A Community of Learners Guided by Knowledge, Values and Experiences
The College of Education and Allied Professions
Western Carolina University has a strong and rich tradition of preparing teachers. Founded as Cullowhee Academy in 1889 by Robert Lee Madison, the nephew of President James Madison, the institutions became Cullowhee High School through a state charter granted by the North Carolina General Assembly. Madison’s dream, called the “Cullowhee Idea” was to make education widespread and to provide teachers for village and rural children in the region. A state-supported normal department was established and teacher preparation began in 1891. That mission continues today as Western, along with its College of Education and Allied Professions, has evolved into the eighth largest producer of teacher education graduates of the forty-seven teacher education programs in the state of North Carolina.
Western Carolina University is committed to diversity as reflected in its mission statement that states: “…the University encourages its students, faculty, and staff to display the following traits of citizenship:
Behavior characterized by honesty, integrity, and responsibility;
Service to others;
Awareness of and sensitivity to the concerns of diverse people and culture...”
Further, the university’s strategic directions and goals, as stated in its Strategic Plan (2006-2011), include as a guiding principle the University’s commitment to “Diversity and the facilitation of a global understanding through our faculty, staff, student recruitment and retention strategies and our academic/co-curricular planning.” In addition, Western’s Strategic Plan states as a strategic direction with related goal: “Prepare students to succeed in an increasingly diverse, interrelated global society:
Expand the ethnic, cultural and intellectual diversity of students, faculty, and staff.
Broaden the international opportunities and programs available to Western students.
Encourage Western students, faculty, and staff to gain language proficiency.
Increase the number of international students through recruitment and programming.
Respond to the needs of an increasing Hispanic/Latino population in the state.
Assure that services meet the needs of a diverse student body.”
In one specific example, the University’s Strategic Plan states as a goal related to responding to regional needs and opportunities: “Strengthen the University’s relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to identify and respond to areas of mutual interest.”
In the fall of 1993, WCU’s chancellor appointed twenty-one faculty and staff members to a Task Force on diversity (chaired by a member of the College of Education and Allied Professions) to address issues of cultural diversity and global education at Western Carolina University. Filed in the fall of 1995, that report continues to inform the efforts of the university and the College of Education and Allied Professions in diversity and global initiatives.
The mission statement of the College of Education and Allied Professions emphasizes diversity: “The College fulfills its mission by creating and nourishing a community of learners guided by knowledge, values and experiences. The guiding principles of the community of learners include…(2) an appreciation of and respect for diversity…”
The vision statement of the College also shows such a commitment: “The College will have created a niche as the university-of-choice for all programs offered. These programs will have a culturally diverse faculty and student body.”
Our conceptual framework notes the importance of candidates having the knowledge, skills and dispositions to help all students to learn. Our conceptual framework also includes candidates’ understanding and using the knowledge bases for multicultural education, having the dispositions related to valuing individual differences and demonstrating commitment to the achievement of all students, and drawing upon their own life experiences and reflecting on the impact of culture on learning in diverse settings.
The purpose of the CEAP Diversity Plan is to provide guidance for designing, implementing and evaluating curricula and experiences and for ensuring that candidates have experiences working with diverse faculty, diverse candidates, and diverse students in P-12 schools and other social service settings. This will ensure that our candidates have the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to help all students and clients.
We define diversity broadly to include exceptionalities, race, ethnicity, culture, religious background, gender, linguistic differences, socioeconomic level, and any of the other ways our society defines human and group differences, including age, geography, sexual orientation and national origin. A diverse faculty, staff and student body can be a catalyst for diversity of thought. At the heart of our scholarly work is the appreciation of the distinction between an event and multiple interpretations; we must be willing to nurture these interpretations, particularly when they depart from our own. One expression of diversity of thought is a community that not only tolerates but also nurtures discussion of such sensitive topics as politics, religion and race because they challenge us to use our intellectual and communication skills, the very bedrock of teaching, and challenge us to examine our own views. We know that knowledge advances only when conventional wisdom is challenged; therefore, it is our responsibility to create opportunities for cognitive challenge within a safe context.
