Students have career options with new dual degree programs

The Colleges of Education and Liberal Arts offer students choices after graduation with PackTeach program

Student teacher, Cami Klein (center) helps high school students with assignment.

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8/31/2018 | By: Lisa McDonald |

Two colleges have partnered together to create all new dual-degree programs in which students can earn a B.A. in liberal arts and a B.A. in education - all for 120 credits. PackTeach includes dual degrees in education along with history, English, political science, or Spanish. It's loosely modeled after NevadaTeach, a dual-degree program between the College of Education and the Colleges of Science and Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources for STEM-focused areas. The College of Liberal Arts provides the content coursework for PackTeach, while the College of Education provides the licensure coursework for students who wish to translate their degree into teaching upon graduation.

"This results in students who are passionate, having an in-depth understanding of their subject matter and the ability to translate this passion into teaching at the middle and high school level if they choose," said Melissa Burnham, associate dean and professor of education. The partnership between the two colleges to provide the opportunity for students to have multiple career options has already proven to be successful. Until last year, this type of program existed within the two colleges as a "specialization." Students could choose to major in Spanish for example, with a specialization in education, but still needed to take additional credits if they wished to pursue a teaching license. Now the process is much more streamlined. The College of Education has already seen an increase of students changing their major to PackTeach.

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Jane Detweiler, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts said, "It's a good way to make the College of Liberal Arts more obviously connected with the region, state and local communities." Not only does this dual-degree program offer students the opportunity to choose career paths associated with their content area of history, English, political science, or Spanish, but students also can have the option to teach. "I think it increases our students' more explicit and straightforward career paths. It doesn't necessarily tie them to teaching, but it increases the range of options for them," Detweiler said.

After graduation, PackTeach students will still need to pursue a teaching license if they wish to teach. The program doesn't license students, but instead provides the appropriate coursework required for a teaching license and assists them with the application process during their final semester. "We work in conjunction with the State's guidelines at that time," said Margaret Ferrara, coordinator of secondary teacher education. "We provide the education and content courses to align with the licensing mandates."

As part of the required coursework, students in the PackTeach program also complete practicums - a certain number of hours in the classroom - teaching students at the middle and high school levels. "I think it's always good to have a solid practical career path for our majors - whether or not they ultimately choose to teach - it increases their options when they go out on the job market," Detweiler said.

The advantage for students in the liberal arts already or who may be interested in pursuing a liberal arts major to major in PackTeach, is that they don't need to declare a minor (which is required of most all other liberal arts majors) and they don't need to complete the language requirement if they choose the PackTeach major in history, English, or political science. For the current or prospective education major, students have the advantage of earning a degree with a specific focus area.

"Working together, we can infuse in students a love for teaching along with a love for the content. Ultimately, this results in graduates who will be better prepared for the demands of a 21st-century secondary classroom," Burnham said.

The PackTeach program hopes to incorporate other disciplines in the future and perhaps collaborate with other colleges across campus. Students can enroll in the program now, which is listed in the catalog (temporarily) as a dual degree program, i.e., "Secondary Education and History/English/Political Science/Spanish."

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