New museum, field, and community education minor prepares students for careers in informal education, focuses on hands-on experience

By Emma Reilly

Elm Staff Writer

Washington College is offering a museum, field, and community education minor, designed to prepare students to teach in informal learning contexts.

Students interested in future careers at museums, historical societies, science centers, or field schools — as well as those intrigued by community or outdoor education — will be a good fit for the new MFCE minor, according to Director of the MFCE Minor and Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Sarah Clarke-De Reza.

“We think it will attract people who have a passion for a content area but aren’t necessarily entirely sure what they want to do with that passion,” Coordinator of Secondary Education and Lecturer in Education Erin Counihan said.  

The MFCE minor was designed by a diverse group of faculty and staff representing all three disciplines and the College’s Centers of Excellence. 

“It didn’t take a lot of work because a lot of awesome stuff was already happening at WC. This just clicked it all into place,” Dr. Clarke-De Reza said. 

The MFCE minor will require 24 course credits and three experiential learning credits. A combination of foundational education and communications courses, courses specific to the student’s field of interest, field work, and internships will provide MFCE minors with a well-rounded hands-on experience, according to the WC website.

“We’re going to provide students with a rich background in educational psychology and educational design … and then we’re going to give them opportunities to go and try it,” Dr. Clarke-De Reza said. “That’s one thing that I think is a great value to students.”

According to Counihan, experiential learning opportunities are a key component of the minor that will benefit both students and the field in which they are interested.

“Not only will we be teaching people how to do these things… but they will be able to put them into practice pretty early on,” Counihan said. “[Employers] want prospective employees to come with more knowledge in terms of how to educate, how to work with a variety of different people, how to better communicate.” 

The MFCE minor will assist in the development of these skills through its education and communication course foundations.

According to Counihan, the MFCE’s liberal arts foundation — which includes both practical coursework and hands-on field experience — will allow students to experience a diverse range of potential career paths.

The minor will also intersect with WC’s existing community ties. 

“We have an amazingly busy and very involved community and even though it’s really small, there’s tons of educational stuff going on. There are a lot of natural partners for us in this [minor],” Dr. Clarke-De Reza said. 

WC’s connections within Chestertown and its location near several larger cities will provide students with the opportunity to approach their field of interest from both a small- and large-scale perspective, according to Dr. Clarke-De Reza.

Students pursuing the MFCE minor will be able to collaborate with both on- and off-campus entities. These entities include WC’s academic centers, such as the Rose O’Neill Literary House, the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, and the Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory bird banding station.

Junior Hannah Flayhart, who is double minoring in secondary education and MFCE, chose to combine the minors to diversify her undergraduate experience.

“I would be able to have a more well-rounded experience background and understanding of education … in both minors,” Flayhart said.

Flayhart is interested in a museum career and is looking forward to the hands-on knowledge she will gain in MFCE field experience classes. 

“I hope to gain a better understanding of what it will be like to work in an informal education setting as well as have the opportunity to learn about the best practices in those settings,” Flayhart said.

According to Counihan, the MFCE minor will serve as a “natural complement” to students’ interests and existing academic pursuits.

“I think almost any student in any major could take the minor because it does pull from a number of different places,” Counihan said.

Counihan also anticipates that the minor will encourage impactful community change.

“I’m hoping that we’ll get a good, diverse group of people that will be able to sit in a room and talk about how all of these things can come together and benefit a community,” Counihan said.

Featured Photo caption: The new museum, field, and community education minor mixes classroom and internship learning experiences in their curriculum, integrating entities like Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience into their programming. Elm File Photo.

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