News

Scholars on Adult Learning in Social movements to join Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Program.

Two new faculty will join the Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Program in 2017-18.

Dr. John Holst holds a D.Ed. in Adult Continuing Education from Northern Illinois University (2000). His research focuses on adult education and social change both in terms of pedagogical practices and the nature of learning and education in social movements. He is the author of Social Movements, Civil Society, and Radical Adult Education and Gramsci: A Pedagogy to Change the World (with N. Pizzolato, in press). He received the Cyril O. Houle Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education (2011) for his book, Radicalizing Learning: Adult Education for a Just World (with S. Brookfield).

 

Dr. Rebecca Tarlau holds a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Studies from the University of California-Berkeley (2014). Dr. Tarlau’s research focuses on the relationship between states, social movements, and education, particularly in Latin America. She is the author of Brazilian Agrarian Social Movements (with A. Pahnke). Her second book, Occupying Schools, Occupying Land: How the Landless Movement Transformed Brazilian Education, is under review at Oxford University Press. Dr. Tarlau is the recipient of a Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, and Inter-American Foundation (IAF) Grassroots Development Fellowship, among other prestigious awards.

Adult education professor organizes student art gallery

In an effort to fill the blank walls on the third floor of Keller Building, William Diehl, assistant professor of education (adult education) has partnered with students and faculty across the University to develop a student-run art gallery.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ask any Penn Stater where to see art on campus and they'll likely say the Palmer Museum of Art, not Keller Building. But that may soon change.

LPS Gallery
Graduate students Adelaine Muth, Leila Farzam and Leslie Cano organize pieces of art to go in the new LPS art gallery. (Photo: Will Diehl)

The third floor of Keller Building is home to the College of Education's Department of Learning Performance Systems (LPS). The department, which houses primarily graduate-level programs that explore technology and globalization of education in general, workforce and adult education, underwent renovations in 2014 that left the halls empty and uninviting.

"A few years ago our department head at the time sent out a survey to get feedback on what to do with the space," said William Diehl, assistant professor of education (adult education). "I thought that this could be a great opportunity for our students to collaborate with students from the School of Visual Arts (SOVA) on a yearly basis. We have great talent here at Penn State, and this project provides a space for interdisciplinary research and a chance for graduate students to collaborate and to gain practical experience on campus."

Once the idea was planted in his mind, Diehl asked Steven Rubin, associate professor of art in SOVA, to help facilitate a partnership between his school and LPS.

"I just had this idea and ran with it," Diehl said.

That idea was to transform the third floor of Keller Building into an amateur art gallery that would reflect the talents of student artists as well as student researchers. With leadership from graduate students Kristina Davis (SOVA), Leslie Cano (Lifelong Learning and Adult Education), Leila Farzam (Workforce Education and Development) and Adelaine Muth (SOVA), more than a dozen students from both colleges already have participated in the planning meetings.

The administrative staff and leadership in LPS also have made valuable contributions to the space. The gallery will span approximately 1,500 square feet of space and, like a traditional art gallery, will have rotating themes on which exhibits will be based. Graduate students from each unit will join Diehl, Rubin and other faculty members to discuss and propose themes based on the research faculty and students in LPS conduct. Then, visual arts students will channel their artistic talents and create pieces based on that research.

Although plans still are being finalized, Diehl and Rubin plan to include faculty, staff and students from both departments, as well as local artists, on the curating committee. Eventually, Diehl said, he also would like to include alumni in the process.

Wiring and track lighting for the new gallery were installed this past summer and paintings by Ruth Kazez, a local artist, were hung at the end of October.

"Because we are still in the planning stages for student art, we wanted to make sure we were utilizing the space in the meantime," Diehl said. "Ruth is a friend of Penn State and a wonderful local artist whose work has been displayed previously in the HUB. She is an award-winning artist who has displayed her work in dozens of gallery spaces and we are fortunate that she accepted our invitation to display her work."

Those interested in viewing Kazez's work can visit the gallery Monday-Friday during regular business hours.

Next fall when student work is displayed, Diehl plans to host an official grand opening ceremony and is hoping to include even more Penn State departments such as the School of Music and the School of Hospitality Management in the festivities. "We are actively looking for students from other disciplines who have an interest in participating in our project,” Diehl said.

"I see this gallery as a great way to bring together different programs at Penn State and highlight the different talents of our students. There also are practical applications such as students learning how to run a small gallery, and it will be interesting to see what research rises out of this," Diehl said.

"Yes, we get to decorate our walls but it is about more than that. It's about our students."

By Jessica Buterbaugh (November 2017)

Army fellowship helped 20 soldiers earn Penn State master’s degrees

Twenty of the U.S. Army’s senior enlisted soldiers will be honored Tuesday, Aug. 22, after earning Penn State master’s degrees as part of a fellowship aimed at improving their teaching skills to prepare the military’s next generation of leaders.

U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program graduates
Six Fellows from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program attended Penn State’s summer commencement ceremony. (Photo: Abby Drey)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Twenty of the U.S. Army’s senior enlisted soldiers will be honored Tuesday, Aug. 22, after earning Penn State master’s degrees as part of a fellowship aimed at improving their teaching skills to prepare the military’s next generation of leaders.

The 20 U.S. Army sergeants major will be recognized at a ceremony at Fort Bliss in Texas after completing the first year of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program. As part of the fellowship, the soldiers graduated with a master’s of education in lifelong learning and adult education through Penn State World Campus. The cohort is the second to graduate from Penn State.

“I felt I was obligated to do it and that it was a calling when the opportunity arose to get a second graduate degree and then be able to teach the future leaders of the Army,” said Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, one of six Fellows who also attended Penn State’s summer commencement at University Park.

The full cohort will continue to the next phase of the fellowship and teach three years in the Sergeants Major Course, which prepares the military’s next generation of leaders with the skills they need on and off the battlefield. A new group of Fellows will arrive this week at Fort Bliss to begin the program and World Campus courses.

Trent, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, has served in the Army for 24 years, most recently in public affairs for the Asia-Pacific region. After earning her degree, she decided to continue her education online through World Campus’ distance education certificate and wants to be an adjunct professor.

“If I can find a university where I can work with adults and provide them an opportunity for them to reach their goals, that would satisfy the desire in me,” Trent said.

Sgt. Maj. Michael Irvin, from York, Pennsylvania, also wants to parlay his experience in the program to teach at the college level. The 22-year veteran was stationed in Fort Shafter, Hawaii, where he was responsible for training exercises and operations in the Pacific. He says the knowledge he gained will help him in his post-Army career while attending Penn State helped him fulfill a lifelong dream.

“It’s my desire to teach adults now in the military and in a few years at a college when I retire,” Irvin said. “I also grew up a Penn State fan and knowing that I had the opportunity to earn a degree from my favorite university was a dream come true.”

A 29-year service member, Sgt. Maj. Johnnie Bryant-Johnson said the program will provide her with the necessary tools to professionally develop the future enlisted leaders of the armed forces. Once she retires, the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, native wants to continue her role as a teacher and help young adults and high school students access institutes of higher education. Bryant-Johnson, whose mother passed away from ovarian cancer following a short battle with the disease in 2003, also wants to become active in the funding of cancer research.

She praised World Campus’ online community of collaboration and support, which helped the program exceed her expectations.

Trent echoed those sentiments.

“Penn State World Campus is phenomenal in every way. Everything from online discussions with fellow students, who are all over the globe, and interactions with professors has been a home run,” Trent said. “The relationship that Penn State has invested with USASMA has clearly been a priority for the administrators of Penn State.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information.

