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With the recent increases in enrollment at the ECU College of Education and the university’s continued leadership in producing North Carolina’s educators, you might think it was always this way.
In fact, historians tell us the College of Education at ECU had a difficult birth, fighting for life over the objections of established Piedmont teacher colleges who feared competition. Powerful leaders in Raleigh overcame the objections, but political compromises limited the new school to a two-year program. It was about 15 years later, in 1922, when high demand and prescient leadership overcame politics, that a four-year bachelor of arts degree came to be. From that point forward, even with a Great Depression and World War II, the new school could not be stopped.
Today, and for many years, the College of Education at ECU has produced more teachers and education professionals than any university in North Carolina. At this moment, ECU alumni are working in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. There’s a good chance that you or your child had an ECU graduate as a teacher, counselor, media coordinator, education specialist or administrator. They’re among the best anywhere, following rigorous in-classroom training that requires teaching hours well beyond typical requirements and instruction from professors with nationally recognized expertise.
An analysis of the 2016-17 academic year shows an economic impact of more than $61 million for North Carolina, reflecting hours of service, grants and programs developed in partnership with communities and school districts across the state.
One example is the college’s Latham Clinical Schools Network, a partnership of 43 school districts including Wilson County Schools that provide field experiences and mentors for our students. Since the network formed 20 years ago, about 70,000 undergraduates in early field placements and 9,600 student teachers and interns have learned from real-world experiences while contributing new, research-based methods and innovations at the public schools where they work.
Last year, those clinical experiences, including internships and field placement, were valued at more than $3.8 million. Professional development, partnership and service programs increased the value by more than $47 million. And we collaborated on federal and state-funded projects valued at more than $10.4 million.
Challenges in education that we continue to face have conditioned us to be reactive. My counsel to everyone interested in education is that we must free ourselves from a reactive mentality and become, instead, responsive. When we listen, engage in conversations that are positive and civil, and create a shared responsibility for success with our local communities, we will continue to see an amazing return on investment.
In the coming year, the ECU College of Education will continue to focus on three objectives: strengthening the reputation of its academic programs, increasing community partnerships and building external support for research activity that generates even better ideas for effective teaching and innovations. In doing so, we will be well positioned to overcome any obstacle in the way of excellence, just as our ECU forebears have done for generations.
Grant Hayes is dean of East Carolina University’s College of Education.