An accelerated degree aimed at individuals working in community education or hoping to find employment in non-formal education is now enrolling students at West Liberty University.
“Our Bachelor of Arts in Community Education degree is perfect for those who work with the public in non-formal education roles like camp directors, community outreach coordinators, parks and recreation leaders, grant writers, wellness specialists and so many others,” said Dr. Miriam Douglas, who is the new degree’s program director. “For the ambitious student, it can be completed in as little as three years.”
Many employers need these type of degree-prepared employees, according to Douglas, who credits Dr. Keely Camden, dean of the College of Education, with overseeing the process of making this degree a reality.
The 120-credit hour degree will prepare future leaders in all aspects of community education through working and teaching in 21st Century non-formal and informal learning environments.
“We encourage intelligent and creative individuals, interested in education that is not limited to traditional teacher education in classroom settings, to contact us to find out more about this new degree. We’re very excited about it and our current students are pleased,” Douglas said.
WLU sophomore, Ramsay Core, Rayland, Ohio, is one of these.
“This degree fits what I want to do as a 4-H extension agent. So I’m confident that it will help me with my career,” Core said. Also president of his local 4-H Club, he is interested in working as a National 4-H Extension Agent after college and he chose to enroll in the new degree because it has a specific track that matches his career interest: outdoor education.
Students in the community education program select from one of six majors in:
- Community Arts
- Disabilities Services
- Educational Leadership in Faith Organizations
- Museum Education
- Outdoor Education
- Sports, Recreation and Wellness
Core also finds the opportunity for an internship and the chance to study abroad attractive.
Dr. Douglas, who joined the WLU faculty in the fall of 2012, is a native of Germany and also has a master’s in foreign languages from West Virginia University, so she will be facilitating the study abroad.
“Students can pick from two options for study abroad, a two-week summer trip or a six-week program. We will study the German language and culture. Summer 2015 will be the first trip,” she said. “I’ll take the students to Germany for two weeks, travel around Germany, study community places, visit museums and experience how German communities are built differently. We’ll learn about the German education system, the culture, the way people interact and community organizations,” she said.
For example, Douglas and her students will visit a special forest kindergarten where kids are outside all year, learning and experiencing a different kind of early childhood education.
“We also will make connections with institutions over there which may prove useful later in our students’ careers. That is another important part of our degree, we facilitate students building relationships, locally, nationally and internationally. These connections are important.”
“We are excited to have such incredible partners as the Warhol Museum, the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley, area church youth organizations, the Schrader Center and Olgebay Institute, just to name a few, to support our six new majors. Our new majors provide hands-on experiences in exciting fields and informal learning at its best,” said Dr. Camden.
The curriculum also is designed to structure, facilitate and promote the 21st Century skills of critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. Students are encouraged to communicate and collaborate with many individuals, groups and community institutions.
“The best thing about this degree is its flexibility. It builds on the common core courses, community education courses and the student’s choice of six majors. Then it adds in certain unique features like the study abroad. This not only embraces the students’ interests and strengths, but also provides students with multifaceted employment options in schools, universities, museums, community, faith and sport centers and other community facilities upon graduation.”
Each major has a particular track of courses to complete but Dr. Douglas is more than willing to assist students in finding the best option for earning their college degree.
“I’m pleased to discuss the Community Education degree with interested students who can reach me by email or phone. It is a great time to look at our new degree and get started on a new career or simply finish your degree,” she said.
Douglas earned both a master’s and undergraduate degree in elementary education/art education at the University of Bamberg (Germany). She then came to West Virginia, completing her master’s and doctoral degrees at West Virginia University. Her office is located in Shotwell Hall, Room 105.