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UIndy offers new fellowship

Posted on 12.11.2013

The University of Indianapolis recently approved the curriculum for the Woodrow Wilson M.B.A. Fellowship in Educational Leadership. According to program co-designers Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Teacher Education John Somers and Associate Professor and Coordinator of Undergraduate Finance Curriculum Rachel Smith, the UIndy program is the only one of its kind in the nation.

This program is the second Woodrow Wilson fellowship at UIndy. The Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship has been active at UIndy for four years and, as planned, the funding for the program is set to shift to the State of Indiana in 2014.
The Woodrow Wilson foundation has provided funding for three years of students to go through the program. Each cohort will have 15 fellows who will be nominated by their home district or school for excellence in leadership and a desire to help their school move forward.
Smith said that what sets this program apart from another program at Rice University is that UIndy’s program brings together business and education in a way that makes it unique.
“This is truly interdisciplinary,” Smith said. “What’s distinctive about it is other programs that we know of have two separate programs: you can get an MBA, you can get an education leadership master’s. But ours is truly integrated: you learn about business principles in the context of education.”
Another aspect of the program that is unique is the international component. Somers said that the funder for the grant wants to see U.S. schools on par with their overseas counterparts. Because of this, the MBA fellowship has an international travel component. Smith said that each cohort will get to travel abroad to a country that has successfully integrated the business and education communities.
She said the first cohort will travel to Switzerland.
Somers and Smith have been designing the program since October 2012, when the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Program approached UIndy to create a program that integrates business and education and emphasizes bringing schools up to international standards.
According to Somers, the MBA fellowship looks at school leadership through a different lens.  He said that he and Smith deconstructed the MBA curriculum and the iLEAD principal preparation program curriculum to make an entirely new program that marries the two areas. Also, faculty from the schools of business and education will teach collaboratively.
Somers and Smith met with administrators from many central Indiana schools to get feedback on program details and to ask whether this program would interest them for their qualified faculty. According to Smith, getting the administrators involved is a vital component.
“We want to make sure the fellow that comes in does something in his or her school that will help that school make change,” Smith said. “When the fellows are doing their field projects, they are consulting with their cooperating principals to see how they can move the school forward.”
Smith said that this program is in line with President Robert Manuel’s vision for the university, especially in regard to the partnerships. She said that these links to the community with schools and the business world will help UIndy be an even larger anchor in the city.
“The strategic plan of President Manuel is to really connect with the community, and this makes connections to other industries and this is a way that we are able to serve and expand education even further,” Smith said.
Somers said that the program will have many benefits for UIndy, such as attracting more students to the education and business programs and showing the community and the world that UIndy is a hub for innovation.
“We think it will bring prestige to the university,” Somers said. “… We think it blends really well with the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, and it is a best practice in terms of teaching and leadership.”
UIndy’s teaching fellowship is also a unique program. UIndy was the first private school in the state to become a part of the program and is among only five schools that have a fellowship in Indiana.
According to Director of  the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship Program and Assistant Professor of Education Deborah Sachs, starting on day one, fellows get the unique experience of being in the classroom for an entire school year, whereas comparable programs typically have one semester of student teaching. The fellows are placed at middle and high schools in Wayne, Decatur and Perry townships.
Associate Director of the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship Program and Assistant Professor Jean Lee said that because of this year-long experience in the classroom, UIndy fellows stand out from other newly trained teachers.
According to the fellowship webpage, the fellows have a 100 percent placement rate upon graduation from the program. And as part of the agreement, the fellows teach at a high-need school district in Indiana for three years following graduation.
Both the teaching fellowship and the MBA fellowship have mentoring mechanisms and Super Saturdays for professional development  when they learn from each other and professionals in their fields.
According to Lee, the component that likely makes UIndy’s teaching fellowship most attractive for administrators and prospective fellows is its Project-Based Learning model that all of the fellows are taught to implement in their classrooms.
Lee said that administrators have taken notice of the experience that UIndy fellows have and consider them to be more seasoned than other new teachers.
Sachs said that she has noticed a similar phenomenon and the wide range of experience that fellows get with PBL.
“Project Based Learning is something that we do well that no other university is doing,” Sachs said. “School administrators are calling us because they want our fellows, because they know how to teach PBL. So they actually design, implement the project and become comfortable with the model.”
In addition, Lee said that the PBL project must have a service component and integrate a partner from the community to help fellows realize that teaching takes a village.
“Part of what the PBL requires is that they  need to involve a community partner, so that what the student is learning is not just taught by the teacher but is integrated with the needs or the challenge that the community partner has,” Lee said. “I think that this steps up a notch, in terms of getting the fellows to see that teaching isn’t an isolated thing in the walls of your classroom.”


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