Lakewood, CO - Andrew Johnston, accounting instructor at Red Rocks Community College, took a look at why many students drop out and lose the advantage higher education gives jobseekers. "It's not that they are unintelligent," he explained. "The students I encounter at Red Rocks are typically very intelligent. Many have simply never received the skills necessary to be successful in their personal life, educational pathways, and lifelong career goals."
The answer drove Johnston to think critically about a solution: he added an experiential course to the RRCC Business department's roster. Change Through Challenge, the pilot class of Johnston’s experiment, is the first higher education program of its kind at RRCC. In fact the cutting edge instructional program may even be the first of its kind in the nation due to its unusual concept.
The premise behind the college business course is simple; key life disciplines essential for success in education, career, and life can be developed through the transformative power of marathon training. Johnston is a well-known and respected instructor at RRCC. He is also a key management member at a nonprofit community health center for the uninsured, and an aerospace and defense joint venture in Centennial, CO. Johnston is a teacher, businessman, and most of all... he is a marathon runner.
Change Through Challenge is much more than marathon training according to Johnston, “Life is a marathon. I want to prepare these students for what to expect in the real world. Course curriculum is focused on a full spectrum of strategies and methods to succeed in business and overcome the inevitable difficulties they will face.”
For 21 weeks the Change Through Challenge (starting Spring 2013) students will be required to attend a 90-minute lecture class on Monday evenings. Each week is based on a marathon-themed topic such as goal-setting or overcoming setbacks. Every Saturday the class will meet for another important part of the 21-week course called “the long-run.” Students will start out with a two-mile run, the following Saturday they will run four miles, and each week the distance will increase until the 22 mile “long-run” prior to the final project...the Estes Park Marathon.
Johnston explained the advantage of his experiment to the students who participate fully, “You simply can’t cheat in a marathon. There is no way to ‘just scrape by’ when running 26.2 miles. Students must apply key life disciplines in order to finish the course successfully. The problem with a lot of ‘self-help’ books, seminars, and CDs is the student is not required to apply what they have learned. It will quickly become obvious which students are applying the techniques as the long-run portion of the business course starts covering distances of 10 miles or more.”
Perhaps the most influential and lasting portion of Johnston’s experiment is confidence. There are not many people who believe they can run a constant 26.2 miles or far more individuals would participate in marathons for the prestige. The confidence gained from an exercise like Change Though Challenge is lasting. The accomplishment will eventually translate into confidence in a student’s educational pathways, career goals, and ultimately their life. That is the goal of Andrew Johnston’s course.
More about Red Rocks Community College: Established in 1969, Red Rocks Community College delivers high-quality, affordable education programs leading to two-year degrees or professional certificates. The college serves over 15,000 students per year online and at campus locations in Lakewood and Arvada. www.rrcc.edu