News @ the Beach

Helping Link Today to Tomorrow

In general, school is where individuals prepare for real-world careers. Today, that preparation is more important than ever and CSULB is leading the charge to do so.

“For most of the 20th century, federal funds for vocational education were focused on a two-track system,” said Jared Stallones, a professor in CSULB’s College of Education who coordinates the university’s single-subject program. “You had your general secondary education and then had vocationalized classes like auto shop and cosmetology. They were funded separately, the teachers were paid separately.”

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Jared Stallones

Some of the laws, however, prevented students who were in the vocational track from taking more than 25 percent of their high school courses in the academic track, so the system was very limiting.

“As a result, you had this very undemocratic tracking system and that was kind of a problem,” said Stallones.

So, beginning in the 1970s, the federal government began calling on schools to make the academic and vocational tracks relevant to one another. For roughly 30 years, vocational education and general education were moving in the same direction. The problem was, they weren’t really integrating.

“In the early part of the 21st century, California started putting money into a program called the California Partnership Academies and these high schools really did begin to integrate the academics with the vocational track,” said Stallones.

That produced positive results. Students in those partnership academies attended school more regularly, earned more credits while they were in high school and tended to graduate with a greater frequency than others. That translated into students going into higher education at greater rates and, seven years after high school graduation, they were earning more money—all good things.

At that point, the James Irvine Foundation and other private entities, wanted to see if the vocational and academic tracks could be integrated further. They provided support for nine school districts, including Long Beach Unified, to work on a curriculum project and out of that grew what is now called “Linked Learning.”

And though the nine school districts are in California, the program has been tested in Detroit and Houston, as well as other parts of the nation. Still, with 14 percent of the nation’s students and 20 percent of the country’s low-income students in California, the nation’s eyes watch the success—or failure—of such programs.

Collectively, the nine pilot districts serve more than 315,000 of the roughly 2 million high school students in California public schools. More than three-quarters of these students are non-white and over half are disadvantaged.

“Linked Learning is a good term because it connects the traditional high school and a student’s career interests with the local community and the community connection is something the partnership academies had not really done a lot of, so this is kind of a new thing,” said Stallones.

Students in certified Linked Learning pathways take regular general education courses, but teachers in those pathways work together in teams—cross-disciplinary teams—to develop career-based projects as a basis for instruction and assessment for these students.

“One of the things that makes the Linked Learning academy a little bit different is that students are required to take at least three serious technical preparation courses and in some cases they graduate from high school with a professional certificate,” added Stallones. “There’s a work-based learning component which ties the community into the school. Sometimes the students go out and do an internship, sometimes professionals are brought in.”

There are roughly 35 certified Linked Learning pathway schools in the state aligned with California’s 15 major industry areas and, through the legislature’s leadership, California has committed $500 million to expand the program.

“The reason it’s called a pathway is because the career themes that these are built around are the 15 career themes that the California Department of Labor has identified,” said Stallones. “Things like agriculture, transportation, medical and engineering technology.”

The other thing that gets linked in Linked Learning is a connection to 21st century readiness skills for college or career, things like being able to be organized, to learn on your own, to work well with others and to articulate your ideas and your thoughts.

“Those are skills that you’ll need no matter what you do with your life,” said Stallones.

So why is CSULB so involved?

“Cal State Long Beach was chosen by the CSU Chancellor’s Office to spearhead a collaboration of six other CSUs to develop educators for Linked Learning settings,” said Stallones. “What we are finding is that in order for teachers to work well in these settings they must to work together on common curriculum areas and issues.”

For example, a history teacher still teaches the history standards, but with an eye towards what those same students are doing in their biology or algebra or English classes. The teacher can then reference those things and make learning a whole piece rather than just disciplinary silos. Of course, teachers need some special preparation in order to be successful and that’s where CSULB comes in.

In 2011, Cal State Long Beach embarked on redesigning its single-subject credential program to prepare candidates to teach in Long Beach, or anywhere else they would want to go, in those settings. That was so successful that the chancellor’s office tasked CSULB with organizing the six other CSU campuses to work on teacher preparation, administrator preparation and counselor preparation. Many of the CSU campuses had been working in relative isolation up to that point.

Stallones pointed out that while teachers, obviously are in the classroom, the role of administrators and counselors is equally important. In order for administrators to head up Linked Learning schools, they have to understand the additional time needed for faculty to plan together, the additional support they need to be able to deliver to students and they have to be able to go out into the community and make the needed contacts with business and industry.

“The teachers that I have spoken to who have been doing this for a long time now are so happy with the results for the students,” he said, “but it’s also so much more interesting for them and it builds in relevance that they otherwise would kind of have to whip up.”

