A classroom in the Alpine Ascent Center at CMC's Spring Valley campus. Courtesy photo

On Jan. 25, the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) Board of Trustees unanimously approved CMC’s seventh bachelor’s degree program, Human Services, along with a $5 dollar per credit hour increase in all Colorado resident tuition rates for the upcoming academic year.

CMC worked with over 70 agencies to gain an understanding of what kind of workforce needs are most in demand and what tools and skill sets are needed in order to effectively do the work. It was discovered that many human services departments, including in municipal and government agencies, are in need of entry-level workers.

This new program and curriculum are designed as a “stepped program,” meaning that students are able to both enter and exit the program with different credentials. It is designed to prepare individuals to assist in the behavioral health field, which spans many sorts of agencies, such as counseling offices, medical clinics and hospitals, correctional facilities, schools, community mental health agencies and more. The program allows students to get clinical hours in their respective field while also obtaining credit hours in the program.

The program is designed to meet two needs, said program director Chris Harden. The first is to ensure that students are set up for entry-level jobs upon graduation and the second is to help students prepare for master’s programs in the field.

“What I will highlight for the core classes is basically everything you find in a bachelor’s program. We have: leadership, ethics, applied research methods, law and public policy,” he stated.

Harden also touched on the more nuanced classes, and how students will be able to apply a “strength-based education” which Harden said is central. When students complete the program, they will have had the opportunity to focus on understanding rural communities, ethnicity, class, gender, group and family dynamics, social psychology, psychology of personality and systems of abuse.

He gave an example of this kind of training. “Say that you are a right-handed individual. You have those natural strengths and talents in your right hand. Therefore, you are going to be a right-handed writer. You could take a month and try to teach yourself to write with your left hand and then at the end of that month, it might be legible, not much more. Meanwhile, you could also take that month and stick with your dominant hand and you could learn calligraphy, you could master your penmanship, you could take that to a whole new level.”

CMC’s vice president of academic affairs, Katheryn Regjo, stated, “We’re super excited to bring forward a degree program that not only prepares a future workforce but is also inserting that future workforce into the field during their education. We are hoping to close the gap between graduation and employment sooner and then produce a qualified candidate for, as our dean of human studies says, a ‘tsunami of need’ in behavioral and mental health services.”

Madi Cosgrove, a current student of psychology at CMC, is hoping to enter into the program in the fall semester. Cosgrove is from Steamboat originally, and started her academic journey with CMC in the fall of 2019. She is set to graduate with an associate’s degree this May and describes the new program as “incredibly exciting.” She plans to eventually get a master’s degree in neuropsychology to be able to work with trauma patients. She was inspired to work with trauma patients after reading “The Body Keeps Score” by Bessel van der Kolk.

“This is something I became super passionate about after experiencing my own trauma. I was at a crosswalk and I got hit by a car. After experiencing that myself, I realized that there’s this huge community of patients out there who really need that support and someone who is willing to come at it both at the biological level and in the cognitive-behavioral and emotional way,” said Cosgrove.

Students will be able to enroll in the bachelor’s in Human Services program in the fall of 2022. For more information, visit www.coloradomtn.edu

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