News & Features

SSM, Fontbonne OPTIONS Meet in the Middle with a Program Tailored to Fit

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Education for Life section

Friday, December 8, 2006


SSM, Fontbonne OPTIONS Meet in the Middle with a Program Tailored to Fit Sometimes, you CAN have everything. You just have to ask.

For many working adults who decide to pursue education, a convenient and accelerated pace is the ticket. Flying toward the finish line - an undergraduate or graduate degree - puts those people on the fast track to better career opportunities.

But for others, the fast track doesn't look good at all. They want a degree that is delivered in a convenient way, but they are NOT in a great big hurry to get there.

Ken Clark falls into the second group. Ahuman resources manager at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, Clark knows that getting a master's degree will open up more opportunities for him in the future. And, he's ready to get started, but he's got some non-negotiables.

For one thing, he's not interested in putting an enormous strain on his young and busy family. Clark said he's already putting in an average of 55 hours a week with his job. He and his wife, who also works as a full-time nurse, juggle schedules to care for their two sons, ages 7 and 10.

"I looked at a lot of accelerated programs and just knew that wouldn't work for our family," he said. "I want to spend time with my boys while they still want to spend time with me."

Clark was looking for the conveniences of a degree program for adults, but he was willing to put the brakes on, so he could spend holidays and summers with hisfamily. Fortunately, for Clark and many of his colleagues at SSM Health Care who wanted the same thing, a unique partnership was forged between two institutions whose leaders have been willing to think outside the box, but jump back in if they need to.

Fontbonne University OPTIONS, a program designed specifically to meet the needs of busy, working adults, has made a name for itself with signature programs that make it pretty hard for ambitious adults to say "no" to getting their undergraduate or graduate degrees there. Courses are offered in sequence, one at a time, and at an accelerated pace. Over the years, OPTIONS has established classroom sites all over the St. Louis area - South County, Chesterfield, North County and downtown St. Louis.

The ever-changing, almost fluid nature of the institution's growth is the key to its success, said Jerry Bladdick, associate vice president for adult and continuing education. "Those institutions that refuse to change are going to become extinct," said Bladdick. "We are charged with educating young people and adults. Education just isn't a one-size-fits-all prospect. We're constantly adapting to meet the needs that arise."

It was Fontbonne OPTIONS' flexibility and Bladdick's willingness to listen to what SSM employees said they needed that made the institution the perfect choice for a partnership.

"OPTIONS had this we-can-make-this-work kind of attitude when we approached them," said SSM's manager of organizational development, Mary Calcaterra.

She said they were looking for a degree program to offer their employees and they especially needed two things: as little out-of-pocket costs to their employees as possible, and, a convenient, but not hectic pace.

To the delight of Calcaterra and many other SSM employees, Fontbonne was able to tailor a program that fit the bill - one that has become extremely popular.

For more information about Fontbonne University OPTIONS, call 314-863-2220 or visit the website at

with permission, copyright (2006) St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Education for Life Section