Another expression of diversity is our relationship with our sister institutions. The state of North Carolina has five public and five private institutions that are HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges/Universities) with teacher education programs: Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, NC A&T State University, NC Central State University, Winston-Salem State University, Barber-Scotia College, Bennett College, Johnson C. Smith University, St. Augustine’s College, and Shaw University. The presence of 10 professional education programs within the state that are recognized as HBCUs offers African-American students an array of NCATE approved programs and presents Western Carolina University, located in the extreme western part of the state in a rural setting with a low African-American population, a unique challenge to recruit African-American students to the professional education program.Mission Statement
The College of Education and Allied Professions is one of four colleges at Western Carolina University. Five academic departments and thirteen service centers, programs and offices comprise the college. The college offers programs of study at the baccalaureate, master's, intermediate, and doctoral levels.
The primary role of the College of Education and Allied Professions is to prepare educators, counselors, psychologists, speech-language pathologists, recreation personnel and other human service specialists at both entry and advanced levels. These professionals will staff elementary, secondary, postsecondary schools, sport and recreation agencies, and other human service organizations in North Carolina and the region beyond. The College fulfills its mission by developing and maintaining a community of scholars that promotes and recognizes good teaching, service, and research. Of these three scholarly activities, providing optimal learning environments for students is most important, followed by service and research.
The College strives to provide leadership and technical assistance for the improvement of teacher preparation and elementary and secondary schooling in North Carolina, the nation, and developing countries. The College is strongly committed to partnering with the public schools in order to educate preservice teachers to teach all children to high standards, to assist beginning professional educators to be successful and remain in the profession, and to provide quality staff development for career professional educators.
Additional fundamental roles of the College are to serve the liberal studies program of the University and to offer programs and special clinical services that relate closely to the mission of the College and that are needed by its constituencies.
The College fulfills its mission by creating and nourishing a community of learners guided by knowledge, values, and experiences. The guiding principles of the community of learners include: (1) the belief that the best educational decisions are made after adequate reflection and with careful consideration of the interests, experiences and welfare of the persons affected by those decisions; (2) an appreciation of and respect for diversity; and (3) a commitment to fostering the responsible use of technology.
In 1991, the College established a standing Minority Recruitment Committee as a means to promote diversity among its faculty, staff, and candidates. Over the years the scope of the Committee’s activities has expanded. The Committee, now called the Diversity Committee oversees the implementation of the College’s Diversity Plan. The Committee members include faculty from each department in the College and faculty, staff and students from throughout the university. The goals of the Diversity Committee are to:
Provide guidance in our College with designing, implementing, and evaluating curricula and field experiences to ensure that our graduates, who become teachers, administrators, school psychologists, etc., acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students and clients in public schools and other social service settings achieve their potential.
Create conditions in our College in which students, faculty and staff develop empathy, respect, and appreciation for others who are different from them.
II. STRATEGIC GOALS RELATED TO DIVERSITY
Previous (2002) external scanning by the University and the College led to the identification of external constraints and opportunities. Among the constraints identified was, “The demographics and geography of the region make recruitment in general, and minority recruitment in particular, a difficult challenge.” Another external constraint identified was, “Lack of accessibility to diverse populations for clinical and field experiences impact our programs.” External opportunities identified include, “The availability of Native American population within the region creates opportunities for student recruitment and service to diverse populations.” Internal scanning by the Institution and the College has led to the identification of internal constraints and opportunities. Internal constraints identified included, “There is a lack of cultural diversity among faculty, staff and students.” Internal strengths included, “there is a college-wide commitment to diversity.”
More recent external scanning (2005) indicated: “The increasing Hispanic population of the region will create greater demand for bi-lingual/bi-cultural services and programs” and “The population of western North Carolina is becoming more bi-lingual, bi-cultural, diverse; will require adaptation in teaching and outreach” and “The diversity of the region will offer increasing opportunities for cross cultural teaching and learning experiences.” Related internal scanning noted: Diversity of faculty/staff do not match state demographics. Campus student demographics do not match state demographics.”
The analysis of the current programs, university and college strategic initiatives, and internal and external variables has led to the development of a diversity plan that has the following five strategic goals: