September 20th, 2010

We learned so much from our Higher Education Alliance partners at this year’s Lifetime of Learning conference at Auburn University Montgomery. This year’s subject was college access, student retention and service-learning.

Dr. Barbara Moely of Tulane University’s Center for Public Service opened the conference with a keynote on service-learning and student outcomes (above). She noted that meaningful service-learning provides a more positive learning experience for students, which in turn leads to increased retention and achievement.

Steve Shaw, Chair for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education; Dr. Barbara Moely of Tulane; Kristina Scott of APP; and Dr. David Potts, President of APP and Judson College

Our breakout sessions spotlighted some excellent community-university partnerships at colleges and universities across the state, including Auburn University’s Loachapoka partnership with local K-12 schools, UA’s University Fellows Black Belt Experience in Marion, and Montevallo’s Falcon Scholarsprogram, among others.

Our lunch speaker Dr. Tony Thacker, program administrator for the Governor’s Commission on Quality Teaching, spoke of the urgent need for improved K-12 education (above). “Poverty-stricken children are product-tested,” he said, alluding to short-term, low-impact education reform programs. He gave meaningful criticism for colleges and universities interested in starting partnerships with preschool and K-12 schools.

He also noted that when low educational attainment correlates with high poverty and crime rates, a just society should do everything in its power to provide equal educational opportunities. Mr. Thacker emphasized that to educate students, we need to create meaningful learning environments, encourage innovative programming, and nourish strong teachers.

After afternoon breakout sessions, conference participants took a break in our knowledge cafe, where they brainstormed ideas and voted for their favorite outcomes of the day’s discussions.

Our final speaker, Doug Coutts of the UN World Food Programme and Universities Fighting World Hunger at Auburn University, called us to involve Alabama students in fighting hunger in Alabama and beyond (above).

Thank you to all who contributed and took part in the day’s events – speakers, attendees, and volunteers. Special thanks to the Division of Continuing Education and Auburn University at Montgomery for their gracious hospitality. It was a great day of learning and sharing! Hearing all of the innovative programming and passionate educators on the front lines of fighting poverty really shows us what is possible. You prove that we can build a better Alabama by working daily to educate and engage our youth.

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Posted by Robyn Hyden