The Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center Brings Students Closer to Graduation, Close to Home
April, 2015 - Issue #126
Juggling motherhood, work and school was a challenge for Zimry Contreras.

But thanks to the flexibility of her professors and her coursework, she graduated from Brandman University with a bachelor's degree in social science last May.

"It feels amazing to finish school," said Contreras, who is a single mom and plans on working with at-risk youth as a social worker. "My daughter is my hero. She is the one who inspired me to continue studying. Anything is possible."

When her daughter was born, Contreras stopped attending undergraduate classes at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), to focus on motherhood. When Contreras reapplied six years later, she found herself waitlisted for classes due to impacted class offerings prompted by state budget cuts.

"I didn't want to wait," said the Granada Hills resident, who in desperation to finish her studies, considered commuting to California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), but classes there were also impacted.

At the suggestion of her sister-in-law, Contreras looked into the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center at College of the Canyons, which was the perfect fit.

Envisioned as the solution to the lack of access to upper division, graduate school and continuing education programs in the Santa Clarita Valley, the University Center was established to increase student access to advanced degrees by forging partnerships with surrounding four-year colleges and universities. Those institutions then make their academic programs available to students through courses offered at the College of the Canyons Valencia campus.

Contreras enrolled in evening classes, which allowed her to work and take her daughter to school. She also took several online classes, but preferred being in a classroom.
"There are often about 300 students in a classroom at most four-year colleges and the professor probably doesn't know your name," said Contreras. "But at the University Center, I had about 25 to 30 classmates. I was able to have a one-on-one relationship with my professors. Brandman was like my family."

Since opening its doors in 2002, the University Center strives to offer students the opportunity to earn an advanced degree without leaving the Santa Clarita Valley.
Tyson Pursley, who earned his master's degree in marriage and family therapy from Brandman, chose to study at the University Center because of its proximity to his Stevenson Ranch home.

"Studying at the University Center allowed me to work and spend time with my family," said Pursley, who at his busiest, took evening classes while working for an aerospace company. "I didn't have to sacrifice a lot of family time because I didn't have a long commute."

Pursley, who graduated last August, also enjoyed the University Center's small classroom size.

"It was nice to have the same group of people in all of my classes and know that we were all going in the same direction," said Pursley, who also earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University Center.

If you would like to learn more about how you can earn your bachelor's or master's degree, come to an Open House at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center located on the College of the Canyons Valencia campus and find out just how doable getting your degree really is!
Held from 4pm to 7pm on Tuesday, April 21, the Open House will provide prospective students with information about the more than 40 degree programs offered by CSU Bakersfield, CSU Northridge, University of La Verne, Brandman University and National University.

The University Center is best accessed via University Center Drive, the southernmost campus entrance on Rockwell Canyon Road. Parking in the campus parking lots 13, 14 and 15 is free for this event.
For more information about the College of the Canyons University Center open house event and programs, log on, e-mail or call. 362-5150
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