WMU News

Two new bachelor's degree programs offered this fall

June 25, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Two new bachelor's degree programs approved June 25 by the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees will train students to help people with disabilities learn to travel safely and help fill the shortage of teachers in technical subjects.

Acting at its regular meeting, the board approved a bachelor of science degree in occupational education studies in the General University Studies Program and a bachelor of arts degree in travel instruction in the Department of Blind Rehabilitation. The two new programs, which will be offered this fall, bring to 157 the number of bachelor's degree programs at WMU.

Students who graduate with a new bachelor's degree in travel instruction will teach people with disabilities how to travel independently, a need that has become even more evident in recent years with the passage of the American's With Disabilities Act.

Being able to travel independently lets people take part in a wide range of activities and educational programs, gain employment and become contributing members of a community. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, people with disabilities have been granted the right to equal access to transportation, resulting in a need for instructors who can teach orientation, independent travel and the use of public transportation.

Recognizing that need, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the University a four-year $350,000 grant to develop an undergraduate program in travel instruction. The Federal Transit Act also set aside $300,000 to develop standards for the preparation of independent travel specialists and to develop a program leading to instructor certification. Dr. William Wiener, chairperson of WMU's Department of Blind Rehabilitation, has been working on both efforts.

Program graduates will teach people with disabilities how to establish and maintain their orientation and travel safely in indoor areas, residential neighborhoods, rural areas, businesses and urban centers. The 122-credit-hour program includes a 24-credit-hour major in travel instruction that will prepare instructors in independent travel.

Students also will be required to complete a 20-credit hour interdisciplinary minor. Besides
classroom instruction, students must complete a practicum and a 40-hour per week internship, each for one semester. Sites for practicum placements have been identified in Kalamazoo, since students must be highly supervised by faculty.

The program will prepare 10 students each year to work with people with varying disabilities and meet their independent travel needs. Graduates will be eligible for jobs at centers for independent living, adult service agencies, school systems and transit systems.

The second program approved Friday by the Board offers a bachelor's degree in occupational education studies to meet a growing need for teachers of technical subjects. The program has been planned, developed and implemented in conjunction with eight Southwest Michigan community colleges, including Kalamazoo Valley, Kellogg, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Glen Oaks and Lansing community colleges and Southwestern Michigan College and Lake Michigan College.

The program will prepare certified teachers in technical subjects to work at high schools, trade academies, area career and technical centers and community colleges in Michigan, helping to address short- and long-term teacher staffing needs by preparing highly trained professional educators in career and technical education.

Several recent studies have shown a growing need for teachers of technical subjects in the state. A recent WMU study found close to 100 secondary and post-secondary teaching positions will be available in the next five years because of program expansions and retirements in Southwest Michigan.

The Family and Consumer Sciences Department is establishing the program in general university studies within the Division of Continuing Education. The program will expand distance learning through interactive television courses, increase the enrollment of nontraditional and community college transfer students and enhance partnerships with community colleges.

It will complement and expand current departmental offerings by expanding both on- and off-campus opportunities to enroll in career and technical education (CTE) courses. All current on-
campus CTE courses will continue to be offered in Kalamazoo. Through interactive television, CTE courses also will be offered in four distance learning locations in Benton Harbor, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

The Summer Institute, a two-week program offered through the Department of Continuing Education, also will provide new opportunities for students to enroll in CTE courses during the summer. Each participating student will work with continuing education counseling staff to carefully plan and fulfill all general education and University graduation requirements.

Both degree programs have been approved through the University's curricular review process and have been endorsed by the academic officers of the Presidents Council of State Universities.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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