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Training Educators Beyond the Classroom

Dr. Eileen Shanahan

Dr. Eileen Shanahan, department chair of Teacher Preparation and Educational Studies

Northern Kentucky University’s education, culture and society major prepares its graduates to become advocates in their communities.

Established in January 2022, Northern Kentucky University’s education, culture and society major is the newest—and most unique—undergraduate program offered by the College of Education. Tailored toward learners interested in bringing the tenets of an education degree into an occupation outside of K-12 classrooms, it is one of the only education majors in the region that does not lead to a teaching certification. Instead, says Dr. Ginni Fair, Dean of the College of Education, graduates can pursue a wide array of careers, like workforce development, advisory in higher education and community outreach for educational institutions like museums.

“One of my good friends is a business leader, and he tells me that employers are starting to hire more trained teachers to do development work and human resources because of the skills that they can bring” Fair says. “I think that represents a really important and cool evolution of how teaching skills are transferable to other career tracks.”

To prepare students for the workforce, the education, culture and society major includes a multidisciplinary course load that draws from the Haile College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences. Those enrolled select courses from two of the major’s three tracks: Workforce Development is geared toward students interested in becoming trainers or recruiters; Diversity and Social Justice gives students the knowledge required to go into advocacy or support youth in their community; and Youth, Family and Community provides a foundation for future programmers at zoos, museums and other community settings.

“All of our new American Sign Language and deaf studies courses are also options within this major,” says Dr. Eileen Shanahan, department chair of Teacher Preparation and Educational Studies. “Those work within both Youth, Family and Community and Diversity and Social Justice, which have been the major’s most popular tracks. We’re seeing students with an array of interests. One of our spring graduates moved to Auburn two days after graduation to pursue a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs. We’re attracting people who are interested in education but not teaching math to fifth graders, for example.”

“We need people with passion for education and people who are informed advocates for education. We're excited that our program can inspire some of that passion."

Fair adds that the education, culture and society major offers a unique opportunity for international students.

“Typically, we can’t accept international students into the education program because their visas don’t allow them to be in K-12 classrooms, which is required to be a teacher in the state of Kentucky,” she says. “But what they could do is enroll in our education, culture and society program and return home with what they’ve learned about western education. In my previous position, I went to China to speak with educators who were fascinated by the way we train teachers but couldn’t get students into our programs.”

Currently, NKU is the only public university with an undergraduate program in education that does not lead to certification. Though the program is new, Shanahan says that it is already playing an important role in a world that needs educators more than ever.

“We need people with passion for education and people who are informed advocates for education,” she says. “We’re excited that this program can inspire some of that passion.” 

Though Shanahan got her start teaching eighth grade language arts, much of her own background is in training teachers in curriculum and instruction. She knows firsthand the importance of having informed advocates for education act in support of teachers and students.

“There are a lot of policymakers making big decisions about education in our region,” Shanahan says. “And there's a need to have a background in education to be able to make decisions in the best interest of our youth and families. We think having more people with a working knowledge of how teaching and learning work would really help organizations around us.”

About This Article

August 2023

Written by
Jude Noel ('18)
Communications Specialist, NKU Magazine