OMAHA — It was launched in June and now Midland University’s Innovation Campus is already being recognized for its innovative approach to education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the campus Wednesday as part of her “Rethink School” tour. She spent a little over an hour at the campus at 11213 Davenport Street, speaking in a private meeting with Midland University President Jody Horner before spending time sitting in on one of the university’s Code Academy classes.

“Our goal is to help everyone, including educators and students, begin to think differently about how we do school and this is a really great example here of meeting students where they are at and really addressing needs in the community,” DeVos said.

The Code Academy is designed by tech professionals to be a unique, first-in-the-region program that aims to prepare students for a career in coding and web development while studying part time in Omaha just a few nights a week.

“We are very proud of our Code Academy, it provides an alternative route for students and gets them ready within a 10 month time frame,” Horner said. “Here in Omaha we have over 400 open coding and web development roles and they pay significant amounts of money.”

DeVos listened to the Code Academy instructor teach students about different coding languages and also talked with students about why they decided to enroll in the course.

“Frankly I think we have done a disservice to young people for many years by suggesting that the only path to success as adults is through a four-year college or university,” DeVos said. “We see lots of opportunities. This is a great example right here today, of different pathways and different options and so we are going to continue to build on that theme that there are really great opportunities that don’t require a four-year college.”

Horner said she highlighted the innovative programs at Midland’s new Omaha campus during her visit with DeVos.

“We talked about innovation in the higher education space,” Horner said of their conversation. “I was able to share a little bit of the programs we are doing at Midland University and commended her on her focus on innovation.”

The “Rethink Schools” tour visits schools and programs that are developing and driving innovation in education to meet students’ individual needs.

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“I have visited a lot of schools over the past number of months, many of which are approaching education differently than the traditional approach that we have undertaken for many many years,” DeVos said. “I think that is really good, I think we need to see more of both in traditional schools, and charters and any other choices that parents have to make.

“It is not about supporting what kind of school, it doesn’t matter what comes in front of the word school, but really supporting a full range of choices so that students needs are best met.”

During the visit Secretary DeVos spoke of the federal government’s role in higher education, and her vision for the future of the Department of Education.

“I think we have a great opportunity now with Congress considering re-authorization of the Higher Education Act to look more holistically at how the federal government does support higher education,” she said. “We have to become more flexible around how we support students in pursuing alternative pathways through credentialing and certification programs, apprenticeship programs and two-year colleges that prepare them for a variety of opportunities.”

Before making the visit to Omaha, Secretary DeVos started the “Rethink School” tour in Casper, Wyoming on Tuesday, and also spent time at the Firefly Autism House and the Air Force Academy in Colorado earlier in the day Wednesday.

The tour continues Thursday and will include stops at the private Nelson Mandela Elementary School in North Omaha, St. Mary’s Catholic School in Lincoln and the Science Focus Program — known as the Zoo School — in Lincoln.

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