Faculty News

Suzanne Gulledge named 2009-2010 Faculty Engaged Scholar by Carolina Center for Public Service
Initiates study abroad program in South Africa

Suzanne Gulledge, clinical professor of middle grades education, has been named one of eight Faculty Engaged Scholars for 2009-2010 by the Carolina Center for Public Service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Engaged Scholars Program selects a class of scholars every other year with the goal of building networks across campus and across disciplines and strengthening University-community relations. Scholars are selected through a competitive process. Each Scholar must have an active research program that has an impact on the community.

Faculty members are named Engaged Scholars for a term of two years. During the first year, they meet as a group to learn about current developments in engaged scholarship, have discussions with community members and conduct field visits to ongoing projects. During the second year, the Scholars meet monthly as a learning community to focus on planning, implementing or expanding an engaged scholarship project of their own in collaboration with a community partner. 

Gulledge’s recent engaged scholarship includes a range of initiatives to connect middle schools in the Durham Public Schools with the resources of the University. One initiative is her service on the Advisory Board of Student U. Established in 2006, Student U is a year-round academic program for middle school students in Durham who have the potential for college admission but lack some of the academic skills needed for college success and the role models traditionally available to college-bound adolescents. As an active Board member since the inception of Student U, Gulledge has helped advance and support the development of Student U, including the recruitment of middle school students at the School of Education to serve as teachers and mentors with Student U programs and activities.

In another recent initiative, Gulledge assisted some Durham schools when they lost their federal funding for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a program designed to help underachieving middle and high school students prepare for and succeed in college. She trained middle school majors in AVID strategies, such as teaching adolescents about study skills, note-taking, time management and other academic skills. The trained students then began working in the Durham schools, enabling them to continue supporting underachieving students and preparing them for success in college.  

In yet another recent project, Gulledge connected a UNC faculty member with Durham middle schools to help middle school students write, perform and film episodes of an original situation comedy about three middle school siblings and their unusual family. The faculty member is a former Hollywood screenwriter who is currently teaching in the UNC Department of Communications Studies.

 “It’s all about recognizing where there is a need and where there is a resource,” said Gulledge of her work with the Durham schools. “It’s about making connections between schools that are looking for resources to meet their needs and people who are open to working with schools and looking for meaningful outlets. It’s a win/win situation.”

Gulledge is now planning a new program of engaged learning for middle school education majors an opportunity to do an internship in schools in South Africa.

“It is imperative for pre-service teachers to have experience in other cultures,” said Gulledge. “Beginning in the fall of 2010, some newly admitted middle school majors will be able to have an experience with South African schools through an affiliation with the University of Cape Town.” 

The program in South Africa will be part of UNC’s Honors Study Abroad Program and Burch Field Research Seminars, which already has a study abroad program in Cape Town for Carolina undergraduates through the Department of Political Science. The new option for education majors will include opportunities to be in schools and to take courses in African studies and political science during a semester abroad in Cape Town.

Extensive planning is currently under way. When the program is launched next fall, Gulledge will travel to South Africa in August to teach a course to the participating students and help them get started in their internships. She will return to Carolina for the fall semester but, through the use of technology, will remain in ongoing contact with the students in South Africa throughout the fall. In December, she will return to South Africa to observe the students on-site in their placements and close out the semester abroad experience.

“Experiential education is so valuable to our students as they prepare to become the teachers of the future,” said Gulledge. “That’s why I am so excited about this new program.”

The UNC Faculty Engaged Scholars Program was initiated at UNC in 2008. The program seeks to support faculty whose scholarship has the potential to bring long-term benefits to North Carolinians.

Gulledge notes a similarity in the Faculty Engaged Scholars Program and the experience she expects to have in Cape Town as a teacher and internship supervisor.  “There is transformative potential in any experiences that cause us to confront the cultural limitations of our knowledge – whether  those experiences  be cross-campus, cross community or  across continents.”