By (August 2017)

Army fellowship program sees its first Penn State graduates

The 19 sergeants major who graduated with master’s degrees in lifelong learning and adult education from Penn State on Saturday comprise the first cohort of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Army Sgt. Major Tim Magee spent the past year hitting the books and writing papers. It’s been a different experience from the past 27 years he spent as an audio/video repair technician for the Army, including deployments to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

USASMA photo
The soldiers in the first class of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship program attend an orientation hosted by Penn State adult education professor William Diehl. The soldiers spent the past year completing a master’s degree online through Penn State World Campus and will go on to teach the Sergeants Major Course. (Image: U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy)

Magee, along with 18 other sergeants major, is in the first class of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program, an initiative the Army created to improve the teaching skills of its highest-level enlisted soldiers. The group of 19 sergeants major has been stationed at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy since August 2015 completing the master’s degree in lifelong learning and adult education online through Penn State World Campus.

Magee and the 18 other fellows will graduate on Saturday, Aug. 13, and proceed to the next phase of the program – teaching for three years in the Sergeants Major Course, which prepares the military’s next generation of leaders with the skills they need on and off the battlefield.

“I want to use technology to help influence the learning of the students,” Magee said. “I have some great ideas I’ve learned through my distance education experience through Penn State that I think would be beneficial to the students I’m getting ready to instruct.”

The fellows will be recognized at a ceremony on base at Fort Bliss, Texas, on Aug. 22. A new group of fellows will also arrive on base to begin the program.

The degree program was offered in a blended format: An instructor from Penn State’s College of Education visited at the beginning of each semester for orientation, and then the students completed the courses online. For their final project, they wrote a paper.

Magee came into the program with a master’s degree in management from a college on base, and he had never been in an online learning or distance education environment. He ended up thriving and is set to graduate with a near-perfect grade-point average.

It became clearer how well he was learning when he and his fellow classmates got together in December last year to talk about their classes.

“When we sat down as a group and just started talking, I didn’t think I learned anything,” he said. “But then I was rattling off this and that -- I was shocked at how much I had retained and learned.”

Another fellow, Army Sgt. Major Scot Cates, saw the program as a way to give back to the military. As a military police officer for more than 25 years, he brought perspectives that his professors and students in his classes could learn from.

“The professors are going to learn more by being exposed to people that are from different cultures and organizations throughout the U.S., and they can bring that to the classrooms,” Cates said. “It reminds me of the Army. We don’t leave people in one spot forever because if they only know what’s there, they’re not broadened.”

Army Sgt. Major Pedro Quiñones saw the program as a resume-builder for when he retires from the military in a few years. He has worked as a musician in the Army since 1989 and played in and managed ceremonies and performances for heads of state all over the world.

He said the degree program was challenging and rigorous, and he highly recommends it to his fellow sergeants major.

“When I started saying I got accepted into Penn State for this degree, one of the people at my unit was like, ‘Sergeant Major, that is awesome. You’re going to have a great time. This is a great university,’” Quiñones said. “So, I started looking at Penn State more. Now I see why.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about services and resources available to military students.

This article originally appeared on Penn State News.

Army selects Penn State as partner for new educational fellowship program

Through a new agreement between the Army and Penn State, 20 sergeants major will enroll the fall semester in the online master’s of education in adult education degree. The soldiers will then use the degree to teach the country’s future military leaders at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy in Texas.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Senior leaders in the U.S. military will use a Penn State degree to train the next generation of sergeants major in the Army, thanks to a new agreement between the Army and the University.

The Army has selected Penn State as its educational partner for the new U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program, which will provide scholarships for 20 sergeants major to enroll in the online master of education in adult education degree through Penn State World Campus. They will finish the degree within a year and go on to teach the academy’s Sergeants Major Course, which educates the military’s enlisted leaders to operate on all levels of leadership.

U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, trains the military's future leaders.

Successful applicants will begin their online studies Aug. 24, which is the start of Penn State’s fall semester. They will be stationed at the academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, and be full-time students.

“Thirteen years of conflict have demonstrated that the future battle space will continue to grow in complexity and bring amplified intellectual changes, and therefore, an educated force of leaders and senior leaders is required,” said Command Sgt. Major Dennis Defreese. “The partnership with Penn State University is key in attracting the best quality sergeants major to the program and ultimately becoming instructors in the Sergeants Major Course.”

Defreese said the Army chose the master of education in adult education because research shows that teachers with backgrounds in curriculum, learning theory and other educational topics are better prepared teachers than those who only have knowledge of their subject area.

“Our program is designed so that once the instructor finishes the fellowship program they can take the tools acquired in the degree program and immediately put them to use in the classroom,” Defreese said.

The master’s degree in adult education consists of 33 credits with the goal of preparing educators to teach adult learners and understand how they learn best. Topics include distance and continuing education, planning educational programs, research and evaluation of adult learners and designing courses.

The World Campus courses will be taught online by the adult education faculty from the Penn State College of Education, whose degree program in adult education has been an international leader in the field for more than three decades.

“The Army has entrusted Penn State to provide a high-quality education to the sergeants major who will then teach the future military leaders of our country, and we are honored to help serve the educational needs of our country’s armed forces,” said Craig Weidemann, Penn State’s vice provost of online education and vice president of outreach. “The sergeants major will be in the good hands of our expert faculty who have made Penn State a leader in adult education.”

The sergeants major will have access to World Campus’ student support services as well as advising by the adult education faculty.

The program will be fully online and include an on-site orientation at Fort Bliss, Texas, at the start of each semester of the program.

By Mike Dawson, Penn State World Campus (June 2015)

Around the College: Sept. 5, 2018

Students, staff and faculty members from Penn State's College of Education share recent research and career achievements.

Erica Frankenberg, associate professor of education (educational leadership), was quoted in "Dual school system, need for better option led to Sumter County's charter school," an article about Sumter County, Alabama's first charter school, published on AL.com.

Ed Fuller, associate professor of education (educational leadership), was quoted in the article "What Follows Five Years of Failure at Mendez Middle School?" an article published in The Austin Chronicle about Texas' A-F school accountability system.

— Jennifer Miller, a doctoral student in the Lifelong Learning and Adult Education program, has published "The Transformative and Healing Power of Theatre of Witness," in the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education.

Paul Morgan, professor of education (education policy studies) presented information about his findings related to educational disparities among minority students at a policy briefing on Aug. 27 in Washington, D.C. The briefing was attended by the assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services as well as the acting director of the Office of Special Education. Three research articles led by Morgan are among the most read articles published in Educational Researcher. Research that he conducted with Deborah Schussler, associate professor of education (education policy studies), is among the most read articles published in Exceptional Children.

Kelly Ochs Rosinger, assistant professor of education (education policy studies), was quoted in the article "College Admissions Minus the Tests Does Not Add Up to Diversity," published by OZY.

"Around the College" highlights accomplishments by faculty, staff and students in the College of Education, including publications; research presentations at conferences and workshops; and awards, grants and fellowships. Please share your news with us and your colleagues by emailing edrelations@psu.edu.

Cuban literacy scholars to visit Penn State

Felipe Pérez Cruz, Cuban literacy campaign expert and professor of history, and Luisa Campos, professor of history and director of the National Literacy Museum in Havana, Cuba, will visit the University Park campus on April 27 and 28 and speak with faculty and students about Cuba's historic literacy campaign.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of Education will host two Cuban scholars on April 27 and 28 when they visit the University Park campus to discuss Cuba’s historic literacy campaign.

