Successful Students

What are the greatest educational needs today’s students and potential students have, and how are educators helping fulfill those needs?

Alan Capelle, director, Upper Iowa University

Critical thinking is one vital skill our adult, nontraditional learners need to develop and use, and we’re probably one of few universities that have a required course in it. It’s looking at a variety of issues from all sides, synthesizing information and coming to a logical and informed
conclusion. We also evaluate students on critical thinking in their capstone courses, or senior projects. It’s a really important skill in today’s workplace.

Learners also need to be good public communicators who are comfortable getting up before a group, and we have required public speaking courses. Students present their projects to groups to hone those skills.

Being able to write effectively, to articulate one’s thoughts clearly and concisely, is another essential skill. We have English composition courses, evaluate writing skills in students’ senior projects and have free writing tutors who work one on one with people.

A lot of university work involves developing hard skills, content, in courses such as accounting. But soft skills such as those mentioned here, along with working effectively in teams, are equally important.

We also emphasize sustainability, or going green—we’re designing a certificate program in it.

Sandra S. Dahl, owner/director of Kids Express Learning Center

Our teachers believe a key component of children’s education is to provide them with the tools and motivation to think for themselves, to become creative, productive problem solvers willing to jump out of their comfort zones and risk thinking about things in new ways.
We live in a world of instant information, easily accessible at the touch of a keypad. The benefits of immediate access are
evident; however, children need to learn to question what they hear, read and observe. Surface-level acquisition of facts won’t prepare them for the complex world they live in.

We lay the foundation for critical thinking daily at Kids Express, as children plan, plant and tend gardens to provide ingredients for culinary lessons. It expands when they hear quality pieces of literature and re-create them in the dramatic play center, changing plots, settings and characters in delightfully creative ways. We challenge them to ask why in the Nature Study Bus when they dissect owl scat or view pond water on a slide. Children are empowered when surrounded by rich, mind-stretching experiences and encouraged to dig in and figure out for themselves how their world works.

Sara Jimenez Soffa, director of research, doctoral program in educational leadership and assistant professor of education, Edgewood College School of Graduate and Professional Studies

The doctoral program in educational leadership at Edgewood College draws K–12 and higher-education leaders from across the Midwest into distinct cohort groups for study. Students who enroll are seasoned educators seeking opportunities to hone their leadership skills, enhance their ability to lead in challenging times, navigate the tumultuous educational landscape and engage in research that contributes to their fields of study and ultimately improves the organizations they serve.  

To that end, our doctoral students study the economic, academic, political and organizational challenges Wisconsin’s public and private schools and colleges face. Students engage in meaningful applied research. Doctoral students’ dissertations address specific topics in thematic contexts of diversity and inclusion, ethical leadership, communication, research and technology. Graduates’ research has resulted in funded grants, policy changes, program initiatives and organizational improvements at all levels of education.

Edgewood College doctoral students exemplify leadership through the Dominican values of truth, justice, compassion, community and partnership. When asked to share their experiences with our program, graduates consistently speak about the value of the cohort model, the professional relationships they built with faculty and members of the Edgewood College family and their ability to engage in authentic research driven by their passion to improve their practice.

— Judy Dahl

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