Prior to being awarded the grant in 2004, Sterling College was required to draft a comprehensive development plan that identified improvement needs. In the end, 11 areas were addressed with the grant funding through a variety of activities and programs, including the following difference-making highlights:
• Academic Support Center (ASC) — The ASC, located in Mabee Library, is available to all students needing additional help in their classes and coursework. The center provides a supervised study hall, tutors for all subject areas and a computer lab with printing capabilities for student use. The ASC also provides services for students needing academic accommodations defined in an Individualized Education Plan. The center serves the College at-large with student placement testing and academic advising for students who have academic restrictions. In addition, a separate Writing Center is available to help all students with written assignments, as well as remedial writing strategies.
• Teacher Endowment Challenge — Sterling College raised $125,000, paired with matching Title III funds, toward the creation of a $250,000 endowment for scholarships earmarked for education department students. The matching challenge required that Sterling raise up to $25,000 each year for five years, which was placed in a permanent endowment and matched dollar for dollar with Title III funds.
• Education Technology — Beyond the purchase of hardware, software and peripheral equipment to enhance the teaching and learning process, grant funding has also allowed the College to plan for future technology growth and expansions. Additionally, a variety of projects demonstrate the innovative integration and use of these technologies, including:
- Technology integration skills and instruction for education students through the revision and enhancements of the “Computers in the Classroom” course.
- ePortfolios in use by students within several departments, with plans to expand to all departments.
- Dozens of hybrid (online and classroom) courses, delivered to our students by trained faculty.
- Tools utilized within those hybrid courses, such as the wireless handheld project currently under way with a pilot group of faculty members and students.
- Annual Technology Assessments and Education Technology Individual Development Plans (ET-IDPs) for all full-time Sterling College faculty assess and address strengths and weaknesses within many areas of technology use and integration.
• Nationally Recognized and Accredited Curricula — In November 2007, one year ahead of schedule, the Sterling College Education department received full, national accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the professional accrediting organization for schools, colleges and departments of education in the United States. Additionally, throughout the Title III grant period, Sterling College reviewed and revised curricula within nearly a dozen departments.
• Social Entrepreneurship — The social entrepreneurship academic minor enables students to learn about servant leadership via the development and management of nonprofit endeavors intended to meet social needs. A "good" social entrepreneurship endeavor may take numerous forms – for example, a for-profit company whose profits support a social enterprise or a nonprofit whose mission has spun off in the form of another social enterprise.
Students from all disciplines have the opportunity to learn how to apply their knowledge and skills to improve quality of life. The social entrepreneurship minor requires a practicum experience during which a student works alongside the leadership of a social enterprise to gain hands-on knowledge. Examples of how this might manifest itself include: Theatre — children’s theatre workshops; Business — tax assistance for the elderly; Math — after-school tutoring program.
• Servant Leadership — A Foundations of Servant Leadership course, required for all first-time students, compares leadership from a Christ-centered perspective with profit-centered leadership. Students experience serving by working at least eight hours in a service project, chosen from campus departments, public schools, area businesses, non-profit community organizations, local churches and other civic institutions. As servant leadership becomes more fundamental to Sterling’s identity, faculty members have added service and servant-leadership requirements to a variety of courses and programs.
• Master’s Program — A Sterling committee has extensively studied college resources and determined steps for the future authorization for a post-baccalaureate (master’s) degree. A master’s in education is one graduate degree being considered as a possible first addition. Work is ongoing to determine the best path and timing for instituting the graduate program.
• Professional Development School Relationship with K-12 Systems — Sterling College is available to area K12 school districts, upon request, for the purpose of professional development. This service is customizable depending on the needs of the district. Opportunities include:
- Faculty mentoring
- Faculty in-service sessions
- Continuing education courses in online formats and traditional face-to-face instruction
• Relationships with Community Colleges — Articulation agreements with 18 Kansas community colleges and Hesston College have been established. These official agreements match coursework between schools and are designed to help students make a smooth transition when transferring from a community college, in that Sterling accepts an entire associate degree (and credits within) from that community college without question.
• Faculty/Administration Professional Enrichment — More than 50 members of the Sterling College faculty and administration have attended conferences within their field and/or to enhance the higher-education institutional improvement process, as a direct result of Title III funding and within the parameters of the grant. Many of those faculty/staff would have been unable to attend those conferences without the opportunity made available through Title III.
On Solid Ground
Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education Title III grant funding and the improvements it has enabled, Sterling College is better situated than ever to be a higher learning institution of distinction. Sterling has the capabilities and processes to more effectively and uniquely serve its students, continuing the College’s long tradition of not only educating but making its students better people. It’s better. It’s stronger. It’s Sterling College.