Felipe Pérez Cruz, Cuban literacy campaign expert and professor of history, and Luisa Campos, professor of history and director of the National Literacy Museum in Havana, Cuba, will speak to faculty and students to highlight what is viewed as one of the most successful education campaigns in history. Prior to visiting the University Park campus, the scholars spoke with faculty and students at Penn State Erie, a visit coordinated by Jessica Piney, lecturer in Spanish.

“The 1961 National Literacy Campaign was arguably one of the most notable events — not to mention one of the most successful literacy campaigns — in the history of education. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Penn State students, faculty, and staff to learn about these historic events and their long-term ripple effects in Cuban society and beyond, and to benefit from academic exchange with Cuban scholars.”

— Esther Prins, associate professor of adult education

Launched in 1961, Cuba’s National Literacy Campaign sought to address the literacy rate of Cuban nationals, where as little as 60 percent of the population were literate, particularly in rural areas. In its first year, the campaign successfully taught more than 700,000 Cuban natives to read and write by commissioning 250,000 teacher volunteers, 100,000 of whom were under 18 and more than half of whom were women. The volunteers, most of whom derived from urban areas, lived with rural families for one year. In exchange for room and board, they helped families by working in the fields, doing agricultural labor. In this way, the volunteers taught the adults to read and write, while also learning from them.

“The 1961 National Literacy Campaign was arguably one of the most notable events — not to mention one of the most successful literacy campaigns — in the history of education,” said Esther Prins, associate professor of adult education and coordinator of the events. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Penn State students, faculty, and staff to learn about these historic events and their long-term ripple effects in Cuban society and beyond, and to benefit from academic exchange with Cuban scholars.”

Pérez Cruz will speak about “The National Literacy Campaign (1961): The revolution of Cuban culture and education” at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, in 114 Keller. Following the public lecture, he will serve as a guest instructor for ADTED 510: Social and Historical Issues in Adult Education, where he will address the “historical and social foundations of Cuba’s adult education and literacy programs.”

At 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28, a special screening of Maestra with Campos and filmmaker Catherine Murphy will take place in Foster Auditorium. A 33-minute documentary that tells the story of the literacy campaign from the volunteers who lived it, Maestra includes personal stories from the young female volunteers whose lives were changed by traveling the island to teach adults to read and write. A Q&A with both Campos, who was personally part of the 1961 campaign, and Murphy, will immediately follow the film, and a post-screening reception will take place at 5 p.m. in the Mann Assembly Room in 103 Paterno Library.

“This is an unprecedented time in the history of U.S.-Cuba relations,” Prins said. “With the thawing of diplomatic relations, there are increased opportunities for Cubans to visit the United States and share their knowledge with us.”

It is important that Penn State takes advantage of those opportunities, she said, adding that a number of faculty and students in Penn State courses have already visited Cuba in the past. Unfortunately, it is not as easy for Cubans to visit the United States.

Prins experienced that difficulty first-hand when coordinating these events. After travelling to Cuba with nine other Penn State faculty in June 2015, she met Pérez Cruz and Campos while she was learning more about the historic campaign. Shortly afterward, she began planning their trip to Penn State. In November, she wrote a formal letter to the U.S. and Cuban authorities to initiate the visa process to allow the scholars to visit.

“The visa process was a nightmare,” she said. “The process was taking so long that I sought help from the University’s Government Relations and Rep. Glenn Thompson’s offices to advocate for their visas.” By the time Pérez Cruz and Campos’ visas were approved, they had less than 24 hours to reserve their flights, she said.

But the hard work and tireless effort were worth it.

“Being a faculty member in Penn State’s Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Program, it’s only natural for me to want to host scholars who can help our students and the broader Penn State community learn about one of the most famous adult education initiatives in world history,” Prins said.

Individuals interested in attending the ADTED 510 course with Pérez Cruz should contact Esther Prins at esp150@psu.edu since space is limited. Additional questions regarding these events also may be sent to Prins.

These events are co-sponsored by the following University units and departments: Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Program; Comparative and International Education Program; Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Department of Education Policy Studies; Department of Film-Video and Media Studies; Department of Geography; Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy and Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy; Department of Learning and Performance Systems; Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese; Department of Telecommunications; Global Programs; Institute for the Arts and Humanities; Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity; and Penn State University Libraries.

By Jessica Buterbaugh (April 2016)

Doctoral student focuses research on North Korean defectors

Regardless of the things that make people different, there is one thing we all have in common. We all are human beings and we all deserve to be happy. This philosophy is the driving force behind doctoral candidate Jinhee Choi's interest in researching the experiences of North Korean defectors living in South Korea.

Jinhee Choi, talks about her experiences working as a barista alongside North Korean defectors in South Korea, as part of her doctoral research.UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Regardless of the things that make people different, there is one thing we all have in common. We all are human beings and we all deserve to be happy. This philosophy is the driving force behind doctoral candidate Jinhee Choi's interest in researching the experiences of North Korean defectors living in South Korea.

"I want to study how North Korean defectors learn to adjust to their life in the workplace, specifically in the cafe setting," said Choi, who is entering her fourth year in Penn State's Lifelong Learning and Adult Education program. "I want to look at how they adjust but also how their past experiences shape their current work experience, and how they learn to develop their commitment to work and social relationships."

Choi decided that the only way to understand these experiences was to work side-by-side with defectors as a peer. In 2016 through her contacts in South Korea, she was hired to work as a barista at two coffee shops alongside North Korean defectors. During her two months of work, she began exploring ideas that have become the foundation of her dissertation research.

“[Defectors] have had abusive employment relationships in North Korea, China and even in South Korea. How can we expect them to build positive social relationships without having a good example to follow?”

— Jinhee Choi, doctoral student

During her first week on the job, she said she quickly learned what her coworkers expected from her.

“I was scolded by the North Korean baristas very frequently due to my relatively slow work speed and less-than-perfect barista skills,” she said, admitting that she often thought about quitting as a result of the heavy workload and harsh treatment she received from her coworkers. But then, she recognized that their behaviors were influenced by their past experiences and treatment in the workplace.

"I realized that the way they treated me reflected their past workplace experiences and social relationships in North Korea, China and South Korea," Choi said. "It wasn’t really a personal attack; they treated me the same way they had been treated by others."

She added that two coworkers once told her that their previous work experiences were much worse than what she was experiencing. "You cannot imagine. The treatment you're getting here is nothing," she recalled them telling her.

“They have had abusive employment relationships in North Korea, China and even in South Korea," Choi said. "How can we expect them to build positive social relationships without having a good example to follow?”

Because of this reality, the cafes' CEO, who also is a North Korean defector, built the cafes specifically to provide North Korean defectors with an exemplary workplace experience.

The perils of escaping the communist regime of Kim Jong-un do not end once a North Korean defector crosses the border. Many defectors first leave North Korea by way of China. Once in China, the defectors must live in secrecy for fear of the Chinese authorities arresting them and returning them to North Korea.

South Korean barista sketch
Jinhee Choi could not take pictures of her experiences working as a barista alongside North Korean refugees in South Korea, because she needs to protect their identity for her research. Instead, she drew sketches including this one.
"Many defectors cross the Tumen River and enter China, which is very dangerous," Choi said, explaining that China does not accept defectors and will deport them back to North Korea if caught. If that happens, defectors face harsh punishments from the North Korean government, including years of imprisonment and re-education at camps where conditions are inhumane, she said.