And how does the popular and successful Long Beach College Promise fit in?

“It fits in quite naturally because were working on high school to two-year to four-year pathways that would stay consistent with the Linked Learning pathways,” said Stallones. “So a student, ideally, graduates from a Linked Learning pathway in, say, engineering, from Long Beach Unified, and goes into a two-year college and takes basic engineering courses and then moves right into the College of Engineering here on campus.

“I’m an education historian and I was a teacher for 20 years before I went into higher education 15 years ago,” he added. “I tend to be cynical about reform movements because they come and go, but I’m excited about this one.”

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Faculty Member Whitcraft and Students Working to Preserve and Improve Wetlands

Christine Whitcraft, associate professor of biological sciences, is an expert in coastal wetland ecosystems, and points with pride to work with the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy.

Beginning in 2012, the conservancy provided funding to support Whitcraft’s work in coastal wetland restoration. Other support came from the California Sea Grant and the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program which provided more than $250,000 for restoration efforts.

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Together with fellow biological sciences’ faculty members Bengt Allen and Chris Lowe, Whitcraft works to help the conservancy restore and maintain three coastal marshes—Talbert, Brookhurst and Magnolia—located along Pacific Coast Highway between Newland Avenue and the Santa Ana River.

“Marshes like these perform a number of important natural functions,” said Whitcraft. “Their landforms and plants help control tidal flow to inland areas and they’re an ideal environment for a host of creatures. Wetlands often serve as nurseries for commercially important fish as well as nesting sites for a variety of birds.”

However, decades of coastal development cut off normal tidal flow and severely degraded the wetlands which is why the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy undertook multi-million-dollar restoration efforts.

Whitcraft and her students collected data on plants, invertebrates, sediment properties, fish and sea grass. “With National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funding, we began studying how California halibut live in their newly restored wetlands habitats. We had students tracking fish 24 hours a day at one point,” she recalled. “That is when the conservancy realized we had a lot of knowledge about the system and we were asked to stay on as restoration consultants. The American Restoration Recovery Act funds paid for three years of work with the conservancy as their consultants.”

The 2012 conservancy grant supported CSULB students and their research including seven master’s theses. “These addressed some of the biggest questions in wetlands ecology with a focus on restoration,” she said. “How do we, as humans, impact the wetlands? How can we bring back the wetlands from that impact?”

Whitcraft believes what she has learned can be applied to wetlands all over the world. “Living in urban Southern California is just a test case for the rest of the world because all coasts someday will be urban,” she said. “We are learning about the pressure and stress placed by humans on wetlands. That is applicable worldwide. How do we apply restoration to fix these impacts?”

In addition to work in Huntington Beach, one of Whitcraft’s special interests is the Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach. “One of the few remaining wetlands in Southern California has become a 13-acre lagoon thanks to human activity,” she said. “It is in the middle of a neighborhood with Marine Stadium and a golf course next door. The lagoon once collected runoff from 18 storm drains in a time of leaded gasoline and street runoff. All those pollutants settled in the sediment. It was about 20 years ago when citizens organized to restore the lagoon led by the Friends of Colorado Lagoon of which I am now president.”

Progress has been made. Non-native species have been removed and a low-flow diversion system installed. When it rains, the runoff flows around the lagoon. A dredging effort removed 75,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment. One of the capital campaign’s three pillars is “A Greater Community” and Whitcraft feels her restoration projects support that pillar.

“I bring what I learn back to my students in the classroom then I bring them out into the field to perform research,” she said. “Cal State Long Beach offers a fantastic connection to the community. Most of our students are local.  We introduce them to the fact that they live in a community with wetlands and that being scientifically literate about that community is essential to being a good citizen.”

A second link to the community is the support offered by Whitcraft’s research to area municipalities and agencies such as NOAA and the Department of Fish and Wildlife through CSULB’s graduates.  “I serve on eight scientific advisory boards which represents my support for the community,” she added.

The third tier of community connection is the link between her research and the Long Beach community. “I live down the street from the Colorado Lagoon and I’ve always looked for ways to give back to my community,” she said. “Before this research, that commitment was less focused with occasional service such as working for a food bank. Now I have the skill set to better serve my neighborhood.”

Whitcraft wants her students to complete their wetlands research with the ability to filter what is valid and what is not. “I want our students to value expertise,” she said. “That means knowing a little about statistics and a little about graph reading but it also means developing a sense of place. I ask my students to perform service learning with CSULB’s Center for Community Engagement. They give back to the community while learning career skills at CSULB.”

Whitcraft sees her wetlands commitment continuing.  “At the most basic level, someone pays me to go outside and play in the mud,” she laughed. “It’s what I did as a kid and what I do now.”

