4c. Experiences Working with Diverse Candidates
4c.1. Describe proposed opportunities candidates (including candidates at off-campus sites and/or in distance learning preparation programs) will have to interact with candidates from diverse groups.
The teacher candidate interacts and works with candidates from diverse ethnic, racial, and gender groups in professional education courses on campus and in PK-12 schools. Thomas University’s (T.U.) student demographics reflect the ethnic diversity of the elementary and secondary students of the surrounding region. Approximately 35% of education majors are African-American and 1% Hispanic, mirroring the percentage of the university’s student body as a whole. T.U. also has a large population of nontraditional age students, as well as students who represent the first members of their families to attend college. These teacher candidates provide a dimension to class interactions and discussions that enriches both the traditional student and the nontraditional student.
Teacher candidates from diverse ethnic, racial, gender, and socioeconomic groups work together on committees and education projects related to education and the content areas. Professional preparation classes are interactive, utilizing a variety of small peer group activities, many of which include assignments related to field experiences. The nature of these experiences facilitates the interaction of candidates from diverse groups. Thomas University has small classes that frequently provide for cooperative learning opportunities and open classroom discussions. These small group open discussions provide meaningful opportunities for rich, philosophical discussions that lead to increased awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the way in which diverse groups live and learn.
The university recruits students from around the world. These international students are frequently invited to speak in classes to encourage the teacher candidate to compare and contrast beliefs, customs, and governmental policies as they relate to education. Many of the schools used by Thomas University for teacher candidate placement are also used by Valdosta State University and South West Georgia Technical College. Efforts are under way to provide for interaction among teacher candidates from these institutions to enable them to collaborate and provide support for one another.
4c.2. Describe institution/agency and unit efforts to recruit and retain diverse candidates.
The Division of Education is committed to the recruitment and retention of a diverse student population as is called for in our Thomas University Diversity Statement. Recruitment efforts at the university level further the goal of recruiting and retaining diverse candidates. Frequent visits are made to area schools to offer information about Thomas University (T.U.) and the programs available. Students from area schools are invited to “Campus Day” to tour our campus, and meet with student leaders and faculty. Many of these students represent minority populations. The Office of Financial Aid helps students apply for a variety of scholarships and financial aid options. Our athletic teams offer opportunities to recruit culturally diverse students from around the world.
In recent years, T.U. has made significant strides in addressing diversity. Attention is being directed to the climate of the campus, the composition of the constituency, and the nature of the global society in which graduates will live.
One of the unique characteristics of T.U. is the nontraditional student population. In addition to nontraditional aged students (we have teacher candidates between the ages of 20-55 years) many of our teacher candidates represent the first member in their family to attend college. Many of our nontraditional students are employed full time and must balance work, family, and school. In order to recruit and retain these nontraditional students we offer both day and evening classes.
Academic support is available through the following student services: Academic Resource Center (ARC) which provides group and individual tutoring on-campus and online via email and web-conferencing; primarily for math, writing, and research support for all T.U. students; and Student Support Services (SSS) which provides academic tutoring services and mentoring through the federally-funded TRiO grant for first-generation, low-income, and/or disabled students. Accommodations for students with disabilities are provided by the Office of Disabilities Service and information about receiving disabilities services is included on all university syllabi; this includes accommodations for access as well as for learning support. Thomas University provides free counseling services for students by referral in coordination with the Archbold Medical Center Student Assistance Program. Thomas University has one of the highest retention rates in the country and has been nationally recognized as evidenced in this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/10/colleges-with-the-highest_2_n_820990.html#s236902&title=Thomas_University_100