For immediate release — March 7, 2001(DALLAS) — Teaching comes from the heart, as well as the mind. But when faculty members are faced with large classes, heavy work loads and varied student needs, many may leave the field to pursue careers in other areas. Faculty members in community colleges are no exception.
Could self-renewal — a personal rebirth of the spirit — help save instructors and their skills in ways that benefit students? Faculty members at the Dallas County Community College District believe the concept works, and they have received funding for five years in the amount of $871,337 from the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Mich., to develop the Center for Formation in the Community College. The new center will help educators, as well as students and staff, renew themselves and continue in their career paths — or perhaps find new direction in their lives. The project is a collaborative effort involving DCCCD, the League for Innovation in the Community College and Fetzer Institute.
The concept of formation, specifically in education, has gained national prominence with the work of Dr. Parker J. Palmer, national educator and proponent of the formation concept. The concept of formation, which began with Palmer and is used with teachers in public schools, occurs when individuals or groups — in this case, those associated with the new DCCCD center — learn respect for their own distinct feelings and intuition, and they also again find identity, integrity and authenticity. Formation allows teachers and faculty members, for example, to relate better to students and colleagues because they are in touch with their internal truths, which enables them to relate better to students.
“Formation, for me, is a transformative process,” explained Dr. Sue Jones, DCCCD faculty member and co-director of the new center and project with faculty member Ann Faulkner. “It changes how I interact with students in class and those I work with.”
Faulkner added, “Formation enables you to be ‘in community’ with others. Palmer says that you are creating safe places and trusted relationships so that each person’s soul can take its original form. The process fosters diversity that makes the world an exciting place which, in turn, encourages teachers and faculty, for example, to continue in their professions.” Jones said, “This is a community college effort.”
The center, scheduled to open this spring, will be housed in the district’s downtown office. Staff will seek the advice and expertise of a national advisory board. Bill Tucker, DCCCD vice president for planning and development affairs, will serve as project manager, and the co-directors will oversee the center’s development and growth. The League for Innovation will continue to be a partner in the program and to publicize the center on its website as the Fetzer Institute provides funds. DCCCD will seek institutions willing to provide financial support for individuals to participate in the center’s programs and formation activities. That level of financial support will enable the national center based at DCCCD to become self-supporting by the end of the five-year funding period.
“We are very excited to be involved in formation and to establish a national center at DCCCD,” said Jones. “With Dr. Palmer’s assistance over the next several years, we hope that many community colleges from across the country will take advantage of our program and support faculty in their personal growth and development. The direct result, we believe, is that community college faculty — and students — will be renewed and will want to continue to share their enthusiasm and their knowledge in the classroom.”
A rededication to teaching and service to students at the community college level is especially critical because approximately 45 percent of all first-time college students and 49 percent of minority college students attend a community college; more than 50 percent are first-generation college students. Community colleges nationally employ more than 100,000 full-time faculty members; their primary responsibility is teaching, and they average more than nine hours in their offices each week for their students.
Palmer will work with the district on the new center through 2003. In 1998, he was named by The Leadership Project as one of the 30 “most influential senior leaders” in higher education and one of the 10 key “agenda setters” of the past decade.
The Fetzer Institute is a nonprofit, privately operated foundation that supports research, education and service programs exploring the integral relationships among body, mind and spirit. The institute has a special interest in how individuals and communities are influenced by the interactions among the physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of life, and how understandings in these areas can provide health, foster growth and better the human condition.
The League for Innovation in the Community College, based in Mission Viejo, Calif., is an international association dedicated to catalyzing the community college movement through innovation, experimentation and institutional transformation.
For more information, contact Tucker at (214) 860-2463 or send e-mail inquiries to Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or Faulkner at email@example.com.
For more info or photos contact: Ann Hatch, 214-860-2478