By Daniel Morgan, Advertising Manager
May 7th’s commencement ceremony will include the first group of graduating students from the Community Education program. The seven students are Ramsay Core, Michael Hensley, Christian Rice, Teracyn Rich, Morgan Wagner, Mary Ward, and Brady Lytton, who is doing an interdisciplinary study with focus on Community Education and Graphic Design.
Community Education officially became a major in the fall 2014 semester, though it had been in development since 2012 by Dean of the College of Education Dr. Keely Camden, Director of Community Education Dr. Miriam Roth-Douglas, and Director of the Center of Arts and Education Lou Karas. The program focuses on non-formal educational practices that are not limited to the traditional classroom setting, including emphasis on non-profit organizations, community outreach, and program and fundraising development.
“Community Education is a progressive educational track that is very new to people,” Douglas said. “When it was developed, we couldn’t find anything like it in the nation. Now, people are grasping the idea, and more and more programs are starting to pop up. At West Liberty, we started out with just a few students, and the program is continuously growing.”
The six separate Bachelor of Arts majors within the Community Education program include Community Arts, Disabilities Services, Educational Leadership in Faith Organizations (Youth Ministry), Museum Education, Outdoor Education, and Sports, Recreation, and Wellness. According to Dr. Douglas, the majors can be completed in a three year accelerated program. There is an 18-credit hour minor, and the Masters of Education has a Community Education track as well.
“Our students have many options to pursue after graduating, and it’s exciting that some already have jobs in the non-profit field,” Douglas said. “Community Ed. students can work at private, non-profit, or public schools, after school programs, and universities as non-formal educational teachers that work with life-long learners. Other opportunities include grant writers and coordinators of events and programs. Community Education is very service-oriented, and I’m so happy that our students have been very successful in finding jobs.”
“It has been wonderful working with this group,” Karas said. “Their enthusiasm and commitment to working in the non-profit sector has been amazing to see. I wish them the best of luck, and we’ll surely miss them on campus.”
Some of the students shared their experiences in the community education program and what they have learned in and out of their classes, internships, and about lifelong learning.
“In high school, we’re told that we should find a job that we’re okay with doing for the rest of our lives,” Rich said. “I’ve learned that we don’t have to stay in the same position if we want to go into something else. We’re learning about positions that we didn’t even know existed, so it’s really incredible to know that we have that flexibility. I came across this at a really opportune time, and it fit everything that I was looking into. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
“If you ever think in your life that you’re going to stop learning, that’s not the truth,” Hensley said. “You always have to adjust and learn new things, especially about people. I think that’s one thing we’re definitely prepared for: changing. If plan B doesn’t work, what are you going to do? For nonprofits in general and any profession really, networking is also important.
You need to know people and get to know people to exchange the value of knowledge.”
“I feel like Community Ed. is unlike any major,” Rice said. “It’s different from the teaching education side of West Liberty. You have to be ready to be hands on, as Community Education really deals with internships, observations, and problem-based learning. You’re always going to have to think critically because we do so many problem-based learning projects. If something goes wrong, you better know how to fix it.”
“I think one thing that we didn’t expect learn is that all of these positions under Community Education are ones that don’t end at five o’clock,” Rich said. “We’ve accepted that these jobs are going to be what our lives are about, and I don’t think that any of us would change that.”
A new major has also been recently approved by the university, according to Camden.
“The new major is called Teaching English & Global Education,” Douglas said. “It is for students that are interested in teaching English abroad and/or teaching English as a second language (in the USA or other countries) and/or working with non-native speakers of English in various capacities (e.g. home visits, non-profit organizations, language schools, private schools, adjustments to culture/community (transition specialists), etc.).”