Spotlights

UNC-Chapel Hill launching new minor in education

UNC-Chapel Hill is launching a new minor in education that is designed to give undergraduate students opportunities to explore educational issues, problems, and dilemmas and to expose them to careers in education.

The School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences developed the minor to meet a deep interest among Carolina students in educational issues such as current reforms and policies, implications of new learning research, educational equity, and achievement and resource gaps in schools, said Bill McDiarmid, dean of the School of Education.

“We know that Carolina students care deeply about education, their communities, and social injustice,” McDiarmid said. “Students have asked for opportunities to examine closely issues that bear on the educational inequities that plague our schools.  This new minor will provide opportunities for them to do so.”

Students must apply to add the minor, which begins this fall. The application deadline is March 15. An online application is available at http://soe.unc.edu/academics/education-minor/index.php.

The minor was developed under a charge from Chancellor Holden Thorp and McDiarmid that called for an innovative approach to offering students a new course of study that examines education topics and provides experiences working in classrooms.

The new minor was designed to answer the expressed interest among many students for an exploration of educational policy issues, said George Noblit, Joseph R. Neikirk Distinguished Professor of Sociology of Education and director of the minor.

“The minor’s course of study will give undergraduates opportunities to investigate the policy climate affecting education, giving students the capacity to think critically about these issues and to participate in public debates about them,” Noblit said.

Issues such as school reform models, charter schools, school voucher programs, educational equity and achievement gaps are among the topics that will be explored, he said. Courses in the minor will also examine what research has discovered about the nature of learning, and implications of that research for teachers, schools and parents.

Courses from School of Education, College of Arts and Sciences

The minor will consist of five courses, three offered by the School of Education as well as a course outside the School of Education and a senior-year capstone course. The School of Education offers a range of courses that may count toward the minor. The College of Arts and Sciences offers more than 15 courses from a variety of disciplines that can count toward the minor.

“The minor is designed to encourage students to make connections with their learning from other disciplines and to integrate perspectives gained from their own major,” Noblit said.
The education minor will also provide students who are considering teaching, including service through Teach For America, opportunities to observe and work in educational settings such as school classrooms, museums and community youth organizations. Teach For America was the largest single employer of students graduating from Carolina in 2011.

Private gifts to the School of Education are covering the costs associated with the minor.
While the School of Education’s baccalaureate majors programs provide education and training for students who have decided to pursue teaching careers, the new minor can provide students a deeper understanding of issues affecting classrooms and schools, said Deborah Eaker-Rich, assistant dean for academic affairs in the School of Education.

“Our new minor is not intended to provide a direct path for students interested in seeking teaching positions,” Eaker-Rich said. “But it will offer exposure to the work of educators for students who are exploring possible careers in educational settings.”

Minor developed with input from students

An advisory committee made up of faculty from the School of Education and three students – two undergraduates and one doctoral student – developed the proposal for the minor.
Nina Brashears, a senior majoring in public policy, served on the committee.

“I am excited to see the minor begin in the coming year because this is a program that offers a unique and engaging academic opportunity,” Brashears said, explaining that while she was able to complete a concentration in education policy within her major, she would have liked to take more courses to explore educational issues.

“Talking with other students made me realize that there was a population on campus that would benefit from and embrace a minor in education,” she said. “Many students pursue educational-related issues as extracurricular activities and the minor allows those students to take that passion and energy into an academic setting. The minor will expose undergraduates to the diverse viewpoints and theories of education that will be supplemented by public service opportunities and a chance to reflect on their own education.”

Brashears, who is planning to work for Teach For America in Charlotte starting in the fall, said she hoped the minor would lead other students to consider careers in education.

“While there are courses related to education in other departments, they lack the perspectives and expertise of the School of Education faculty,” Brashears said. “I've had a wonderful experience working with the committee to craft a minor that appeals to a wide array of students who are hoping to broaden their understanding of education as it relates to our society.”

For more information

March 15 is the deadline for applying to the minor. More information, including an online application form, is available on the School of Education website at http://soe.unc.edu/academics/education-minor/index.php.