Story of SCOPE

A Story of Providence

An Unexpected Call

One sunny Florida morning Beverly Cormican was sitting at her desk at a small Christian college in Clearwater, Florida when she received an unexpected call from Marshall Franklin and Gary Weier at Bob Jones University. Since graduating 35 years earlier, she had a lengthy career in higher education, healthcare research, and then at Emory as the Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director of Emory Continuing Education. “Being that BJU’s call came out of the blue, I assumed they were simply calling to ‘pick my brain.’ I wasn’t prepared for the words I was about to hear.” The voice on the other end said, “Would you consider helping us establish a new school for adult learners?” Those words hung in the air for a moment as their impact sank in.

“We noticed that the landscape of higher education was changing, especially for adult learners over 25.” Gary Weier, BJU’s Chief Academic Officer recounts. “We realized we needed expertise we didn’t have, someone who really understood adult education both from an academic and a business standpoint who could be a strong leader to push this program forward.” As Gary and Marshall brainstormed who could fill those shoes, Beverly’s name rose to the top.

A Place of God’s Calling

Beverly recounts talking with her husband John: “I know you might think this is crazy, but BJU wants me to come back and help.” The shocked look on John’s face communicated his surprise. At present they had been considering several great career opportunities, but BJU hadn’t even been on their radar. That conversation was the first of many prayerful conversations about the place BJU might have in their future plans. With John’s support and a growing confidence in God’s calling, Beverly knew the Lord had called her to SCOPE. “I called Gary and shared the good news, ‘If you want to create this, I can do this for you.’”

Establishing a Pathway for Adult Learners

In God’s providence, Beverly’s doctoral thesis written years earlier had been on new revenue streams in higher ed. That playbook was instrumental in creating the infrastructure for this new school. In 2018 the School for Continuing, Online and Professional Education (SCOPE) was founded to serve the adult, non-traditional learner, a growing and underserved market in higher education, and to help every learner have a pathway for advancement.

Unlocking the Next Impossible

Barb Eldridge had always aspired to work with children in health care. After spending many of her high school years working alongside her school’s kindergarten teacher, she had grown in her love for children. After high school, she enrolled in BJU’s Elementary Education program, but halfway through she experienced several major setbacks, including being diagnosed with cancer, which forced her to sit out for a year. Refusing to let cancer hold her back, Barb returned a year later determined to finish her degree.

To pay for school, she worked night security which enabled her to get an EMT certification. It was then that Barb says she “fell in love with medicine, and that was the end of it.” However, changing to a nursing major one semester prior to graduation felt impossible. Instead of extending her time at BJU, Barb opted to drop out that semester and work as a local EMT. But after being injured on the job, she decided she needed to move back home to Pennsylvania for rehab and to decide on a new path forward.

The future seemed bleak and her lifelong dream unachievable.

She used her time at home to take classes at a local community college to get an Associate's degree while slowly working her way up from one hospital department to another. Ultimately, she landed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) working with children, her lifelong dream. The PICU cares for children from birth to 18 assisting with traumas like car accidents, open-heart surgeries, and even kidney transplants.

Finally, Barb had her dream job, but one thing stood in the way. She had worked hard but if she wanted to advance or transfer to another hospital system, she would have to have her Bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Penn State University was the local choice, but after multiple setbacks during her program, Barb had all but given up on the future. One day she came across an ad for SCOPE in the BJU alumni magazine and decided to make the call. She quickly made friends with Kat Wampole who helped Barb start the RN to BSN program.

Barb recounts “Part of the reason I love SCOPE so much is the one-on-one time I had with my advisor Kat. And it was the same way with all my instructors.”

Kat helped Barb navigate through the new distance learning format as Barb worked on her degree during nights and weekends. Her program wasn’t simply academic. She said, “I was able to do projects in pediatrics that I could turn around and put into practice in my unit that week.”

However, once again Barb faced obstacles after her mom passed away months before her SCOPE graduation. This time, after more than 18 months of hard work, Barb proudly finished her last class at 46 years old and graduated with her BSN degree from SCOPE. Looking back over her journey, Barb recounts:

“A lot of places hire on the basis of having a BSN and I now have that as part of my resume. My BSN gives me flexibility if I need to change positions. It gave me leadership skills, making me more confident in being the nurse that I am today. It was nice to have the Biblical basis for it. Many times over I thought this was impossible, but it worked out in the end.”

Our vision for the future

If you spend any time with SCOPE’s leadership team, you will often hear the word “flourish.” SCOPE’s desire is to help every learner write the next new chapter of their story, not getting stuck in a past chapter, and truly flourish in their place of God’s calling.

One of SCOPE’s distinctive offerings is a new Leadership Institute that includes ethical decision-making, character-based leadership development, and applied skills like communication and project management. Beverly states: “I’m passionate about developing leaders. I've spent my career in higher ed and business leadership roles and this is my contribution—to give back. It is my mission to bring up this next generation of leaders and to pass the baton to them.”

When asked about SCOPE’s future, Gary Weier recounted:

I am excited about extending our mission to people we could not reach just on our campus, really serving believers, particularly with lifelong learning. SCOPE is for people who think of themselves as ‘stuck’ and want to take things to the next level or take the next opportunity but feel like they can’t. We have the ability to come alongside and help them unlock that next impossible.

Gary Weier
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