Tag: Teresa Wasonga

Ed.D. in Ed Administration receives new name, focus

il-school-codeFollowing the Illinois General Assembly’s update of the Illinois School Code standards for new school superintendents, the NIU Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations accordingly redesigned its programs.

That work has resulted in untangling the Ed.S. – an educational specialist degree that leads to the superintendent endorsement – and the Ed.D., a non-licensure degree.

During this process, the degree was redesigned and renamed as the Ed.D. in Leadership and Policy Studies, a name that underscores the dual strands available in educational leadership or policy studies.

“We felt it good to change the name to be more reflective of the content and the expertise of the faculty who will now teach in the program,” said Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee), chair of the department. “Faculty in the Educational Foundations and Policy Studies program will now be more involved in teaching and mentoring students, a change which will only augment the diversity of learning experiences available to students.”

Students pursuing only the superintendent endorsement complete the 30-hour Ed.S. and can then finish with both a degree and endorsement. Students who wish to continue on to complete the doctorate can apply to the new Ed.D. program with the 30 earned credits from NIU’s Ed.S. program rolled into the Ed.D. program upon acceptance.

Meanwhile, new prospective students can apply for the stand-alone Ed.D. and, if they desire, focus on educational policy rather than school leadership. This provides prospective students a path to an Ed.D. without first needing to obtain a superintendent endorsement and Ed.S.

“Altering the focus to offer a strong policy dimension is consistent with contemporary learning needs of school leaders and administrators,” Pluim said. “Our program is committed to offering students a broad-based education beyond logistics into thinking creatively and critically about leadership in our current policy environment.”

appleFaculty involved in the revisions – Benjamin Creed, Christine Kiracofe, Dan Oest, Pluim, Patrick Roberts, Amy Stich, Kelly Summers and Teresa Wasonga – expect that their work will positively impact school districts and their students.

“Our new program is premised on the belief that purposeful change in education policy and practice is accomplished through meaningful engagement that is transformational in nature; promotes equity; and improves policy and practice on a local, state, national or international level,” said Roberts, an associate professor of Foundations and Educational Policy Studies.

“With this in mind,” he added, “we designed the program as a way to develop action-oriented scholarly practitioners who blend practical wisdom and professional skills with research and theory to impact problems of practice in formal and non-formal educational settings.”

Additional benefits of a separate Ed.S. and Ed.D. include:

  • focusing the Ed.S. on providing the necessary training, information, resources and experiences needed for students to successfully fulfill the role of superintendent.
  • focusing the Ed.D. on providing the necessary training, information, resources and experiences needed to be a scholarly practitioner through the newly developed core classes offered to all Ed.D. students.
  • program evaluation, reporting and accreditation. The separation makes it easier to identify students who are pursuing only the superintendent’s endorsement, data required by the State of Illinois.

For more information, contact LEPF Graduate Program Advisor David Snow at (815) 753-1465 or dsnow1@niu.edu.



NIU professors explore peace, policy at Macedonia conference

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Graduate School Dean Brad Bond (left)
and State University of Tetovo President Vullnet Ameti.

Still energized by the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication’s first-ever international conference, held in Macedonia, organizers already are gearing up for this fall’s second installment in DeKalb.

NIU and the State University of Tetovo are partners in the center, which was launched to foster “better social platforms for younger generations” and “a better society” in a country torn by nationalistic sentiments that stir hatred and war.

December’s gathering explored of “The Impact of U.S. Policy in Promoting Democracy, Peace, State-Building, Economic Recovery and the Protection of National, Religious and Civic Values in the Countries of the Region.”

Around 225 people, including presenters, professors, students and interested stakeholders of the region, attended.

Patrick Roberts, an associate professor in the NIU College of Education’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, says the conference facilitated “a sharing of ideas” and “stimulated an understanding, and a conversation, about what are some pretty difficult issues.”

It also provided a mirror of sorts for the NIU contingent.

Patrick Roberts

Patrick Roberts

“Being there really opened up for us a better understanding of the complexities of that region,” said Roberts, who served on the conference organizing committee. “Macedonia recently had an election, and they are still sorting through the issues, anxieties and concerns. They were just as anxious and unclear about the outcomes.”

Uncertainty is familiar ground for the University of Tetovo, which provides access to higher education to ethnic Albanians.

