UI offers diploma in Chicago

By Julian Scharman

On a frigid Tuesday afternoon, Greg Pierceall, the chief professor of the horticulture program, makes his three-hour commute back to Chicago.

However, this commute is to his second shift of the week teaching University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students – in the Chicagoland area.

Beginning last fall, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences has partnered with several Chicagoland locations to offer an off-campus education in horticulture.

Traditionally, University students reside in Urbana-Champaign to receive a degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

But the University is breaking new ground by allowing students to earn a degree in horticulture from the University while outside of Urbana-Champaign.

Targeted primarily for those in a higher age group, this off-campus program is providing the chance to earn a University degree in classes taught by University of Illinois professors.

Locations include the Multi-University Center in Oak Brook, The Morton Arboretum in Lisle and the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Although the new program is a convenient resource for current students and adults alike, the application and admittance processes are identical to Urbana-Champaign’s, and just as rigorous.

Additionally, students must complete all the University’s general education requirements and prerequisites.

Greg Pierceall is the degree completion advisor for this nontraditional program.

Pierceall, commutes from his two lectures in Urbana-Champaign on Monday and Tuesday, to his lectures in Chicago, which he conducts Wednesday through Friday to a much broader age bracket.

“My age range of students includes 18 through 65-year-olds, and we have some community college students that are taking classes and some adult learners,” said Pierceall, “So it’s really just a nice blend of a population to be teaching.”

According to Piper Hodson, the student services coordinator for the natural resources and environmental sciences department, students currently attending classes at the Urbana campus are capable of taking classes offered at the Chicago branch as well.

“This summer we are offering our University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign urban wildlife ecology course up north,” said Hodson, “So it is completely possible for a student here who is willing to pick up a course over the summer to do so in Chicago.”

Only a semester into the newly founded degree completion program, Chicago students have been eager to work alongside University students in horticulture club competitions, said Reid Snyder, junior in ACES.

“We’ve already had one competition this year, and two students from the Chicago program participated alongside students from campus on the same team,” Snyder said. “It was a very rewarding experience,”

Snyder added that this summer he will be pursuing Chicago course opportunities as well.

The University is the first to offer a degree completion program in Chicago; Pierceall said it is a very exciting circumstance to be part of.

“We are creating the runway for other things to occur,” said Pierceall.