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Leaders in Professional, Continuing and Online Education

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A Glance at the Realm of Higher Education

By SmartBrief Editors

This post is produced in partnership with UPCEA.

 

Former associate provost for outreach and engagement at the University of Southern Indiana and current vice provost for continuing education at North Carolina State University, Mark Bernhard offers insight into success within the profession of continuing higher education.

Question: Tell us about your journey into and in the professional, continuing and online education field. 

Answer: One of my favorite sayings is “the journey is the destination.” I would define my professional career as a very fulfilling journey filled with lifelong learning! While I’ve spent the last 21 years in the continuing higher education field, the early years of my career were a time of exploration and wandering. 

In June 1998, I was hired at Penn State Outreach as a conference planner in Conferences & Institutes. After more than 8 years at Penn State, I then spent the next nearly 5 years at Virginia Tech as Director of Continuing and Professional Education. After nearly 5 years at Virginia Tech and more than 13 years at two land-grant institutions, I spent the past 8 years as the associate provost for Outreach and Engagement at the University of Southern Indiana, a public regional comprehensive institution in southwest Indiana. 

 

Q: Can you share with us your lessons learned and biggest successes in your experience with partnerships? 

A: Partnerships are most successful when they are mutually beneficial.  What I’ve learned is that is really important to spend time both at the beginning of partnerships as well as through the evolution of partnerships to effectively communicate with partners to understand what is important to the partner and have them understand what is important to us. While we may not get to yes on every aspect within a partnership, finding effective solutions and resolution to any conflict through healthy, respectful communication has served me well.  

 

Q: How important do you think entrepreneurialism/an entrepreneurial mindset is to the work that you do? 

A: Having an entrepreneurial mindset has been critically important to the work I do. While some people may be innately entrepreneurial, I firmly believe it is a skill that can be learned and honed over time. I have spent my entire career growing my entrepreneurial mindset by reading lots of books and articles on creativity, growth mindset, innovation, and attending conferences and workshops. I’d suggest to anyone looking to grow as a leader in any field including continuing higher education that they work on adopting a growth mindset philosophy and surround themselves with colleagues, mentors and others who also have a growth mindset. 

 

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for leaders in our field today? What new and exciting things do you see on the horizon? 

A: Higher education in general is going through tremendous upheaval and transformation right now. There is increased competition not only from other universities but from big companies who have entered the higher education space. The seemingly daily change in technologies and keeping up with said technologies is also a challenge. 

I think the future for higher education is truly exciting. I think we will see enhanced importance in credentialing. I think we’ll see new and emerging fields that will require in some cases degrees but also certificates or on-the-job training. The continued trend toward automation is positively forcing universities and other education providers to rethink what is valuable in terms of preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow. 

 

Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

A: The best career advice I’ve ever gotten and what I’d pass onto others is the following: Never stop learning, stay resilient especially when times get tough, don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake, be compassionate to others, and treat everyone with respect. 

 

Mark C. Bernhard, Ph.D. is the Vice Provost for Continuing Education at North Carolina State University.  He also serves as the executive director of the McKimmon Center for Extension and Continuing Education and is responsible for the Center’s program development and administration of a $44 million budget, and provides oversight of the management of Center operations and facilities.  He oversees a division of more than 200 full-time and part-time staff.

 

 

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