By Craig A. Ruark
Since 1971, the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) has been providing certificate program and associate level education to thousands of Nevada residents. The three main campuses located in North Las Vegas, Henderson, and Las Vegas offer a physical convenience to the students while the online programs offer a scheduling convenience.
As for students interested in business, the CSN Associate of Business Degree is a very affordable start to advancing their careers. For those students wanting a more advanced degree, the Associate credits are transferable to UNLV, and other major universities. Also, CSN has been approved to offer a Bachelor of Applied Science in Project Management, which they are hoping to begin offering in the spring of 2019.
With a total CSN enrollment averaging between 30,000 and 40,000 per year, approximately 5,000 receive an Associate of Business or Associate of Applied Science in Business degree.
Since 2008, the College business program has held accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). The accreditation focuses on recognizing teaching excellence, determining student learning outcomes, and a continuous improvement model. ACBSP’s student-centered teaching and learning approach, which is measured and analyzed for quality, ensures that students gain the right skills from their educational investment. Institutions with programs accredited by ACBSP are committed to continuous improvement that ensures their business program will give students the skills employers want.
However, the ACBSP does not accredit the institution, only the business programs offered at the institution.
Maria Schellhase, Ph.D., Interim Chair of Business Administration and teaching professor, just completed the business school’s biennial self-evaluation certification application. “One of the beneficial things about the accreditation is that the school learns how to improve and add value from a student’s perspective,” said Schellhase.
In addition to the standard classroom and online courses, CSN also offers hybrid courses that are part classroom and part online (three hours a week in the classroom and the rest online). Many students take these courses to determine their comfort level with the online. Students can take a combination of classroom, online, and hybrid courses to complete their degree.
The college also offers accelerated courses that cover the same course material but reduces the normal class time from 16 weeks down to eight or four weeks. While these courses are very intensive, students can complete their degree in a shorter period.
According to a student pole, the things they like about CSN are the small class sizes, generally under 30, and the ability to take classes at one of the three main campuses, accommodating work and living schedules.
The faculty is a good mix between members that have been at the college for a very long time, some professors at CSN have been there for 40 years, and the younger members that have only recently joined within the past five to six years, bringing new ideas to teaching.
One of the recent additions is Dr. Schellhase, who joined CSN in 2013. Schellhase served as the Corporate Director of Central Reservations for Station Casinos and spent more than ten years in the financial service industry as an Investment Advisor (stockbroker), Portfolio Manager, and Vice President of Client Relations for leading organizations such as Merrill Lynch, SunTrust Bank, Goldwater Capital, CMC Financial Services, and Continental Airlines. In 2006, Dr. Schellhase received the Las Vegas Review Journal’s “Rising New Stars of Business” for generating over 50 million dollars in private investor money in less than two years.
The choice to leave the corporate world and begin teaching was an easy one for Schellhase. “I was a part-time adjunct professor and working in the corporate world a combined 70-hour workweek. Even though I was highly successful, making a lot of money, but I didn’t have much balance in my life, and I’ve never had any children. I started thinking about my legacy, how can I add value to someone’s life and what will I leave behind.” After receiving her Ph.D., Schellhase applied for a position at CSN.
Because of Schellhase’s varied experience outside of the academic world, she brings a different approach to her teaching. “I use corporate activity kits, developed for kinesthetic learners, that bring learning to life. In this way, students gain a little basic knowledge from the book at the front end and then they collaborate with fellow students, ‘team members,’ to complete an activity which would take them through a typical business cycle involving the theoretical building of a business idea, costing it out, and presenting a marketing plan.”
At the end of each semester, Schellhase reevaluates her own classroom in an effort to keep things fresh and to grow as technology advances. Her goal is to engage the learner and make things both interesting and fun. “I think learning is fun too, and the more you engage the learner, the more they open their mind to what you are trying to teach.”
“Time flies—it flies by so fast. But students come back to visit, and they keep in touch with me, and it really fills my bucket to see their successes. I love teaching; it’s really gratifying to do what I do.”
In addition to the course curriculum, CSN administers a business incubator program where students have the opportunity to build on their business ideas and take them to the next level. They also hold an annual Career Speed Networking Event where businesses executives interview and critique students on their resume, appearance, and presentation of their ‘elevator speech.’ Through this event, many students have found their first full-time job or advanced to a new position with a new employer.