When defectors make their way to China, they are introduced to a capitalistic society for the first time and learn how to earn money. Many gravitate toward the service industry, where it is easier to remain hidden.

"During the whole defection process in China, people abuse them and treat them inhumanely," Choi said, explaining that many employers pay low wages and force defectors to work long hours in bad conditions. "The employers know the defectors cannot report anything because if they do, they'll be sent back to North Korea. They'll be exposed." Many employers take advantage of defectors, Choi said, because they are seen as cheap labor.

When defectors eventually reach South Korea, a country that openly accepts defectors and grants citizenship to North Koreans, they are obliged to complete a three-month education program that teaches them basic life skills. They then are released and must live a new life in an unfamiliar economic and political system.

"They learn how to live their lives," Choi said. "How to take a bus. How to go to school. How to get a job. How to use money. Things that are normal for everybody else, but this is the first time defectors have been able to experience this kind of society."

"My goal is to improve the social and work conditions of defectors in their lives after the regime. I hope to increase international awareness on the social, psychological and economic barriers defectors face when they integrate into society."

— Jinhee Choi

Having the opportunity to work with North Korean defectors was an eye-opening experience for which Choi says she is grateful.

"Working with defectors has been so beneficial because I got to know them as people," Choi said. "I got to learn about who they were — their families, their interests — things you learn about anybody you work with."

The more time she spent with her coworkers, the more she realized that they have been dealt an unfair hand in life, she said.

"Defectors must learn to live again," Choi said. "After the education program, they are on their own. They have no family; most of their family is still in the north. They can't go home on the holidays to see them. Everything is very different."

As she prepares for her dissertation, Choi said she intends to return to the South Korean cafes and once again work with North Korean defectors.

"My first experience with this community taught me that while defectors are reluctant to fully trust anybody (even each other), they are willing to share with me their past and current life's story with the hope that I can give them a voice that can be heard on a broader scale," she said.

Choi said she hopes her research will lead South Korea to establish workplace intervention programs for defectors so that they may secure stable and sustainable employment. Her ultimate goal, she said, is to help give North Korean defectors a chance for a renewed and healthy life that they do not always receive after their arrival in South Korea.

“North Korean defectors who make it to South Korean soil are mentally and emotionally strong," Choi said. "They survived life in the north and they survived the defection journey, often having been abused and living in fear for years. My goal is to improve the social and work conditions of defectors in their lives after the regime. I hope to increase international awareness on the social, psychological and economic barriers defectors face when they integrate into society."

She said she believes that defectors are able to make meaningful and important contributions to their new home countries when they receive proper education and social support.

"In the long-term, I hope to break down barriers so that the two communities could be unified as 'Koreans,' without regard for origins in the north or south," Choi said.

By Jessica Buterbaugh (May 2017)

Faculty Member Shares Research Findings in Online Interview

Esther Prins, associate professor of education and co-director of the Goodling Institute and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, was recently interviewed by “EvoLLLution,” a grassroots online newspaper about higher education, about her study—conducted alongside Cathy Kassab and Kimeka Campbell—that explored rural Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicants.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.— , associate professor of education and co-director of the Goodling Institute and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, was recently interviewed by “EvoLLLution,” a grassroots online newspaper about higher education, about her study—conducted alongside Cathy Kassab and Kimeka Campbell—that explored rural Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicants. The study exposed some of the biggest challenges facing non-traditional students from rural areas and possible solutions.

According to Prins, physical access is one of the biggest barriers to higher education for non-traditional students from rural areas because most higher education institutions are concentrated in urban areas. Other factors that hinder access are the high cost for commuting or relocation, high levels of poverty and high likelihood of rural residents living in areas with low levels of educational attainment overall.

Prins added in the interview that a critical step to increasing access and retention for this group is making grants and financial aid more accessible for non-traditional students.

The full interview is available at this link: http://www.evolllution.com/opinions/audio-addressing-biggest-barriers-education-americas-rural-adults/.

New adult education master’s degree, certificate respond to changing workplace

Penn State is offering a new certificate and a revamped master’s degree online for professionals looking to advance their skills in adult education.

The workplace is evolving rapidly, creating new demands for workforce training and professional development. In response, Penn State is offering a new certificate and a revamped master’s degree online for professionals looking to advance their skills in adult education.

The 30-credit Master of Education in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education, previously the M.Ed. in Adult Education, is being offered by the College of Education through Penn State World Campus. Students can choose options in one of two areas: Adult Basic Education and Literacy, or Global Online and Distance Education, or they can earn a general Master of Education that allows more flexibility for electives.

Penn State is also offering a new 12-credit post-baccalaureate Adult Basic Education certificate online. Students can apply the certificate credits toward the Lifelong Learning master’s degree.

Graduates will be equipped to provide leadership in teaching and learning; instructional design and development; program planning and administration; or curriculum and program evaluation, said William C. Diehl, lead faculty for the program.

“As more organizations turn to online distance education, professionals in many fields are being asked to develop and teach in online programs,” Diehl said. “They can turn to our established curriculum and experienced faculty to learn about teaching and management in distance education programs; including the opportunity to gain knowledge of the foundations of distance education, theory and design.”

Students will interact with fellow students from around the country and the world and get new perspectives on distance education and traditional teaching, Diehl said.

“Traditional teachers and administrators find that once they learn about the theory and practice of distance and online education, they can take a lot of what they learn back to their own traditional classrooms,” he said.

In addition to the two new programs, Penn State also offers a 12-credit certificate in Distance Education.

More information about the master’s degree and certificate programs is available on the Penn State World Campus website.

By Hilary Appleman, Penn State World Campus (May 2016)

Next stop for these Penn State graduates: teaching the military’s next leaders

Twenty sergeants major received a master of education in lifelong learning and adult education online from Penn State through the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship program.

Penn State has a longstanding and proud tradition of serving the men and women of our military through education benefits, resources, support and more. As part of Penn State’s ongoing military appreciation, we offer the following story.*

Through Penn State, Army Sgt. Maj. Melissa O’Brien learned the best ways to teach adults. Now she’s putting her degree to use as the director of a distance education program that trains the military’s next generation of leaders.

ASMA fellowship graduates
Sgts. Maj. Christopher Padgett, Dietrek Louis, Melissa O'Brien and Roger Craig received their master's degree from Penn State World Campus as part of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship program. (Photo: ABby Drey)

O’Brien is one of 20 Army sergeants major who completed a master’s degree online through Penn State World Campus as part of the prestigious U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship program. In their first year, the sergeants major complete a master of education in lifelong learning and adult education, and after graduation, they go on to teach in the Sergeants Major Course, which teaches leadership skills to the military’s highest enlistees.

“This is another opportunity that allows me to continue serving while doing what I am passionate about, teaching and mentoring soldiers,” O’Brien said.

The fellows are being recognized Tuesday (Aug. 21) at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy on base at Fort Bliss, Texas. They received their degrees during the summer 2018 commencement on Aug. 11 and were provided red, white and blue military honor cords by Penn State President Eric Barron.

O’Brien has served in the Army for 28 years with roles in military intelligence. Most recently she was an instructor and department chair at the academy.

In her new role with the distance education program, O’Brien will work on faculty development, curriculum redesign and overhauling the online version of the Sergeants Major Course. She said the online program she completed with Penn State is a model for the future of the military’s distance education program.

