SCE changing lives for 100 years and counting  

The Providence College School of Continuing Education (SCE) has been changing the lives of adult learners for 100 years. Thousands of students have earned their associate and bachelor’s degrees, professional certificates, or simply taken classes for their professional or personal enrichment.

Prior to the official opening of Providence College in 1919, the Dominican faculty taught the first credit-bearing courses to women who were members of religious orders in 1918. These students, who followed their passion from night classes to degrees, firmly entrenched PC’s commitment to continuing education.

According to “The Origins and Early History of Providence College Through 1947,” a dissertation by Dr. Donna T. McCaffrey ’73G, ’83Ph.D., & ’87G, a retired assistant professor of history who died in January 2016, “the undergraduate extension study (which eventually became SCE), officially started in 1925, grew by leaps and bounds.”

The winter and summer extension courses, offered originally to the religious and then to lay persons, enrolled 7,156 students between 1921 and 1955. Ninety-seven lay women and 248 women of numerous religious orders received a bachelor of arts, bachelor of philosophy, master of art, or master of education degree before the Undergraduate Day School embarked on co-education in September 1971.

McCaffrey also noted that as early as 1928 there were even women resident students, putting SCE ahead of the rest of PC.  Approximately 75 religious sisters were taking courses for religious teachers in the summer session at Sisters’ College, which became the Extension School. These women lived in the old Guzman Hall, which is now Martin Hall.

The Providence Visitor, the newspaper of the Diocese of Providence, wrote about PC’s first continuing education graduates in a front-page story on June 10, 1932. Fourteen lay and religious women received degrees in the extension courses. Each had her degree hand-delivered to her by an usher.

Multiple changes in name

Over the years, the SCE was known by many names, including the Extension School (1919), the School of Adult Education (1925), the Extension Division (1965), the Evening School (1968), and finally, the School of Continuing Education (1971). A name change was suggested again in 2002, but the SCE title stuck.

The SCE has experienced many firsts over the decades. It created the only fire science program in Rhode Island in 1973 by developing a partnership with the Providence Fire Department, largely through the efforts of Rev. Francis D. , O.P., a PC Dominican who served as chaplain of the fire department. The SCE also offered the College’s first online course in fall 1999 and has continued to do so for almost 20 years.

With a focus on adult learners, the SCE has been able to help students grow personally and professionally, advance or change careers, and become more invested in their communities.  Along the way, administrators, faculty, and staff developed a culture of personal care and strong bonds with student learners that remains a hallmark of the school. Combined with flexible class schedules and affordable tuition, the SCE has earned a reputation as a premier provider of adult education in southern New England.

Marjorie Drew ’14SCE & ’19G found exactly what she was looking for during her time at PC, saying, “SCE is a great place for someone who is thinking of finishing a degree or starting a new career. Class sizes are small, professors are very knowledgeable and helpful, and there is academic help and financial aid and scholarships.”

His SCE education has been transformational, said another student, John McNeil ’14SCE & ’19G. “This school has made me a better person,” he said.


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