highlighted Westrick’s leadership skills in nominating her for the Alexander Charters Award.

“Of special note was our collaboration planning and implementing the Business of Architecture continuing education program, currently in its third year. The project started with a request from individuals in the regional professional architecture community who understood a need for continuing education courses for busy young professionals,” she said. “It took a three-way partnership with University College to get the project off the ground — (Westrick’s) leadership was carried out with the tenacity needed to realize a project working in collaboration with busy professional partners. The program, now affiliated with Temple Real Estate Institute, is affordable for young professionals and provides them with elementary business skills to start a practice or engage in more comprehensive business education.”

In nominating Westrick for the UPCEA honor, Vanessa Williams, Instructional Designer and Trainer with Temple’s Office of Off-Campus Programs and Training, said Westrick is a “dedicated and thoughtful leader, with an unswerving commitment to working with underserved students and communities.”

“I work with Nicole particularly closely on projects for returning citizens and the residents of North Philadelphia’s poorest communities, and she is genuinely invested in her mission of providing education for all. Nicole sets high standards for her teams — she prioritizes professionalism and a student-centered approach,” she said. “She has an exceptional level of attention to detail. She is also pursuing her doctoral degree in addition to continuing to teach in Temple’s College of Science and Technology, all while leading the Non-Credit and Continuing Education Department.”

Westrick is a firm believer that learning never ends.

“I’m personally a lifelong learner. I took the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment and, no surprise, learning was in my top five. Learning is central to who I am and how I approach things — I don’t think anyone ever stops learning,” she said. “My goal is to always seek out how we can best meet the needs of our students regardless of age, background, goals or areas of interest.”

Developing continuing education courses is never a “complete” endeavor, Westrick said.

“You’re never really ‘done.’ You’re always revising and making improvements based on what’s going on in the world and based on the needs of the communities you are serving,” she said. “My goal is to create a space where learning is continuous whether it’s for a kid going to camp for the first time, someone exploring a career change or a retiree coming to campus for the simple joy of learning. We are fostering an environment and a culture where learning opportunities are available for everyone.”