Month: September 2014

New Online Graduate Certificate in School Law

UConn Launching New Online Graduate Certificate in School Law

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Photo credit: ThinkStock

UConn’s Neag School of Education is launching an online graduate certificate in School Law, beginning in the spring of 2015. The 12-credit program is designed to help educators, administrators, policy makers and parents gain the expertise needed to cut through confusing “legalese” and better understand the legal dimensions of K-12 education. Participants will gain the knowledge needed to make decisions that are both legally and educationally sound, as well as to ensure that classroom, school and district educational practices comply with state and federal regulations.

How to interpret and apply special education laws, and effectively advocate for students with disabilities, will also be covered, said Assistant Professor Allison Lombardi, Ph.D., who will teach program classes with lead instructor Professor Preston Green, J.D., Ed.D. Lessening educators’ and administrators’ fear of litigation will also be addressed.

“Surveys suggest that educators often avoid taking actions that they believe are educationally sound to avoid litigation,” Green said. “Noted educational law professor Sarah Redfield also observes that educators often make wrong educational decisions to avoid litigation, when a ‘right’ one would also be legally justifiable.”

“One of the things we want to show educators is that, in many cases, they have a great deal of legal latitude in making educational decisions—more than they are aware of. We’re excited about this program, and the fact that it’s online, because it will provide students with timely training that they can access in a flexible manner,” he continued. “Educational administrators, teachers, psychologists, counselors and policymakers can all benefit from enrolling.”

The curriculum consists of four three-credit online courses offered during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Courses offered this spring 2015 semester, include Legal Issues in School Employment andLegal Issues in Student and Parent Rights.

Legal Issues in School Employment will examine matters related to employment in K-12 education, such as tenure, employment discrimination, due process and collective bargaining. Modules will include certification and licensure, tenure, employees’ speech rights, privacy, due process, employment discrimination and collective bargaining.

Legal Issues in Student and Parent Rights will examine topics as diverse as search and seizure, student discipline, speech and religion, and homeless children. Modules include an introduction to educational law, religion, expression and association, search and seizure, school attendance (including rights of homeless children), instructional program, due process, tort liability, defamation and student records.

“Every day, school leaders and teachers face challenges related to understanding and adhering to state and federal education laws and regulations,” said Neag Associate Professor-in-Residence and Online Program Director Jae-Eun Joo, Ed.D. “This unique and important online learning opportunity will provide educators with both conceptual and procedural knowledge of school law that will help them make both legally and educationally sound decisions. Acceptable user policies for social media and cyber-bullying in the contexts of K-12 education will be among the many current and cutting-edge topics covered, which we believe will be very exciting.”

Students able to take more than one class a semester can complete the certificate in less than a year. Students can also take individual courses at a slower pace. For more information or to apply, visithttp://schoollaw.uconn.edu/ or contact Donna Campbell at 860-486-0184 or ecampus@uconn.edu.

Guerreiras Project Presentation

Guerreiras Project Founder Caitlin Fisher Speaks to Neag School Sport Management Students

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JANUARY 2014

Caitlin Fisher, founder of the Guerreiras Project, shares her experiences with sport management students.

Ethnographer and former professional women’s soccer player Caitlin Davis Fisher recently spoke to UConn’s Neag School of Education Sport Management students about the ability of athletics to promote gender equality.

The former Harvard University soccer captain is the founder and director of the non-profit Guerreiras Project dedicated to educating and empowering women. Named after the Portuguese word for “warriors,” the initiative consists of female soccer players, women’s rights activists, academics and artists who believe soccer can be used to help start the conversations needed to reduce gender discrimination. Currently, its focus is on Brazil, a nation enthralled with soccer though, as Fisher noted, not necessarily with women’s soccer.

Guerreiras Project team members—who currently hail from Brazil, the United States and England— travel throughout Brazil, sharing stories, showcasing game photographs and playing soccer in local communities. Their visits open dialogues on gender stereotypes, as well as provide kids and adults the opportunity to meet strong women confident in their abilities.

“Our project empowers female players to become community ambassadors of the sport and visible role models for kids,” said Fisher. A Massachusetts native, she became a professional soccer player for Brazil’s famous Santos F.C.’s women’s team after graduating from Harvard in 2004.

“I was shocked to learn female players were fed food different from what the men’s team ate, wore men’s jerseys as much as seven years old, had to walk almost an hour to practice, and were forced to wash their uniforms by hand in outdoor sinks,” said Fisher.

A Guerrieras Project volunteer and soccer athlete works with students in Brazil.

