The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

School of Education A Leader in Cross-Department Partnerships

By Bruce Buchanan

Most colleges and universities would list collaboration as a core value, or a goal worthy of aspiration. But UNCG’s School of Education is actively putting collaboration into practice every day.

The following are three of the numbers partnerships between the School of Education and other UNCG schools or departments. Through these partnerships, the School of Education improves opportunities for students and maximizes the use of the university’s valuable resources.

School of Education forms “Rites of Passage” Partnership to Promote Diversity, Success

In one of the School of Education’s newest collaborations, Counseling and Educational Development Professor Dr. Eric Hines is partnering with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to help UNCG widen its net of successful students.

The Rites of Passage program receives federal money to help students from historically underrepresented groups gain access to a college education. Many of these students are African-American and Hispanic males, and are first-generation college students. The program begins working with these students as soon as they arrive, either as freshmen or transfer students, to help them get off to a good start at UNCG. Currently, around 30 students are taking part in the program.

“The goal is to help them complete college and get a four-year degree,” Dr. Hines said.

The partnership began in the Fall 2011 semester and Dr. Hines said he plans to offer the course every year in conjunction with the Rites of Passage program.

Dr. Hines prepares and teaches a career planning course that focuses on helping students pick the best possible major at UNCG and uses career assessment tools to identify areas of strength. In addition, the course teaches such skills as resume and cover letter writing. One class assignment involved students going to the university’s counseling center to talk about self-confidence and other potential stumbling blocks to completing college.

“We help them navigate where they want to go and who they want to be,” Dr. Hines said.

As for the partnership with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, he said the collaboration has been beneficial for the School of Education, the university and the students.

“To me, the partnership is great,” Dr. Hines said. “It has given me a chance to see what my colleagues in administration are doing. I got to see another side of what administration does and how they are critical to the success of our students.”

In addition, Dr. Hines said he appreciates the chance to get to teach undergraduate students. Normally, he works with graduate students in the School of Education, but the Rites of Passage partnership puts him in contact with another segment of campus.

Specialized Education Services Department Partnership Helping Teachers Reach Children with Special Needs

While the Rites of Passage partnership is a new collaboration, partnerships are nothing new for the School of Education.

Dr. Belinda Hardin, Associate Professor of Specialized Education Services, oversees a partnership between the School of Education’s Specialized Education Services Department and the School of Health and Human Services’ Human Development and Family Studies Department.

The collaboration between the two departments dates back more than 15 years. It currently involves around 200 undergraduate students and 40 students in the graduate school.

The partnership is designed to help aspiring teachers meet the needs of children with disabilities. Students in the partnership receive training in how to teach diverse groups of children with and without disabilities.

In North Carolina, preschool teachers receive the same birth-through-kindergarten license, regardless of whether or not they serve children with disabilities. The state strongly encourages schools to include children with disabilities in all aspects of schooling when possible, and Dr. Hardin said the UNCG partnership promotes that goal, as the training students receive will allow them to better meet the needs of children with disabilities in a regular classroom setting.

“We feel we are role modeling for students,” Dr. Hardin said. “It’s an inclusive license that meets the needs of all children and we feel we are walking the walk.”

The end result of the collaboration is graduates who are better prepared for the classroom. Surveys of students who participate in the joint program have been strongly positive.

“The students respond that they get the perspective of working with children with special needs as well as working with children with typical development. They like having two perspectives and they feel it adds depth to the topics that are being discussed,” Dr. Hardin said.

Undergraduate students in the partnership take courses taught by the faculty of both schools, plus six courses that are co-taught by Education and Health and Human Services faculty. At the graduate level, students are enrolled 50/50 in School of Education and School of Health and Human Services courses.

This level of collaboration requires constant communication and cooperation. Dr. Hardin works directly with Associate Professor Dr. Linda Hestenes from the School of Health and Human Services. They meet with all participating faculty from both schools once a month.

In the last five or six years, Dr. Hardin says the partnership increasingly has turned to online learning. The program received a grant from the University of North Carolina system to put masters-level courses online. Classes are held each with, with students participating in real time via Web cameras and headsets.

“It’s been very successful,” Dr. Hardin said.

Currently, program officials are working to bring the Web-based version of the program to students in Israel.

While the School of Education’s partnership with the School of Health and Human Services makes sense on paper, Dr. Hardin said the key to the collaboration has been the willingness of both sides to work together.

“We have a high regard for each other and I think that’s what has made the program work,” she said.

 Strong Ties Between Department of Library and Information Studies, Jackson Library

Of all the School of Education’s partnerships, a working relationship between the School’s Department of Library and Information Studies and UNCG Jackson Library would seem to be the most natural. And sure enough, the two departments enjoy an extensive list of collaborations—a list that has grown longer in recent years.

In 2010, the Department of Library and Information Science and the library created a pilot internship program titled “Real Learning Connections". School of Education Assistant Professor Dr. Nora Bird and Michael Crumpton, the library’s Assistant Dean for Administrative Services, oversee the program.

Real Learning Connections came about because Department of Library and Information Sciences leaders felt that scholarship students needed a richer, real-world research experience as part of their course of study.

“Because we had such a great relationship with the library, I pitched the idea to (UNCG Dean of Libraries) Rosann Bazirjian,” said Dr. Clara Chu, LIS Department Chair.

Faculty members pitch research projects, and the scholarship students then work on those projects in the UNCG libraries. At the end of the school year, the students present their completed projects to librarians and faculty. Both departments fund the scholarships, as the School of Education provides tuition waivers and the library provides stipends.

Another joint project between the LIS Department and the library is the ACE (Academic and Cultural Enrichment) Scholars Program, which seeks to increase diversity in the library sciences profession. The program involves 10 academic libraries across North Carolina and is funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.

“There is strong state-wide support for this program,” Dr. Chu said.

The ACES partnership began in 2009 with 13 students, all of whom graduated in 2011. The second cohort of 17 ACE Scholars started in August 2011 with a target graduation date of May 2013.

ACE Scholars receive tuition and fees for UNCG’s MLIS program, up to five semesters, as well as a stipend; mentoring, networking and internship opportunities; and expense money for one national and one state conference.

Other collaborations between the Department of Library and Information Studies and the library include partnering on the UNCG LIS/Libraries Lecture Series which co-sponsors two speakers per year. UNCG librarians serve on the LIS Advisory Committee and LIS faculty and students serve on various library committees. The LIS Department also invites librarians to serve as adjunct faculty and guest lecturers.

Chu said that while the partnerships between the two departments have grown stronger in recent years, the library and LIS Department have a long-standing spirit of cooperation that makes such joint efforts successful.

“Rosann reached out to me when I came on board,” Dr. Chu said. “I also saw such wonderful support for our students from the library.”


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