“When I think about the Penn State experience, from beginning to end, by far it’s been exceptional,” she said, praising her professors, technical support and library resources.

Sgt. Maj. Christopher Padgett has served for 28 years in the California Army National Guard, most recently at the Pentagon for the National Guard Bureau, where he was the executive officer to the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard. He has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo; he worked with law enforcement agencies on the U.S.-Mexico border; and he responded to natural disasters like earthquakes, fires and floods.

Padgett said he looks forward to teaching for the Sergeants Major Course, a 10-month program that noncommissioned officers complete before earning the rank of sergeant major.

“To be an instructor at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy is an honor, and to be teaching younger soldiers who are at that last step to become sergeants major has been a dream of mine,” Padgett said.

He said he was not sure what to expect when he began his Penn State courses, because he had not been in a school environment in almost 20 years.

“I was completely nervous to enter this program, but the past year has been nothing but a rewarding experience,” he said. “Penn State made it so easy, so comfortable for me and relieved my stress.”

The cohort is the third to graduate from Penn State since the fellowship program began in 2015. The fourth group arrived at Fort Bliss for orientation last week.

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about learning online.

*This year's Military Appreciation Week at the University begins with a Penn State football game on Oct. 27 leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11. This year's theme will recognize 100 years of women officially serving in the U.S. Armed Forces with special events and activities, including community football tailgate, library showcase, speaker events and more. For additional information, visit militaryappreciation.psu.edu.

By Mike Dawson (Penn State World Campus). This article originally appeared on Penn State News.

Penn State opens family literacy program in Williamsport

Penn State's Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy has partnered with STEP Inc. to provide a new education program to needy families in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State's Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy has partnered with STEP Inc. to provide a new education program to needy families in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

"Williamsport is a high poverty area, more than double than that of the entire state, and 14 percent of the population do not have a high school diploma," said Carol Clymer, co-director of the Goodling Institute, a research institute in Penn State's College of Education.

"This program is needed in this community. Twenty-seven percent of the residents live in poverty and 53 percent of Lycoming County residents with children under the age of 18 receive food stamps."

— Carol Clymer, co-director of the Goodling Instituate for Research in Family Literacy

The program, known as Family Pathways, is a family literacy program that provides educational services to parents or caregivers over the age of 17 who have an educational need and have a child who is in third grade or younger.

"The program follows a unique four-component model," Clymer said. "Family literacy is an intergenerational education approach and the components are integrated to serve the whole family unit."

The components include providing adult education training to help parents and caregivers find economic self-sufficiency as well as training for parents to be the primary teacher in their children's lives. Parents and children also participate together in interactive literacy activities and children receive early childhood education services to set them up for success when entering school.

STEP Inc., a nonprofit community action agency that serves Lycoming and Clinton counties, will provide the early childhood education classes to children through their Head Start program. Penn State's Goodling Institute will provide the adult education, parent training and interactive literacy classes. All classes are offered at STEP Inc.'s Round Hills campus.

"In March, the Pennsylvania Department of Education's (PDE) Division of Adult Education released a Request for Grant Application," Clymer said. "This was an ideal opportunity for us to identify a partner in Williamsport who could provide early childhood education services for the family literacy program we wanted to develop."

The median annual income in Williamsport, with a population of around 29,000, is approximately $39,000 — nearly $17,000 less than the median income for Pennsylvania, Clymer said. Nineteen percent of STEP parents do not have a high school diploma and 74 percent of primary caregivers are either unemployed or work part-time jobs.

"The family literacy program is designed to help parents earn their Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma or build their basic reading, writing and math skills, and prepare them for employment or transition to postsecondary education," she said. "It also will help build parenting skills and provide interactive learning opportunities to help families — both parents and children — increase their educational levels."

Family Pathways is funded by a three-year PDE grant, which provides $150,000 per year and allows the Goodling Institute to provide services to 30 families. Classes started in September and are free for participants. The program also can provide financial assistance for childcare and testing, and can provide bus passes to help families who do not have access to transportation.

"This program is needed in this community," Clymer said. "Twenty-seven percent of the residents live in poverty and 53 percent of Lycoming County residents with children under the age of 18 receive food stamps." STEP Head Start reports that 56 percent of their families live in poverty, she said, which is double the rate for Williamsport and quadruple the statewide rate.

"It is very important that the Goodling Institute received this grant," Clymer said. "It will not only help Penn State to provide a critically important educational service to families in Williamsport, it also will allow us to build best practices for programming as we learn about which instructional strategies and activities are effective and which are not."

Individuals interested in learning more about the Family Pathways program, including information on how to participate, should contact Ruth Love-Schooley, Family Pathways coordinator, at ral27@psu.edu or 570-601-5936.

By Jessica Buterbaugh (November 2017)

Policy brief brings national attention to family literacy

A new policy brief out of Penn State’s Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy has identified a critical need for family literacy programs across the United States and calls for increased funding of these programs nationwide.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new policy brief out of Penn State’s Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy has identified a critical need for family literacy programs across the United States and calls for increased funding of these programs nationwide.

“For several decades, there was a strong focus on family literacy programs because they were seen as a way to help children of low-literate adults succeed in school,” said Carol Clymer, co-author of the brief and co-director of the Goodling Institute, explaining that in the 1980s, family literacy programs offered adult and parent education alongside early childhood education programming because parents were seen as a child’s “first teacher.”

“These challenges must be addressed in order for family literacy programs to continue, to be successful and to demonstrate their effectiveness. Our paper can help increase family literacy programs’ visibility for policymakers and state administrators.”

— Carol Clymer, co-director of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy

“Programs would support children’s development and literacy skills as well as help parents develop their literacy and parenting skills,” she said. “This idea truly came to fruition in 1989 when Even Start was first funded.”

Even Start, a federally administered program targeted toward low-income families, integrated adult education and early childhood education programs into one unified program. Parents and children would engage in various literacy activities together such as reading books and playing language games. While children were developing their literacy skills, so were their parents. The idea was that parents would practice their own reading, writing and language skills or prepare for high school equivalency tests, which would increase their likelihood to gain sustainable employment as well as help their child succeed academically.

“The goal of Even Start, and the goal of family literacy programs in general, is to put an end to the social and economic inequalities that exist in education,” Clymer said. “Without programs like this, a cycle can perpetuate and low-income families continue to get left behind by society.”

Funding for Even Start was pulled in 2011, causing most family literacy programs to be eliminated. The Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) still includes family literacy as an allowable program; however, it gives states the authority to choose whether or not to fund it.

“We contacted all 50 states and the District of Columbia to see if and how they were using AEFLA funds for family literacy programs,” said Blaire Willson Toso, co-author of the brief and research associate for the Goodling Institute. “As of 2015-16, only 11 states and D.C. have specific funding for family literacy programs.”

Those states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Wyoming — as well as Washington, D.C., vary in their funding strategies and their approaches to programming. However, there was one commonality.

“These states truly believe in and value the importance of family literacy programs,” Willson Toso said. “Research shows that family literacy programs are an effective way to increase opportunities and skills for both children and adults, especially for those who have low levels of literacy and education and live in poverty.”

Families with higher incomes, she said, are able to send their children to preschools or centers that help develop their academic skills because they have the means to do so. Research also shows a direct correlation between parental education and a child’s academic success, and family literacy programs offer the opportunity for parents and children to strengthen academic literacy skills in the context of the family.

