Provost and dean discuss Grow Your Own on education podcast

Contact: Chris Hybels

Drs. Julian Vasquez Heilig and Laura Dinehart.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Laura Dinehart, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, were featured on Civic Media's "BustED Pencils" podcast on April 2. Vasquez Heilig and Dinehart discussed Western's Grow Your Own program, the impact it is already having to address the teacher shortage in Michigan and how the college is supporting new students.

Funded by the Michigan Department of Education, Grow Your Own (GYO) supports 80 school districts in the state by providing school employees seeking initial certification or additional endorsements with a tuition-free education. Western's College of Education and Human Development hosts more than 25 of those school districts and offer multiple bachelor's and master's degree options.

"Last spring, folks from the College of Education and Human Development said there's this opportunity from the state, and this opportunity involves the state paying districts and giving them grants so that folks who work in that district, who are committed to that community and stay in that district, that they will pay for their undergraduate degree or their master's degree," explains Vasquez Heilig. "So when we had this discussion last spring, the interim dean said 'Can we manage this?' And what we said was, by any means necessary, we will do this in service to the state of Michigan." 

With the Grow Your Own program, the College of Education and Human Development will be graduating 700 students in initial teacher certification and additional endorsement programs in the next four years.

"In addition, there's a second round to this funding, so there will be additional students joining us," says Vasquez Heilig. "So the idea that people don't want to be teachers anymore, if you put the right incentives on the table, you will be wildly surprised how much people want to be working with children and working with communities." 

Grow Your Own Support

Though provided with financial relief from their school districts, Dinehart says students in the GYO program can still face challenges along the way.

"We tend to think of higher-education as the 17 year old who's graduated from high school and comes into college living in the dorms. But we're talking about individuals who work full-time, who have families and we're now asking them to go to class," explains Dinehart. "We're offering classes online for accessibility and the faculty have given the flexibility that is necessary when teaching students who have full running lives on top of trying to get a degree."

In partnership with the provost's office and academic affairs, CEHD is also creating a team of support for students that goes beyond the classroom.

"We have a GYO coordinator and a team who really are focused on ensuring that those students are successful. And there is also success coaches coming from their districts as well," says Dinehart. "So it is a lot of individuals who are working together to ensure that individuals who are taking these classes, while working, are going to be successful in getting a degree."

"This is no small thing. The celebration that will be needed is going to be huge!" adds Dinehart. 

Listen to the full episode on the BustED Pencils website.

about BustED Pencils Podcast

BustED Pencils is a leading radio show and podcast dedicated to fostering a robust dialogue on public education. Hosted by Drs. Tim Slekar and Johnny Lupinacci, the program offers a unique platform for examining critical issues facing educational institutions today. Through in-depth discussions with a diverse range of guests, the podcast sheds light on current trends and challenges within the education system by presenting unvarnished facts with a touch of humor.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.