By Southeastern University
Southeastern University's College of Education turned a potential roadblock into one of the most distinctive programs in the state of Florida.
Starting this fall, the university is offering a new Exceptional Student Education (ESE) 4+1 degree program that will allow students to graduate with their bachelor's degree, master's degree, and all endorsements and certifications required by the state. The program came in response to the state Department of Education adding an autism endorsement requirement for all ESE-certified teachers.
Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Susan Stanley, the program's director, said the College of Education realized the autism requirement would mean coursework beyond the bachelor's degree available at the time. After analyzing multiple options, the college made the decision to pursue the five-year program.
"There were no other private colleges or universities offering this type of degree," Stanley said. "After prayer and discussion, it appeared the door was open to develop a five-year degree in ESE to provide what was needed."
In addition to the autism endorsement and bachelor's and master's degrees, the new program includes the following:
Dr. Stanley said the biggest hurdle in creating the new program was a rigid deadline by the state to turn in a folio, which she likened to a dissertation, that all state-approved programs are required to submit. The folio had to be completed by September 1, 2011, for the 2012-2013 school year, and the state was going to enforce a two-year moratorium on new programs after that deadline.
"The work was completed and submitted two weeks before the due date, which was quite a feat," Dr. Stanley said. "The Lord blessed the hard work by allowing the folio to be given full acceptance by the Florida Department of Education with no revisions needed."
The program has generated strong interest, and the College of Education has worked hard to promote it to teachers and school districts around Central Florida. Four students who were in the traditional undergraduate program in 2011-2012 decided to change to the five-year track and carry heavy course loads in the spring and summer in order to begin the master's courses on time. They will be the university's first M.Ed in ESE graduating class in the spring of 2013, with more than 40 other students currently enrolled in the program as undergraduates.
Dr. Stanley said the development and implementation of the program is another sign of Southeastern's willingness to do what it takes to serve its students.
"I believe the development of this program continues a standard the College of Education and the university support, which is providing what our students need in order for them to be successful in their future ministry," she said.
For more information about the new ESE program, or to apply, click here.