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CCCC Learning Communities Program Is Model for Other Institutions

CCCC Learning Communities Program Is Model for Other Institutions

Collin County Community College District is participating in a national program to spread the concept of learning communities, which combine two or three disciplines and instructors into one course.

Gary Hodge, dean of social sciences, health and public services, accepted an invitation to become a national learning communities fellow. As part of the fellowship, Hodge made a four-year commitment to attend conferences and present papers on CCCC's program.

The Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education, located at Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash., created the National Learning Communities Project with a $1.7 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Using grant funds, Hodge attended a leadership retreat at Evergreen last month. "We were chosen because we were one of the forerunners in learning communities," Hodge said. "We are one of the programs being showcased as an example of taking the next step beyond the beginning concept. I've talked to people from colleges and universities who have told me they started learning communities at their schools because they heard us talk about ours. The word has gotten out that CCCC is someone to use as an example." CCCC's learning communities program was one of 10 finalists last year for the national Bellwether Award. The college began its learning communities courses in 1994. The courses are team-designed around a theme that encourages an understanding of complex issues that cross disciplinary boundaries and break down those boundaries.

For example, professors Ted Lewis, Wendy Gunderson and Gordon O'Neal are teaching a learning community course called "The Road to the White House," combining government, history and English. Professors Ann Cervantez and Tracey Elliott are combining computer essentials and sociology in a course called "Cybersociety."

Though the Bellwether Award is given to community colleges, Hodge said a sizeable number of the National Learning Communities Project fellows are from universities, putting CCCC in the company of such large schools as the University of Michigan.

"We have the strongest program in the Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana area, and we are working to spread it into the universities in this part of the country," Hodge said. "Learning communities are something I believe in. We are also a national award winner in service learning, so we are becoming what is called an engaged campus. Our emphasis is on service and leadership for students."

During his fellowship, Hodge said, CCCC will:

Help in the development of a national learning communities website, which will include a link to CCCC's learning communities page;

Be host to both a planning workshop and a regional learning communities conference, to be held in fall 2001;

Bring a team to Olympia to present the CCCC program and answer questions from other institutions. Hodge credited Cary A. Israel, CCCC president, with advancing the program to such a high level.

"Cary has been our strongest supporter, and he always stresses our learning communities program," Hodge said. "He has moved us up to a national award-winning program with his encouragement and support."

NOTE: For more information, contact Gary Hodge at 972-881-5800.

Collin College serves more than 46,000 credit and continuing education students annually and offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs. The only public college in the county, Collin College is a partner to business, government and industry, providing customized training and work force development.