US Department of Education Awards $7.7 Million Grant to UCO

Sept. 15, 2014

Media Contact: Lindsay Houts, Staff Writer, UCO University Relations, 405-974-2121, lhouts@uco.edu

US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AWARDS $7.7 MILLION GRANT TO UCO

What if a college graduate could actually show a potential employer that, in addition to the skills learned in their major, they can work with a team, problem solve and interact in an increasingly global marketplace?

University of Central Oklahoma students will soon be able to show competency in these and other highly sought “soft skills” thanks, in part, to a 5-year, $7.7 million United States Department of Education Strengthening Institutions Program Grant. The grant will fund Central’s Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR), the first effort of its kind to track, assess and provide information to help college students develop and use skills critical to their workplace, citizenship and personal success.

“At Central, we endeavor to educate the whole person — going beyond the skills needed to master a student’s chosen discipline. With transformative learning, we foster a spirit of lifelong learning in our students,” said UCO President Don Betz.

“The STLR will allow measurement of that spirit, giving Central students a way to prove competency in the ‘beyond discipline’ skills employers need.”

Students develop these skills through experiences in each of the “Central Six” tenets of transformative learning: discipline knowledge; leadership; research, scholarly and creative activities; service learning and civic engagement; global and cultural competencies; and health and wellness.

The STLR will track these experiences — found in both classroom and extracurricular activities — and students will graduate with documentation to show potential employers that they have proven competency in critical areas not represented on a traditional academic transcript. These areas include creative problem solving, working well in teams, the ability to communicate clearly and how to interact with diverse colleagues and customers.

“Central’s STLR process has the potential to become a blueprint for higher education,” said Jeff King, Ed.D., the grant’s lead researcher and Executive Director of Central’s Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning.

“Institutions that have identified mechanisms for tracking and assessing co-curricular learning and integrating it with curricular learning are rare. We hope to pave the way, creating a process and infrastructure that can be adapted to the individual missions of other colleges and universities.”

The university launched a pilot program of STLR this fall to 450 students. Central will introduce the program to all freshmen in fall 2015, with all undergraduate classes anticipated to be participating by fall 2018.

The grant will fast-track the development of an app that will allow students to choose classes and activities connected to the transformative learning tenets. Funds will also support infrastructure development, the integration of existing technology and related personnel costs.

The grant will be awarded over five years starting Oct. 1.  

For more information about STLR, visit www.uco.edu/stlr

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