Tetovo is the only school in Macedonia where the language of instruction is Albanian rather than Macedonian, Roberts says. Its students, who are Muslim, also must deal with religious, ethnic and language tensions in their homeland.

“For a number of years, the university was not recognized by Macedonia. It was operating illegally. Over time, it grew – and became officially recognized,” he says. “That really speaks to the power of education. A lot of people in the world have had to struggle for access to higher education.”

Roberts delivered a keynote address on “Cultural Heritage Preservation as a Strategy of U.S.-Foreign Relations in the Balkan Region.”

Colleagues on the trip included Teresa Wasonga, presented on “Philanthropy in the U.S. and Education of Indigent in a Developing Country.”

conf-programAndrew Otieno, a professor in the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, spoke on “The Role of NGOs in Sustainable Development: A Case Study of Engineers Without Borders Increasing Energy Capacity in a Rural School in Tanzania.”

Laura Heideman, an assistant professor in the NIU Department of Sociology, addressed “Tocqueville in Croatia: USAID and the Promotion of Associational Civil Society.”

Graduate School Dean Brad Bond delivered the conference’s opening remarks.

“It was important for us to meet as collaborators from the two universities to develop a common understanding of the purposes of the center, mutual responsibilities and mutual benefits,” says Wasonga, an associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“Tetovo as a university has a very unique and difficult history, and its success – that we were only able to comprehend through experience visiting the various historical sites – is inspiring,” she adds. “This put into perspective the significance of this conference and the need for collaboration.”

Roberts left with a call to action.

“For me, the takeaway was that there’s a lot going on here, and that access to higher education is a pivotal point of addressing tensions – political, economic, linguistic, geographical,” he says. “It underlined the need for transcultural communication. In the United States, sometimes we can overlook the complexities of countries overseas.”

He is grateful for the collaboration – and the hospitality that made the NIU delegation comfortable.

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“Dr. Vullnet Ameti, the rector, was a gracious host. He truly believes in and values his university’s partnership with NIU. He delivered some welcoming remarks, and he presented both me and Brad Bond with a lovely token of appreciation,” Roberts says. “Artina Kamberi, who is the director of the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication, did an extraordinary job of organizing the conference.”

Organizers of the October conference at NIU will choose a theme later this spring, he says. They also are exploring the possibility of exhibiting University of Tetovo artifacts at the Blackwell History of Education Museum in Gabel Hall.



Mizzou honors Teresa Wasonga

Teresa Wasonga

Teresa Wasonga

Teresa Wasonga is grateful for ignorance.

Without it, she says, she probably wouldn’t have felt compelled to learn so much during her doctoral program at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

She probably would have doubted that climbing aboard the single-engine plane sent to fly her to an interview for her first faculty job in the United States was worth the trip.

Most importantly, she probably wouldn’t have embarked on building and opening the Jane Adeny Memorial School (JAMS) for girls in Muhoroni, Kenya. A school is nothing but walls, right? What else could it possibly need?

“I was really naïve when I went to Missouri,” says Wasonga, a professor in the NIU College of Education’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations. “I didn’t know anything about the American education system. Zero. I had to start from scratch.”

But her studies at Mizzou did more than stuff her head with information. They bolstered her confidence, stoked her imagination and stirred her ambition.

“In the midst of all these professionals, who were so knowledgeable, I felt like I didn’t know anything,” she says. “But I longed to be like them. I longed to do what they had already done.”

And with all of their accomplishments in the United States, she wondered: What was left? And, then, another question: Why not in Kenya?

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Graduation Day at the Jane Adeny Memorial School.

JAMS is the result of those questions – and a major reason behind Wasonga’s selection for the 2017 MU College of Education Outstanding Professional Achievement Award. She will receive her honor March 10 at the MU College of Education 49th Annual Recognition Awards Banquet.

Candidates for the award must have completed at least eight years of professional service since the most recent MU degree was earned, along with demonstrating tangible accomplishments with positive impact and results as well as the potential and promise for continued growth and success in their field.

Humble as ever, though, Wasonga says her alumni award truly belongs to everyone who helped her along the way and who continue to support the school. That includes her husband, Andrew Otieno, a professor in the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

“The work I do, and the fulfillment I get out of it, is enough for me,” she says. “I’m just happy to prove that, even if you are poor, and a girl, you can emerge and do something. I proved it to myself, and I proved to everyone I met and told, ‘We can do better.’ And they said, ‘What do you mean?’ ”

JON TURNER, WHO NOMINATED WASONGA for the award, met her when they both began the doctoral program at Mizzou.

