11 UW certificates
— and counting
11 UW certificates
— and counting
11 UW certificates
— and counting

Ed Jones has completed more UWPCE
certificate programs than anyone else,
and he’s busy working on his next one.

By Delia Ward | Illustration by Michael Austin | March 2021

Ed Jones, ’66, holds the record for the number of certificate programs taken through the UW Professional & Continuing Education program. It’s a mark the Boeing retiree had an enormous amount of fun reaching.

It all started in 2004, when Jones signed up for a film class and worked with a team to produce a short movie about an artist so obsessed with his work, he dies making it. “It’s kind of a goofy story,” admits Jones. Although he laughs a little at the plot, he enjoyed learning skills like camera placement, lighting, how to frame individual shots and how to pull a project together on a deadline. The class also changed the way that he watches movies, he says: “I always look to see who’s the gaffer.”

Jones has since completed 11 UWPCE certificate programs, more than anyone else. His other classes include a course in private investigation taught by a lawyer and two private eyes, a class on forensics and another on environmental law and regulation. He also studied electronic discovery management, advanced online marketing and nonfiction writing.

As disparate as these offerings may seem, there is a common thread. Jones, a former governmental contract manager at Boeing, is fascinated by information and informational structure, whether it’s used by online marketers or private eyes. “Some of these classes fall in line with my former job,” he says. “I gathered information, coordinated it and documented it. So it all kind of fits together.”

Continuing education gives you a structured way to learn about a subject. It inspires you to go off and do something.

Ed Jones

Even if you set aside his record number of certificates, Jones is something of an atypical student at UWPCE: Although he always had reasons for his course selections, his approach was often exploratory, even a little playful. Many more students are focused on advancing or changing their careers.

What today is the UW Continuum College—the professional development and continuing education division of the University—started in 1912 to offer correspondence and extension courses. Over the years it has evolved and expanded, serving current UW students as well as alumni and the general public.

Through programs like UWPCE, UW Online and Summer Sessions, Continuum College offers about 100 certificate programs and more than 110 graduate degree programs, currently enrolling about 50,000 students a year. Classes are taught by UW faculty as well as artists, writers and professionals in fields like business, sales and technology. The Continuum College is responding to shifts in the landscape of higher education and in the job market, especially as people seek to gain new skills or even change careers, says Rovy Branon, vice provost for the college.

Strictly speaking, Ed Jones wasn’t trying to advance his career when he started taking the continuing education courses. Rather, he had more time on his hands because his youngest daughter had left for college. And Boeing paid his tuition, so he felt free to follow his curiosity.

Still, the knowledge and skills he gained did relate to his work. He found himself becoming even more data-driven. He improved his presentation skills and brought storytelling into his work. He thought more about conflict resolution, and he learned about data security. All these skills were useful to a person brokering government contracts—and useful to his employer, too.

Though Jones is now retired, he’s not done taking classes. He started a certificate course on fundraising last fall, which will bring his hard-to-beat record up to 12. “Continuing education gives you a structured way to learn about a subject,” Jones says, and he hopes that what he learns from his newest course to help raise funds for local nonprofits. “It inspires you to go off and do something.”