On Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus, students interested in going into education can earn their Bachelor’s degree and a professional credential of a teaching license in just four years as an option in the Education and Learning major.
According to Mike Charles, professor and undergraduate program coordinator for the College of Education, the Education and Learning major is one of the largest areas of study in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“There are many students in education courses who are not education majors,” Charles said. “And we love that.”
Though the retention rate for education majors is strong on the Forest Grove campus and the number of students enrolled in Education and Learning courses are higher this fall than last fall, the College of Education did experience a drop in numbers this year for those enrolled in Pacific’s Master’s level graduate teaching program.
“The number of people who enrolled in the graduate program for license on campus this year was not quite as high as projected by our leadership, it’s actually the same as last year,” Charles said. “Our numbers are down because we projected they would go up, but they didn’t go up that much.”
Though a slight drop in numbers has not had any major or lasting impact on the College of Education as of yet, Charles said continued falling numbers could potentially hurt the program’s strength and integrity. Diminishing numbers have already contributed to the replacement of once full-time faculty positions in the College of Education with adjunct faculty.
According to Charles, fluctuation in numbers is common in the education field, especially when media headlines forebode a bad job market for education majors out of college, but the program has continued to be successful.
“In our undergraduate program last year, students didn’t just get hired,” Charles said. “They got hired exactly where they wanted to go, their first choice of location.”
Charles attributes the success of the education program to its partnership with local schools and to the hard working faculty members who, like their own students, study and learn each year so as to stay up to date and informed of on the latest teaching methods.
“We have to stay current in the schools so we can prepare teachers well for the future,” Charles said. “We stay current through supervising student teachers and, under that discovery heading, we also participate in vital research in the field.”
Pacific students pursuing a career in education are given the added benefit and opportunity for the gaining of real world experience and knowledge through the Child Learning and Development Center on the Forest Grove campus. According to Charles, no other University in the region has something quite like the CLDC.
The College of Education, spread out over three campuses including the Forest Grove, Eugene and Woodburn campuses, is working to cast a wider net to attract a wider range of people Charles said.
“We want to attract a wider range of folks to the profession and were doing that in a variety of ways,” Charles said. “Certainly a big way is attracting more folks from community colleges. We’ve already been doing this, but were learning how to do it better.”
In June of 2018 the College of Education will say farewell to Christine Macfarlane. The special education program, which McFarlane helped create and implement, will be carried on net year by Bryan Cichy-Parker.
“One of the things I tell my students is that they are on a journey to become a special educator and for 18 months I get to drop into their journey and be a part of it, that is a privilege,” Macfarlane said. “I like my students, undergraduates and graduates. I like what I do. It has been a really good career.”