“We also found that some states have a difficult time collecting data on their programs,” Clymer said. Depending on the funding source that is used, reporting requirements vary and since AEFLA tends to focus on adult education, there are no specific measurements for family literacy.

“Without data, you can’t justify the worth of your programming,” she said, adding that since the Goodling team completed its review, Wyoming eliminated its funding for family literacy programs. “Specific measurements regarding the effectiveness of these programs must be put in place so that state representatives can make informed decisions when it comes to funding.”

Funding and data collection are just two challenges reported by state officials. Due to a lack of resources, implementing the programs also has proven difficult.

“Even Start followed a four-component model, which many of these 11 states continue to follow, and that model can be costly to implement,” Clymer said. “To get around this, programs partner with other agencies that focus on some of those other components, such as early childhood education and interactive literacy, to alleviate some of the financial burdens.”

“One state official reported that some agencies are hesitant to partner with family literacy programs because parents are seen as a ‘high-risk’ population who may not be able to meet funder-mandated academic or employment goals in what the agencies consider to be a timely manner,” Clymer said.

“These challenges must be addressed in order for family literacy programs to continue, to be successful and to demonstrate their effectiveness,” she said. “Our paper can help increase family literacy programs’ visibility for policymakers and state administrators.”

Published in January, “Changing the Course of Family Literacy” has already caught the attention of peer organizations such as the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), the National Coalition on Literacy (NCL) and The Aspen Institute.

“NCFL has already contacted us about presenting our research at a policy briefing in May in Washington, D.C.,” Clymer said. The Goodling Institute researchers will be part of a panel that also includes other family-literacy proponents, such as NCFL.

“We will speak with policymakers about the importance of family literacy and hopefully influence them to adequately fund programming and study its value,” she said.

“We’re very excited about the responses we’ve received as a result of this paper and the positive attention it is bringing to family literacy programs,” Clymer said, adding that the paper was a collaborative effort that included Elisabeth Grinder, project assistant for the Goodling Institute, and adult education graduate student Ruth Parrish Sauder.

“It is our goal to continue to spotlight this area of education that is too many times overlooked or ignored.”

The Goodling Institute will host a webinar to discuss the paper and policy recommendations from 2 to 3 p.m. on March 2. For more information about the webinar, contact Carol Clymer at cdc22@psu.edu.

By Jessica Buterbaugh (February 2017)

Professors integrate study of education and Latin American social movements

Inspired by Italian philosophers and Brazilian educators, John Holst and Rebecca Tarlau are exploring social movements, education and sociology with their work in South America and the United States.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — John Holst and Rebecca Tarlau are exploring social movements, education and sociology with their work in South America and the United States. Their work is both international and interdisciplinary; it is inspired by Italian philosophers and Brazilian educators and made possible through collaboration of colleagues from multiple disciplines.

Holst and Tarlau, who work together within the Department of Learning and Performance Systems in the Lifelong Learning and Adult Education program, have focuses in adult education and both have ties to South America. Before they even knew each other, the two contributed to the same book.

Brazilian students
Brazilian children study in a public school built in an occupied encampment of the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). (Photo: Rebecca Tarlau)
Inspired by the work of Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, the book “Antonio Gramsci: A Pedagogy to Change the World” includes chapters from an international group of scholars in education, linguistics, political science and philosophy, including Holst and Tarlau.

Gramsci, whose work is used across many disciplines, isn’t necessarily considered an educator, although many in the field of adult education consider him to be one.

“Whenever we work on topics related to Gramsci or use any of his concepts, we end up running into, or working with, people from multiple disciplines,” Holst said, “I think that book is a good example of folks in education, particularly in adult education, working in an interdisciplinary manner.”

The book, according to Holst, is interdisciplinary in the sense that a number of educators worked on it, alongside people working in linguistics, philosophy, political science and sociology.

“Working with co-editor Nico Pizzolato we brought together these chapters from multiple disciplines, from multiple countries around the world, all dealing with Antonio Gramsci from a pedagogical, or educational standpoint,” Holst said. “Some of it is more philosophical inquiry, some of it is based on empirical research.”

Although Holst and Tarlau have been at Penn State for only a short time, they already have integrated themselves into a community of people from many disciplines, specifically by joining a social movement working group.

The group, run by John McCarthy, distinguished professor of sociology, has members from multiple colleges, including political science professors from the College of the Liberal Arts and faculty in the Smeal College of Business.

In an effort to bring together more people from a variety of disciplines, Holst and Tarlau are looking to create an initiative that would focus on combining sociology, social theories and social movements with education.

“I think John and I being at Penn State is a unique opportunity for us to reach out to other faculty across the university and heighten this interest,” Tarlau said. “We think that Penn State could be a center point for students across the country and the world who are interested in studying social movements and education.”

Not only is their work interdisciplinary, but it is international. Tarlau’s forthcoming book with the Oxford University Press, “Occupying Schools, Occupying Land: How The Landless Workers Movement Transformed Brazilian Education,” is an account of how a major social movement in Brazil has succeeded in transforming the rural public education system to promote more collective and social values.

After spending many years studying social movements and education in Brazil, Tarlau believes the United States could learn a lot from the approaches that are being taken in the South American country.

“We often think about the United States as teaching the Global South, teaching poorer countries how they should do things,” Tarlau said, “But I think Brazil and the way that social movements [there] use Freirean education gives great examples to how our social movements could incorporate education in a deeper way.”

Holst and Tarlau also are interested in Paulo Freire, an educator from Brazil. Freire was one of the most important educational theorists of the 20th century, according to Tarlau.

He was also a major inspiration for the social movement that is the focus of her aforementioned book.

Holst was introduced to Freire through his involvement with a community center in Chicago, and has impacted many with his work based around Freirean concepts.

More specifically, an article Holst wrote about Freire is used in the social justice program at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Also, a book he co-wrote impacted study groups in Bellingham, Washington, during the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Holst, and his wife María Alicia Vetter, who is Chilean and a researcher herself, recently returned from Chile. There, they spent time strengthening their connections to Chilean academic and research institutions. Their overall goal is to develop a larger network of people in that region.

Tarlau’s extensive work in Brazil, and Holst’s connections to Chile, are two factors that motivate the two to continue with the work they are doing.

Holst and Tarlau applied for and received a Global Programs Faculty Travel Grant from the Office of Global Programs and plan to use the money to create a yearly study abroad program focusing on education and social movements in Latin America.

“The idea is that it would be a yearly, short-term, summer, study-abroad trip,” Holst said. “We would like to begin with a trip to either Chile or Brazil and then expand it to include Cuba, Mexico or El Salvador.”

With the goal of visiting a different country every year — or even two countries per year to do a comparative study — Holst and Tarlau are working to merge education and sociology with the help of scholars from multiple disciplines continue to make a difference in the way social movements and theory are viewed in connection to education.

By Abby Fortin (September 2018)

Research leads doctoral student to world’s largest refugee camp

An interest in education programs for refugee women has led Ally Krupar, a graduate student study adult education and comparative and international education, to the world’s largest refugee camp.

Dadaab research
Ally Krupar teaches women refugees in Dadaab how to use cameras to document life experiences. (Photo: Ally Krupar)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While completing her master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution at American University, Ally Krupar had the opportunity to visit and conduct research in Liberia. During that time, she began to wonder about education opportunities for adults in conflict-affected areas around the world.

“It was clear that people in these areas have missed out on formal K-12 education, but were still very interested in continuing their education in one way or another,” she said.

