As the University of Minnesota General College becomes the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning in the College of Education and Human Development this summer, two former GC professors share their visions of the future for students, staff and faculty in their new home. As the University of Minnesota General College becomes the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning in the College of Education and Human Development this summer, two former GC professors share their visions of the future for students, staff and faculty in their new home.
As a graduate student in the College of Education and Human Development studying school psychology, NA'IM MADYUN was required to spend some time as a teaching assistant. He chose to head over to General College so he could work with low-income, first-generation college students and students of color — a population he's most interested in teaching and researching. That was in 1999, and Madyun still hasn't left GC.
He's found his home as an assistant professor of psychology in the college, where he can make a difference in the lives of students who are much like him. A native of Arkansas, Madyun was a low-income student of color when he started his higher education at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He recently earned his Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota.
Two main areas of interest for Madyun are the transition of African-American students to college, and the achievement gap between students of color and low-income students and their white and economically advantaged peers. He sees the College of Education and Human Development as a great place to delve further into these issues.
The move to the College of Education and Human Development "is increasing our network," Madyun explains. "In doing some networking for us, the college administration is actually building the bridges of our network instead of us having to construct the bridges. That's really beneficial. If the college is going to construct the bridges, we can concentrate on building the connections with other professors. It's going to increase the opportunity to be creative and efficient."
In General College's new location, Madyun envisions more conversations developing about different ways teachers can deliver content. He'd like to examine how teaching styles change depending on the audience and how that subsequently influences the outcome.
"A big contribution we will bring from General College will be looking at teaching," he says. "A lot of the work we do is in higher education, but it can be applied to elementary and secondary education once we find those universal components. And then it will increase the pipeline of students to college." Next year, Madyun will teach an introduction to psychology course as part of a learning community on the psychology of the American experience. He also will continue leading the African-American Networking Group with Assistant Professor Tabitha Grier, which seeks to support African-American students in their transition to college.
All in all, he thinks the move is positive for students and faculty. "We have the potential to develop some really great research mentors and become internationally known for the study of teaching and learning," says Madyun. "We can become a training center for new teachers and new professors."
Heidi Barajas, incoming Department Chair, pictures many possibilities when General College becomes part of the College of Education and Human Development: a new major in disability studies, bringing service learning to a wider audience, and a focus on interdisciplinary teaching and research, to name just a few.
"We are in a time of really exciting change for us because we can decide how that change can happen," she says. "We will be a department and we will have opportunities to do things in collaboration with the college that we might not have allowed ourselves to do before. That comes from both sides."