Wasonga

Wasonga

“Teresa has a way about her that makes you want to help,” says Turner, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Missouri State University. “She is so organized and dedicated that you know you’re not wasting your time when you work with her. She’ll put the resources and help she’s offered to good use.”

He remembers well when his classmate began talking about her visions for Kenya.

“If most people told me they were going to take on a project that large, I would have been skeptical. But with Teresa, I thought she might just be able to pull this off – and, of course, she has,” Turner says.

“It is truly a credit to Teresa that she never forgot about the challenges girls face in Kenya, and it is a blessing for the girls that Teresa’s memory is paired with exceptional leadership skills.”

Ehren Jarrett, superintendent of the Rockford Public Schools and alum of the NIU College of Education, calls Wasonga a “truly extraordinary” educator committed “to the highest standards of professionalism and quality. She embodies innovation, engagement, diversity, collaboration and equity.”

In chairing Jarrett’s dissertation committee, Wasonga prepared him to “co-create leadership,” a skill the superintendent relies on daily to “empower, engage and energize” his team of 4,500 employees.

Jarrett is equally inspired by Wasonga’s labors on the other side of the world.

“The power of Dr. Wasonga’s work goes beyond the impact on Kenyan children,” Jarrett says. “The thousands of supporters of JAMS have been connected to a much-larger world moving far beyond the confines of our comfortable lives.”

WASONGA’S FIRST STEPS TOWARD building the Jane Adeny Memorial School came while she, Otieno and some fellow Kenyans in the Chicago area began sending money to their homeland to pay student fees for children there.

But when she learned that most Kenyan boys were performing well in school while many girls were not, it sharply troubled her – and she told the school leaders so: “I said, ‘These are brilliant girls who could do well if only we showed an interest in them.’ ”

jams-logoPointing out that the girls’ human needs were basic, however, accomplished nothing. “They’d say to me, ‘What’s your problem?’ ”

So Wasonga began to tuck $1,000 from every paycheck aside, denying herself anything beyond her own basic needs. Similarly, if she skipped a meal during the day, those unspent dollars funneled into the kitty.

One year later, she had $20,000 – as well as 10 acres of Kenyan land her mother had found.

“I took off the summer of 2009,” she says. “By the time I came back, I had four classrooms built. I never looked back.”

After easily convincing Otieno of the need to obtain a home equity loan, she and her husband returned in 2010 to work more on the new school. During her 2011 sabbatical, Wasonga opened the doors – seven years ahead of the 10-year deadline she gave herself.

Looking back, she shakes her head and dubs it all “unbelievable” – and says she believes that “ignorance was probably the best skill I had.”

She remembers asking Kenyan parents to have faith in her, that sending their daughters away to JAMS was “better than this situation – they were not in school at all – and that we couldn’t do any more harm than society was already doing to them.”

When the first semester of classes began, Wasonga gathered those young pioneers for a pep talk.

“I told them, ‘Let’s just give it our best shot. This is your chance. This is an opportunity. We will buy books. We will study. We will work hard, and we will succeed,’ ” she says. “I looked at these girls, and they were so empowered. I thought, ‘They will do whatever it takes. Now I can’t disappoint them.’ ”

Teresa Wasonga and Andrew Otieno

Teresa Wasonga and Andrew Otieno

Plenty of bright and talented young girls now have graduated from JAMS and moved on to college; one of them – Revela Odhuna – is a nursing student at NIU.

And, as Wasonga prepares to return to Missouri to receive her award, she is grateful for the preparation she received there – and for a long-ago vote of confidence from Professor Phillip Messner.

“I felt like I had so much to give, but I wasn’t giving. He said, ‘You’ll do great things someday.’ To hear this from someone I had looked at and thought, ‘Wow, he can do anything;’ to think he’d seen something in me. I thought maybe I didn’t know myself well. Maybe I could do something.”

It’s something she now instills in NIU College of Education students because, she says, JAMS is the proof that a curriculum of best practices is a sound one.

“The Jane Adeny Memorial School has been my laboratory of practice. Everything I learned at Missouri, I tried there. I tried everything I could remember,” she says. “Empowering children. Giving children a voice. Providing an environment conducive for learning. Distributed leadership. I had absorbed all these things – and they actually work.”