 

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Prestigious Carnegie Foundation Cites University for Community Engagement

By Susan Mills

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has chosen Cal State Long Beach to receive the 2015 Community Engagement Classification. The university is one of only 361 institutions to achieve this distinction.

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“We are honored that the Carnegie Foundation has recognized Cal State Long Beach with its 2015 Community Engagement Classification,” said Jane Close Conoley, president of CSULB. “We know that college students who are encouraged to apply what they study in class to outside jobs and projects are more likely to thrive after graduation. That is why we have a strong record of incorporating community service and engagement into many aspects of learning at the Beach.”

The Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification for which colleges and universities with an established focus on service within the community may apply. The classification application requires data collection and the documentation of relevant engagement elements in the university’s mission, identity and commitments. It also requires proof of a significant effort on the part of the institution to invest in community service.

Examples of CSULB’s institutional focus include, among others, the establishment of and support for the Center for Community Engagement, which works with faculty to create service-learning opportunities which allow students to apply academic instruction to community projects; the co-founding and expansion of the Long Beach College Promise and the incorporation of community engagement language in CSULB’s Strategic Priorities and Goals.

With regard to data collection, the Center for Community Engagement states that 12,109 students participated in some form of community service in 2012-13, including 5,311 who were involved in academic service-learning. In total, these students recorded more than 1.2 million community service hours during that time. Also, approximately 800 CSULB faculty and staff were involved in some kind of community service that same year.

“The students, faculty and staff at Cal State Long Beach understand that engagement not only benefits the community, but it helps the university as well,” said Juan M. Benitez, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement, CSULB. “We are more united when we work together to serve the region and service-learning and other forms of community engagement are recognized as ‘high impact’ learning practices that promote student success.”

CSULB students, faculty and staff have participated in a variety of community engagement activities, including hosting more than 1,000 K-12 girls through the Women In Engineering Outreach Program, as part of a national initiative to increase the number of women working in science, technology, engineering and math and assisting with physical exams, health education and referrals for local school children through the Health on Wheels Mobile Clinic. They also taught semester-long courses in art, music, dance and theatre to K-5 students in underserved areas of Long Beach.

The 2015 Community Engagement commendation is considered a “re-classification” after CSULB was first honored in 2008. It is valid until 2025, at which point the university must submit for another re-classification. CSULB was also recently named to the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the fourth time.

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Acclaimed Art Professor Siegel Awarded Prestigious International Fulbright Fellowship to Brazil

Fran Siegel, professor of art, was just awarded the prestigious international Fulbright Fellowship to Brazil for four months during the period of July 2015 through June 2016.  The Fulbright, one of the highest honors for scholars throughout the world, was her first.

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“I will be giving lectures about contemporary drawing in the art and art history department at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and my research on Afro-Brazilian Egungun will be in collaboration with Museu Afro in Sao Paolo which will culminate in a drawing exhibition at the Fowler Museum at UCLA,” she said.

Siegel’s Fulbright, which combines support for both teaching and research, represents an opportunity that she encourages other CSULB faculty members to consider applying for. “Do not rush it. Keep editing and reach out to colleagues in the host areas that you are considering,” she said.

Siegel believes her fellowship application might have been successful because of the cultural interest in her project and the support from institutions in both the U.S. and Brazil.  “I have also had international exhibition experience, teaching in Italy for five years, representing the US in a biennial in Ecuador and residency fellowships in France, Spain and Italy,” she explained.

Siegel saw her large-scale paper collage work “Overland 14” acquired by Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 2013. She explained that the “Overland “ series represents her ongoing interest in using an accumulative process of collage and drawing to investigate how populations interact within urban environments. LACMA acquired another monumental drawing from this series this past year.

Before coming to CSULB Siegel taught painting and drawing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In Los Angeles, her work has been seen at ACME, L.A. Louver, Otis College of Art and Design, Roberts and Tilton, the Pasadena Armory, the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Laguna Art Museum. She received her bachelor of fine arts from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and her master of fine arts in 1987 from Yale University.

Siegel thanked the College of the Arts for its support. “I have been fortunate to be teaching at an institution that values the professional activities of its faculty,” she said. “I am also grateful to work with such supportive colleagues.”

Siegel’s work is currently included in the exhibition “Seeing the Light” in the Haaga Gallery in Descanso Gardens. A solo exhibition of her work is due in New York as well as an exhibition at the Fowler Museum which is related to her Brazilian research.

Each year the Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program provides about 800 grants in more than 125 countries to support teaching and research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. Scholars contribute not only to their host institutions but also their home universities and colleges. Recently, the Fulbright program has introduced new options to better accommodate the interests and commitments of today’s scholars, including innovations that increase flexibility, impact and scope of the program.

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