Her curiosity led her to Penn State’s adult education and comparative and international education (CIED) dual doctoral program, where under the advisement of Associate Professor of Education Esther Prins, she recently completed her dissertation field work with a group of women refugees in Dadaab, Kenya. Located on the Kenyan-Somalian border, Dadaab is home to the largest refugee complex in the world, housing more than 320,000 migrant and displaced persons. Access to education is limited, especially for women.

“There are all these NGO educational programs aimed at adults that are supposed to empower women, especially women in conflict-affected environments, but what empowerment means to NGOs and what it means to the women refugees is different,” Krupar said, explaining that the majority of educational programs in Dadaab are coordinated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“There’s not a clear connection between how these women are internalizing what it means to be empowered and using what they learn in their everyday lives and what the donor-driven programming is intending to do,” she said. “That is what my research is looking at.”

A forgotten population

“This is a population that is often under-studied and transient,” Krupar said. “It is also a growing population that requires different tools for integration and adult education is one of those tools, whether it’s integration into the host country or preparation for a return to their home country.”

Dadaab map
Located on the Kenyan-Somalian border, Dadaab is home to the largest refugee complex in the world, housing more than 320,000 migrant and displaced persons. (Graphic: Google Maps)
To gain a better understanding of adult education for refugees, Krupar traveled to Dadaab three times — once to conduct preliminary research and twice to collect data — where she employed the use of visual ethnography, a methodological approach that uses video to capture an educational environment and allows the researcher to have continued conversations with research participants based on the recordings.

During her first round of data collection, she interviewed NGO field workers and women refugees participating in adult education programs. She also recorded the non-formal education classes, which included sexual and gender-based violence advocacy programs, livelihood or skills-based trainings, and community development courses.

“I would show the recording to the NGO workers and the women, and we would talk about what was supposed to be empowering in that process,” Krupar said.

The interviews gave Krupar insight into how the NGOs and women refugees defined empowerment, but they did not demonstrate how the women applied empowerment to their daily lives. There were translation issues, she said, and it was difficult for the refugees to understand her questions.

The following summer she returned with a new idea — use photography with the women refugees.

“I really just gave the women cameras to go and take pictures of their daily life during and immediately following the trainings,” Krupar said. “Then we’d talk about how their understanding of empowerment from these trainings and classes was actually evident in their daily life.”

“Using the cameras really helped me to better understand the daily lives of these women.”

In Dadaab, women spend most of their days maintaining their households, Krupar said, explaining that, in general, refugees are not legally permitted to work in Dadaab.

“A lot of people will sell their food or make crafts or other products like dying fabric to sell for clothing or making soap or tailoring to make money,” she said. “So even though they can’t legally work, there is a very strong emphasis on contributing to the household.”

Although she is still coding and analyzing data, preliminary findings are emerging, Krupar said, and she is confident the study will provide a clear comparison between how NGO workers and women refugees are defining empowerment. She also hopes her findings will help NGOs tailor their adult education programming more specifically for women in conflict areas.

Dadaab research 2
A group of refugees participate in an education program in Dadaab, Kenya.(Photo: Ally Krupar)
A unique topic

When she started tossing around the idea of researching women refugees, Krupar knew there would be challenges, specifically of the financial variety.

“Given my specific research interests — adult education programming outside of formal education in conflict-affected environments and with refugees — gaining access to these locations and populations required travel from State College,” she said, adding that she also needed specific tools to complete the visual aspect of her research.

To help finance her research, she sought out opportunities through the College of Education and secured $1,100 from a research initiation grant and CIED summer research grant. The money allowed her to purchase data-collection tools such as cameras, software and printing materials. She also received $2,000 from Penn State’s Africana Research Center and more than $6,000 from external grants which provided support for travel expenses and data collection.

“Visual ethnography was the basis of my research and without the funds to purchase the necessary tools, I would not have had the opportunity to adequately collect data,” she said. “Without University support, my dissertation would not be possible.”

As a pioneer in the study of non-formal adult education programs for refugees, Krupar is aware that her research can lead to future studies and awareness of populations living in conflict-affected areas, awareness that she believes is necessary.

“I hope that this research and future research will further expand understanding of adult education programming with refugees, forced migrants and other populations affected by violence and conflict, both for scholars and practitioners,” she said. “There are connections between educational access and return to conflict. So if these programs exist, there could be more regional, and even global, prosperity and stability. It can snowball.”

By Jessica Buterbaugh (November 2016)

Researchers partner with Great Cities to study career pathways programs

A group of Penn State researchers are leading the way in the study of adult education by partnering with agencies in three of the country’s largest, most diverse cities — Chicago, Houston and Miami — for a researcher-practitioner study that looks at career pathways programs and providers, and the individuals they aim to educate.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A group of Penn State researchers are leading the way in the study of adult education by partnering with agencies in three of the country’s largest, most diverse cities — Chicago, Houston and Miami. Funded by a nearly $400,000 grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, the researcher-practitioner partnership looks at career pathways (CP) programs and providers, and the individuals they aim to educate.

Career pathways - Houston
Adult learners in Houston participate in a career pathways coursed offered by the Houston Literacy Council. (Photo courtesy of Houston Literacy Council)

“We chose to focus on career pathways because that is a huge buzzword now in adult education, but no one really knows what it looks like on the ground” said Esther Prins, associate professor of adult education. “And with the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, there’s now a mandate for adult education and workforce systems to work more closely together on these programs.”

Created as a way to streamline education and training services for adults, CP programs are intended to help adult learners continually achieve higher levels of education and employment. But because adult education programs have multiple funding sources and are operated by many kinds of organizations, the system is fragmented and providers may not be consistent in program offerings and characteristics. Those inconsistencies make it difficult to develop a baseline comparison for programs, an issue Prins hopes the research will address.

To better understand CP, Prins and co-principal investigators Carol Clymer and Blaire Willson Toso, connected with adult education agencies in three of the five cities included in the U.S. Department of Education Great Cities Summit, a 2010 initiative that sought to address adult education challenges in large cities across the United States.

“This is an invisible and marginalized population that has much to contribute but has really faced a lot of barriers in order to access education and employment,” she said, adding that 93 million adults have basic literacy and math skills that are below the high school level. This makes it difficult for them to find and sustain employment.

“About 20 percent of the U.S. population that has unmet literacy needs reside in the Great Cities, which are Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York and L.A.,” she said.

Working with Becky Raymond and Alex Ziskind of the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition,  Sheri Foreman Elder and Martin Loa of the Houston Center for Literacy and Mark Needle of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the researchers surveyed 102 adult education providers to learn about the types of CP services offered. The survey yielded a 72-percent response rate and found the most common services offered included English language classes, employability and work readiness courses, GED programs, and classes to help students transition to postsecondary education.

“Adult learners are a forgotten, invisible, left-behind population. People care about K-12 and postsecondary education, but they often forget about adult education. We have this whole population of adults and out-of-school youth who need more education and support, and what is available is just inadequate.”

— Esther Prins, associate professor of adult education

“Many of the more prominent career pathways programs focus on students who already have a high school degree or some college, but are missing the vast majority of people who need these programs the most,” Prins said, explaining that many adults in need of education are lower-skilled adults who have very basic levels of education. For example, agencies reported that 63 percent of their students do not have a high school degree, 45 percent are unemployed and 71 percent are immigrants.

“These are people who have been left behind by the educational and economic systems,” she said. “They’re facing multiple forms of social exclusion, including poverty, unemployment or underemployment, difficulty speaking English, and literacy and math issues.”

