Special ed program may be offered soon

By Jessica Cohea

A special education major may be added to Olivet Nazarene University’s Department of Education by fall 2013.

Dr. Jim Upchurch, Dean of the School of Education, is finding that a program such as this might be exactly what his students and department need. The idea for the addition came from community and state trends, as well as information from Olivet’s sister schools and surrounding schools in the Kankakee area.

Research will continue on this topic for the remainder of the spring semester. Upchurch hopes to bring a proposal to the VP for Academic Affairs, Dr. Gregg Chenoweth, at the beginning of the fall 2011 semester.

“There is a shortage of special education majors in education programs,” Upchurch said. Education funding has hit a rut, “but [the number of] special education students and their needs have not decreased.”

So far, Upchurch has found five reasons that a special education major would be necessary and worth-while.

Offering a special education major is a mission fit for ONU. Upchurch said that if a student decides to come to Olivet with a calling to special education, they will have to study elsewhere. Olivet cannot currently fulfill those students’ needs to complete that calling.

A shortage of special education teachers exists in every state.

This is a highly requested major, number one in fact, by prospective teacher education candidates searching for a university to attend, Upchurch said.

Other universities confirm the value and importance of offering this major. Two of Olivet’s sister schools, Trevecca Nazarene and Northwest Nazarene Universities, offer special education majors already.

ONU teacher education faculty members recognize and support the need for this new major to become a reality.

Upchurch is not sure if the major will be offered to undergraduate or graduate students yet. That is one thing his research will focus on from this point on.

New faculty members will need to be hired if this major is added. In order to teach special education in Illinois, a professor must have his or her special education teaching certifications. Upchurch said at least two full-time faculty members will be needed and possibly one or two adjuncts as well. No one currently in the School of Education has teaching certifications in special education, according to Upchurch.

A large portion of the students at ONU are education majors, so Upchurch believes this would be a wise decision for the University. Currently, there are 513 education majors, a number that has been steadily increasing for the past decade.

“We are not doing this [trying to add another major] to become larger. We are doing this primarily as a mission fit,” Upchurch said.

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