Fisher said she was appalled by the treatment, as well as that the Brazilian women on the team thought it was OK. Banned from professional soccer until 1979, the women were just happy to play. Fisher, however, couldn’t ignore their continued struggles, of which not being fully accepted into a “man’s sport” was really just a small part. Lack of financial resources, cultural stereotypes perpetuated by Brazilian media, lack of family support and other challenges continued the view that women were the weaker and less important gender— and inspired Fisher to seek solutions for change.

Through the Guerreiras Project, all involved benefit: “The female players [on the team] build confidence, voice and self-esteem,” Fischer said, “and the youths and adults we visit are encouraged to challenge their own gender biases and to ask questions about what women are capable of doing and becoming.”

The idea for the initiative came shortly after Fisher earned a master’s degree in Gender, Development and Globalization from the London School of Economics and then traveled  back to Brazil to reconnect with former Santos teammates. Coupled with ethnographic work she performed on the relationship between body, gender, soccer and economic development, the visit became the cradle for the Guerreiras Project.

Fisher’s visit to UConn came at the invitation of Sports Management Associate Professor Laura Burton. The two met via Skype over the summer, when Burton interviewed Fisher for a textbook chapter that UConn Sports Management faculty were writing.

While on the Storrs campus, Fisher spent time with Sport Management students, staff from UConn’s Husky Sport youth development program, and students in the Women’s Center Violence against Women Prevention Program.

“We are always interested in having our students think critically about the many issues that are part of sports, including homophobia and age, gender and racial discrimination,” Burton said. “The Guerreiras Project shows how much gender discrimination can be infused within just one sport, and the effort required for girls and women to push against constraints if they want to force needed change.”

Hoping that greater awareness about the Guerreiras Project will lead to greater change, Fisher plans to bring the initiative to the United States and study, among other things, “how it might impact girls and women in the U.S. differently than those in Brazil.”

Toward that end, Burton has an idea: “We would love for Caitlin to meet with the UConn women’s soccer team.”

 

Global Outreach to Jordan with New Educational Leadership Program

Neag School Expands Global Outreach to Jordan with New Educational Leadership Program

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MARCH 2014

Diane Ullman (pictured on the left) welcomed Mary Tadros to UConn as part of the program's facilitation.

Schools in Jordan and throughout the Middle East will soon be led by administrators as confident and knowledgeable as those who have graduated from the Neag School of Education’s highly rated University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP).

As part of a recently announced partnership with the Queen Rania Teacher Academy (QRTA) in Jordan, Neag Educational Leadership faculty will help develop a program and training materials for QRTA staff to use to teach administrators from local and international schools. Led by UCAPP Director Diane D. Ullman, the effort will focus on putting “UCAPP’s best content and concepts into Arabic and a Middle Eastern context.”

“One of the primary commonalities I see in education throughout the world is that successful schools have successful principals,” said Dr. Ullman. “Good principals encourage teachers and unleash their full potential. They create a community where teachers learn from one another.”

In addition to developing the curriculum, Neag faculty will train QRTA staff how to best present the materials. This process will begin in July 2014 when Neag faculty will begin teaching the curriculum to private schools in the region. In the near future the QRTA staff will be prepared to bring the curriculum to the public schools in Jordan

Recognized as one of the top educational leadership programs in the U.S., UCAPP provides courses in educational policy, curriculum leadership and program evaluation for school improvement, supervision and evaluation among other areas.

The Neag School- QRTA collaboration was announced in September, when Ullman presented a “School Leaders Promoting Excellence in Teaching” workshop to 100 school administrators from Jordan and several other Middle Eastern countries.

“Dr. Ullman shows the undeniable connection between good leadership and good teaching, and that coaching goes hand in hand with successful classroom instruction,” said Muna Fityani, communications officer for QRTA. The school was founded in 2009 with the help of Jordan’s Queen Rania to provide training and networking opportunities, professional development, and information about the latest educational research and policies to Middle Eastern school leaders.

As part of her visit to Jordan, Ullman outlined UCAPP courses and introduced several new and proven leadership techniques, including the need for teachers to be observed by principals and receive construction feedback on classroom performance. She also stressed the essentialness of schools establishing an environment of trust.  The latter, Ullman said, is a concept that’s rarely been explored by educational leaders in the region.

“Principals need to know how teaching and learning occur, as well as have the ability to inspire and lead,” Ullman said. “It’s a much broader role than many people think, but we’re fortunate at the Neag School to have outstanding instructors that are among the best practitioners anywhere. It’s exciting to know they’ll now be sharing their knowledge and passion for educational leadership to help principals, and other school leaders, from around the world. Through this partnership, the Neag School becomes an even stronger global presence.”

Talks of a collaboration began in 2011, when Ullman—a commissioner for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges—met QRTA Academic Program Advisor Mary Tadros on a trip to evaluate an international school in Germany.

