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Department of Work, Community, and Family Education faculty members celebrated their #1 ranking.
Exploring the frontiers of learning and work
Department of Work, Community, and Family Education graduate program ranks top in the nation
By Gayla Marty
From Brief, May 11, 2005
Every year, U.S. companies spend more than $60 billion on employee training and development, about the same as the entire federal budget for education. At the same time, more than 98 percent of high school students take courses in career and technical education, and community colleges' occupational majors attract the most students.
Leadership, teaching, and research in these areas is the focus of the University's Department of Work, Community, and Family Education (WCFE). Positioned within one of the top colleges of education in the world, WCFE's faculty includes 15 experts on issues from career preparation in high schools to organizational memory in corporations.
Now WCFE is ranked first among vocational and technical education graduate programs in the nation, tied with Ohio State, according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report ranking of graduate programs.
HRD and CTE
In workplace talk, there's human resource management (HRM) and human resource development (HRD). The HRD side includes things like learning new software, language training, leadership, and adapting to change.
Career and technical education (CTE) gives youth and adults a connection to the workplace as a place to learn. High schools and colleges engage students in learning about the workplace and use the workplace to develop both occupational and academic skills.
HRD and CTE are the two major areas of research and teaching in WCFE. The department's graduate programs currently enroll 160 master's and 190 doctoral students from 69 countries. Some highlights:
- Professor Richard Swanson worked with corporations to develop a methodology for determining the return on investment of HRD, which was validated through field-based studies. His research shows that, when organizations systematically engage in HRD, actual funds spent on training and development yield a return between 8 and 12 to 1 over 12 months.
- Associate professor Baiyin Yang studies organizational learning culture, applying concepts that draw on adult learning theory, systems theory, and organizational theory. Recent research of Fortune 500 companies shows how corporations' learning cultures relate strongly to their earnings. "This shows how competitiveness in the future will be based not on land or real capital but on human capital," says Yang.
- WCFE is home to the National Research Center for Career & Technical Education, supported by a federal grant that will have brought about $15 million to the U by December 31 this year, according to associate professor and director James Stone. One project in progress is a five-year longitudinal study of school reform in high poverty communities that uses career and technical education as a central focus. Another is a 12-state experimental study of contextualized math. A recently completed study evaluated the use of industry skill standards in postsecondary technical training programs. These are just three of more than 20 center studies completed or in progress.
- A three-and-a-half-year U.S. State Department project in Kyrgyzstan conducted an extensive needs assessment of K-12 administrators and developed two masters degrees in educational leadership. As a by-product, their work influenced educational policy on everything from reinstituting public kindergartens to establishing boards of directors for universities and continuing education for K-12 administrators. The co-director in Kyrgyzstan claims that the work laid a foundation for democracy that led to recent peaceful overthrow of the corrupt government, says Gary McLean, professor and principal investigator for the project.
- Long-time WCFE professor and award-winning teacher Roland Peterson, who held a joint appointment in the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences and will retire June 30, was recognized last month when Gov. Pawlenty declared April 30 a day in his honor. Peterson has taught agricultural education at the University since 1972, specializing in rural leadership and preparing those who teach agriculture in middle and high schools.
A century of leadership
WCFE's history dates back nearly a century to a time when the University was deeply involved with problems related to developing the industrial work force in Minnesota. An educational psychology professor, Homer Smith, worked with the state legislature and Dunwoody Technical Institute to respond to social demands on labor, and Smith became a leader in an emerging field. One milestone was the Vocational Education Act of 1917.
The College of Education and Human
Development (CEHD) ranked 12th overall out of 190 graduate
education programs in the U.S. News & World Report
survey and fifth among public universities in the nation. Among the
top five public universities, CEHD's teacher licensure program is
the only one accredited by the National Council for Accreditation
of Teacher Education, making it the top-ranked, nationally
accredited, public college of education in the nation. Individual
programs in CEHD ranked as follows:
-Vocational/technical, tied for #1 with Ohio State U
-Developmental psychology (Institute of Child Development), #3
-Special education, #4
-Counseling/personnel services, tied for #4 with the U of Wisconsin, Madison
-Educational psychology, #6
-Curriculum and instruction, #9
-Elementary education, #11
-Secondary education, tied for #12 with U of Maryland, College Park; U of Texas, Austin; and U of Washington
Since then, key factors in making WCFE one of the best in the country have been a productive faculty, an entrepreneurial spirit, and success in attracting students and postdoctoral researchers from around the world, according to McLean. With faculty members from nations including the U.K., New Zealand, Canada, and China, in addition to the United States, it draws on global perspectives, Yang adds.
"One of the biggest successes has been growing the academic side of HRD," says Swanson. "This department has birthed three research journals in the field."
Being a home to the National Research Center for six years and part of the National Center Consortium, led by the University of California, Berkeley, for the previous 12 played a big part in gaining national visibility, Stone says.
Despite this year's recognition, faculty members worry about shrinking resources, providing support for graduate students, loss of key faculty, and potential restructuring in the college that may drain attention and resources. They'd like to develop greater strength in the "work" aspect of the department and become a leading knowledge base.
"'How do you work with people?' is still a really large problem," says Swanson.
Debate about education has begun to include questions about high school, says Stone, and WCFE has a history of researchers and scholars who are experts in the role of career and technical education in high school. Stone believes WCFE should continue to inform state and national policy that will help teachers prepare their students to become productive adults.
"This means having a sufficient critical mass of CTE scholars who know and understand the role of occupational preparation for youth and adults in schools, the community, and the workplace," he says. "We are well positioned to assume a major role in this discussion--if the resources are present."
What advice does the WCFE faculty have for its own workplace as the U enters into significant restructuring?
"Organizational research tells us that a successful reorganization seldom succeeds when done from the top down only, yet people in all types of organizations continue to try to do this," McLean says. "When faculty [members] understand the needs and are part of the process, the process will succeed to an extent undreamed of by those who want to control outcomes."
"Allocate resources strategically," says Yang. "View education of employees as an investment, not a cost."
U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Graduate Schools 2006" can be found at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/rankindex_brief.php.