Public service with purpose
The Institute of Higher Education fulfills a critical piece of the university’s PSO mission through its diverse programs.
The Institute of Higher Education at UGA is working to put college on the minds of more Georgia high school students and to train some of the state’s brightest college faculty. The institute’s doctoral programs have also served as a key training ground for several public service and outreach leaders at UGA.
Easing the way to college
The Georgia College Advising Corps, launched in 2008, places recent UGA graduates within high schools in underserved, disadvantaged populations to help increase application and attendance to postsecondary education. Advisers assist high school students prepare for college. They help students with the college search, application and financial aid process.
Libby Morris, director of IHE and the Zell Miller Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, said that increasing the proportion of Georgians who attend and complete college is vital to the prosperity of this state. “Who goes to college, how they pay, who benefits—these are important questions in higher education, both to individuals and society overall.”
The program—which started with four advisers in four schools—was able to expand in 2013 after receiving a $1 million grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. The grant allowed the program to hire more advisers in the Atlanta area and a full-time program director, Yarbrah Peeples, who received her doctorate from IHE in 2012.
“We focus on connecting students with colleges that match their academic profiles and fit their financial, social and cultural needs,” Peeples said. She notes that one of the biggest challenges for GCAC advisers is creating a “college-going culture” where none has previously existed.
“In new schools we typically work with seniors and juniors because they’re at that critical stage,” she explained. “Right now we’re often in ‘triage’ as we try to expose students, parents and the schools to requirements as early as possible. In the long run, we hope to establish that culture and hopefully develop a seamless pipeline from high school to college.”
Growing better faculty
The Institute of Higher Education also sponsors the Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program, which provides Georgia’s higher education faculty with expanded opportunities for developing teaching skills.
Fellows may participate in academic year symposia, an intensive summer symposium or an academic-year residency at UGA. Past symposia have addressed numerous topics in using technology in the classroom and other pedagogical innovations.
Launched in 1995, Governor’s Teaching Fellows come from public and private post-secondary institutions across the state. The program accepts up to 25 Fellows each academic year. Since it’s founding, more than 250 individuals have participated in GTF, representing 45 colleges and universities, which provide professional leave time for faculty to participate. Previous seminar topics include student engagement, service-learning ideas, instructional grant writing, leadership issues in higher education, delivery of quality online instruction, and the meaning of scholarship.
“GTF provides faculty a safe place to openly discuss problems, issues, opportunities,” said Marguerite Koepke, adjunct associate professor of higher education and director of GTF. She said that while some faculty members come to the program to learn about advanced technology, they often leave with much more—a sense of purpose and renewal.
“The Governor’s Teaching Fellows program was a great opportunity to focus on teaching and to create new, significant learning opportunities for my current and future students,” said Patrick S. Brennan, associate professor of English at Middle Georgia State College in Macon. “It’s an especially welcome resource for mid-career faculty members who may benefit from the opportunity to stop and take stock of what they’ve already accomplished in the classroom and what they hope to accomplish next.”
Each of these outreach programs flows directly into the economic development and health of the state by creating better informed and prepared students and professors, which makes for an overall healthier higher education climate. And doing so continues an IHE tradition that began with its founding 50 years ago.
“We don’t do ‘outreach for outreach’s sake,” Morris said. “Rather, we conduct outreach programs in areas where we have something to offer and where community-based partners are interested in building a meaningful collaboration. We carefully consider where we may make the greatest impact and serve the largest need before launching an outreach activity.”
Training public service and outreach leaders
Doctoral programs within the Institute of Higher Education serve as an incubator of sorts for individuals who end up leading public service and outreach.
The institute teaches students to understand higher education beyond administration or management and envision ways to bring together research, expertise and practice to current issues. That comprehensive approach to graduate education is a key aspect of the program, according to Morris.
“We attempt to engage students with the research base in the field of higher education and the problem base that exists around important higher education questions within institutions, agencies and for individuals. This approach is a nice melding of the application of expertise and research to real-life problems,” she said.
The program’s focus on the impact of higher education beyond the academy was a big draw for IHE graduate Jennifer Frum, who is vice president of public service and outreach at UGA.
“From higher education policy to the broad impact of basic research on critical issues, IHE helped me appreciate that higher education’s benefits aren’t just long term and fuzzy, but rather multiply quickly in tangible ways that improve people’s lives,” she said.
Students in the Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management can speak to the real-life problems that arise in their positions within higher education—especially since most students also work full time. Laura Meadows assumed the role as director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government just as she started a doctorate program in 2012. A veteran of working in and around state government, she said the program opened her eyes to all aspects of higher education.
“The Ed.D. program exposed me to the broad spectrum of issues and, therefore, I think I have become a better administrator and leader as a result,” she said. “Additionally, the policy aspects of the program truly helped add depth for me in issues I deal with every day in my work at the Vinson Institute. An extra benefit is the great relationships we’ve established and the partnerships we’ve built for collaboration on a number of projects with IHE faculty and students.”
For example, Meadows enlisted the help of Erik Ness, associate professor at IHE, on a project merging University System of Georgia institutions to form the new Middle Georgia State College. With the assistance of IHE graduate students, they worked with businesses and other stakeholders in the region to help determine which graduate degrees should be initially offered.
“Our expertise in working with governments and in outreach and IHE’s subject matter expertise is a powerful combination,” Meadows said.
— Margaret Blanchard