“After we work with Dr. Ullman to create a wholesome leadership program that we can develop to suit local needs, we hope to roll out the program to countries throughout the region,” Tadros said.

Added an equally thrilled Ullman: “This partnership will provide an opportunity for Neag faculty to broaden their international perspective on issues, strategies and practices. And who knows where it may lead. This work could be a doorway into an even more robust cross-cultural educational leadership exchange between our two organizations.”

 

HESA Students Working with Students from Scotland

Neag Graduate Students Bring Student Affairs Expertise to Scotland

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JULY 2014

HESA students gathered with UConn Provost Emeritus Peter Nicholls at the University of Glasgow.

“The Glasgow Five” is not the name of a new European rock band or infamous team of criminals, but the nickname adopted by the five Neag School of Education students who recently spent three weeks in Scotland studying how the University of Glasgow could best use social media to recruit, prepare and support international students.

It was the second trip of its kind for UConn students working toward a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), but by no means the last, said HESA professor and UConn Provost Emeritus Peter Nicholls, Ph.D., who played a lead role in coordinating the visit.

The first visit, in the summer of 2013, involved a different team of five HESA students working alongside University of Glasgow staff. Their project involved a detailed analysis of expectations of incoming international undergraduates to the University of Glasgow, and the development of recommendations for the University to meet those expectations. This initial visit was such a success that the University of Glasgow was keen to welcome another team in the summer of 2014.

“I don’t think there could be better praise than that,” said Nicholls, “and their job was huge. This was not a vacation. Our students developed research questions, mapped out a methodology, conducted focus groups, analyzed data, interpreted statistics and then presented what turned out to be concise and compelling recommendations for improvements. University of Glasgow staff were very impressed by the analytical approach and the quality of the assessment analysis that our students performed during the summer of 2013.”

HESA students gathered at the University of Glasgow for their research project.

Using the knowledge they had gained during their first year of study in the 44-credit HESA program, the second group of five students, comprising of Caroline Green, Jackie Lee, Em Loisel, Ty McNamee and Eileen Rodriguez conducted their project on the use of social media by prospective and current University of Glasgow students. As a part of this project, there was regular contact between the five students and HESA faculty in Storrs, who monitored their progress and provided needed support and troubleshooting.

Their findings became a part of the University of Glasgow’s institution-wide social media strategy—a needed part of university marketing that most expect to grow.

“Like in so many areas of life, social media has become an essential part of both Student Affairs and the overall higher education learning process,” said HESA Program Director and Department of Educational Leadership Extension Professor Sue Saunders, Ph.D. “Facebook, blogs, Flickr, Twitter and similar social platforms are redefining how students speak to universities and how universities engage with students, potential students, alumni and other constituencies. All of us involved in higher education, regardless of our roles, need to learn social media practices, which are constantly evolving.”

Because having a global perspective is essential for students considering almost any field today, this Higher Education and Student Affairs International Experience (HESA IE) program will continue, Nicholls said. Brought out of retirement in 2013 to begin the program, Nicholls will spend the rest of 2014 strengthening and expanding the opportunities it provides to HESA students, which he hopes might soon include those at other Universitas 21 schools.

UConn is one of just four universities in the United States to belong to Universitas 21, a global network of 24 research-intensive universities dedicated to fostering global citizenship, advancing institutional innovation and facilitating an exchange of ideas and knowledge that might otherwise never have occurred. The University of Glasgow is also a member.

Like those who traveled to Scotland in 2013 and 2014, future HESA IE students will be tasked with addressing a Student Affairs-related problem posed by the partner institution and, upon their return to UConn, complete a three-credit elective that explores the application of higher education and student affairs concepts in a global context. Nicholls and Neag School Associate Dean Marijke Kehrhahn, Ph.D., will teach the class in fall 2014.

“Like the HESA program and Neag School of Education overall, the foundational pedagogy of the international experience is to connect classroom theories with actual practices by putting students into challenging real-world situations,” Nicholls said.

“The hardest part of the International Experience for our students is to analyze a real world problem, and propose meaningful recommendations for the host institution within a very compressed timeframe and in unfamiliar surroundings,” Nicholls added. “But there’s something really special that occurs when a small group of extremely dedicated, motivated students work together with the mindset that they’re going to make the most of every moment. Add the fact that these students have received outstanding training in research methods, and it all comes together beautifully.”

For student Jackie Lee, that experience in Scotland felt like just a moment ago: “We definitely found the experience to be impactful both personally and professionally. We believe what we’ve learned is beneficial to share with others and hope to keep moving forward, sharing ideas, best practices and supporting fellow student service professionals worldwide.”

Click here to learn more about their research.