“With the popularity of career pathways, some organizations may offer a GED or employment skills class and say that they offer career pathways,” she said. “We are more interested in structured programs that prepare people to pursue a specific educational or employment trajectory, like getting a credential for a particular career.”

The researchers identified six “core” CP services — short-term certificate programs, industry-recognized credentials, postsecondary or stackable credentials, internships, apprenticeships and transition to postsecondary education. With the exception of classes to transition to postsecondary education, the other services were offered by less than half of all agencies.

The researchers also held focus group interviews with five to seven agencies per city to gain a more in-depth understanding of what policies influence the implementation of CP programs, how programs are designed and what challenges the agencies face.

“A big issue we’ve come across is that there are very few mechanisms for finding out what’s happening to students over time, after they leave a program,” she said. “Agencies just don’t have the capacity to track that information.”

Different requirements among the various adult education funding groups also make it difficult to track student and program success. One agency in Chicago found that many of their graduates were leaving jobs with a specific employer and, therefore, the program did not meet the funder’s goal of retaining employment. However, when the agency looked into why people were leaving, it was discovered that they were offered opportunities for better paid employment. But because they were leaving, even for a good reason, the goal was technically not being fulfilled, Prins said.

“Across all the agencies we surveyed and spoke with, there was no single student outcome measure that was used by all of them,” Prins said. “That makes it difficult for programs to really compare themselves to each other and to make a case for their effectiveness.”

With one year left on the grant, the researchers continue to collect and analyze data, including case studies of six successful programs, and are looking toward the future and continuing their partnerships with the city agencies. It is Prins’ hope that as the first study to map the landscape of adult education career pathways in these cities, the results will set a baseline for more research into education and career pathways for adult learners.

“Adult learners are a forgotten, invisible, left-behind population,” she said. “People care about K-12 and postsecondary education, but they often forget about adult education. We have this whole population of adults and out-of-school youth who need more education and support, and what is available is just inadequate.”

For more information about career pathways research at Penn State, visit adultpathways.psu.edu online.

By Jessica Buterbaugh (July 2016)

Study Shows that Many Pa. College Students Are Nontraditional

A study by Esther Prins, co-director of the Goodling Institute and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, and her colleagues Cathy Kassab and Kimeka Campbell, challenges educators, researchers, and policy makers to recalibrate their understanding of who college students are.
Study Shows that Many Pa. College Students Are Nontraditional

Esther Prins

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.— A study by Esther Prins, co-director of the Goodling Institute and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, and her colleagues Cathy Kassab and Kimeka Campbell, challenges educators, researchers, and policy makers to recalibrate their understanding of who college students are.

A recent study of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicants from Pennsylvania found the average applicant was 24-years-old, 35 percent were adult learners, 40 percent were financially independent, and 16 percent were not single.

“Despite mounting evidence that non-traditional students are becoming the norm, financial aid policies and practices, higher education research, and public discourse about college access and completion still assume a young, financially dependent, full-time student,” Prins said.

State financial aid policies do not reflect the financial needs and educational trajectories of non-traditional students, specifically adult learners and GED graduates.

“Adult learners and GED recipients are an untapped audience for creating an educated citizenry, yet many of them are ineligible for financial aid because they tend to study part-time and pursue degrees that last less than 2 years, such as professional development courses, certificates, and job training,” Prins said.

Additionally, the study found that 40 percent of FAFSA applicants were in or near poverty, and about one in eight reported that they, a parent, or spouse were a dislocated worker—that is, someone who has been laid off, is receiving unemployment benefits, and/or is a displaced homemaker, someone who previously provided unpaid services to the family who is no longer supported by the husband or wife.

“These findings suggest a high degree of economic vulnerability,” Prins said.

Family income has declined, but state funding for higher education has not kept pace with rising tuition, according to study findings. As a result, research suggests more students and families are taking out loans, there is greater student and family debt, and more students are working to pay for college.

The study also highlights the differences in the characteristics of distinct student subgroups. Beginning students, associate and certificate/diploma students, adult learners, and GED holders experienced more economic and educational disadvantage than their peers and were less likely to study full-time and to attend 4-year institutions.

The study suggests that rural students, comprising 20 percent of FAFSA applicants, were under-represented compared to the Pennsylvania rural adult population with a high school credential. Prins said that this is consistent with research showing lower education attainment and college enrollment rates in rural Pennsylvania and nationally. In addition, rural students are significantly more likely to apply to public 4-year institutions than their urban peers, primarily because Pennsylvania community colleges are concentrated in urban areas, according to a policy expert.

The research used data from FASFA applicants (n=610,925) from June 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011 (2010-11 fiscal year), which was provided by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).

To complement the data results, the researchers conducted interviews with financial aid administrators at six institutions in rural counties and with two higher education finance policy experts to provide program- and policy-relevant information regarding the socio-demographic characteristics and financial needs and status of Pennsylvania students, their families, and communities.

The study, “Financial Needs and Characteristics of Students Pursuing Postsecondary Education in Pennsylvania: A Rural-Urban Analysis,” was funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. The full study and executive summary are available on the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s website.

-- (July 2014)

Workforce Education Graduate Student Association offers three speakers in April

The WEGSA (Workforce Education Graduate Student Association) will be hosting three speaker events in April. Attendance is free and the events will be livestreamed via Zoom and recorded.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The WEGSA (Workforce Education Graduate Student Association) will be hosting three speaker events in April. Attendance is free and the events will be livestreamed via Zoom and recorded.

April 4: Executive Presence: Conduct Becoming the Corner Office

6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.* — Keller Building Auditorium, Room 104

Livestream URL: https://psu.zoom.us/j/2998109470

Phone: +1 408 638 0968, Meeting ID: 299 810 9470

"Executive Presence: Conduct Becoming the Corner Office" speaks to behaviors, some subtle, some apparent, that place a candidate in the best possible stance for being considered for executive roles. A humorous look at behaviors antithetical to being considered and most likely to result in being overlooked will drive home the point.

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/executive-presence-conduct-becoming-the-corner-office-tickets-32876889662  

*Informal reception at Whiskers after the event

April 5: Managing Leadership: A Symbiosis

6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.* — Keller Building Auditorium, Room 104

Livestream URL: https://psu.zoom.us/j/2998109470

Phone: +1 408 638 0968, Meeting ID: 299 810 9470

"Managing Leadership: A Symbiosis" speaks to the interdependency of management and leadership. Where much effort is expended on clarifying the difference between them, this presentation throws caution to the wind and addresses the need for both whenever responsibility and oversight are demanded of a role.

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/managing-leadership-a-symbiosis-tickets-32877194574

*Informal reception at Whiskers after the event

April 14: Theory, evidence and measurement—are we making progress?

6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.* — Keller Building Auditorium, Room 104

Livestream URL: https://psu.zoom.us/j/929174184 

Phone: +1 408 638 0968, Meeting ID: 929 174 184

David Stevens will discuss his insights gained over the 52 years since his arrival at Penn State University in 1965 as an assistant professor of economics. These insights are tailored to be relative to advancing graduate student's professional endeavors. Stevens will explore professional communication, and whether it is a gateway or a hindrance to decision making relevance. He will also discuss workforce development theory, its practical implementations, and performance measurement and evaluation.

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/theory-evidence-and-measurementare-we-making-progress-tickets-32875832500

*Informal reception at Whiskers after the event

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