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Arrick Jackson

College of Education and Human Services Dean

by John Smith - April 11, 2019

Arrick Jackson

A diverse collection of educational pursuits have been gathered in Ferris State University’s College of Education and Human Services, and Dean Arrick Jackson said that the university can be proud of the many avenues of learning in its schools of Criminal Justice, Education and Digital Media.

The dean said that a primary consideration for the college is helping those who enter a degree and career path to visualize and understand all that will be necessary to complete their studies and become capable professionals. As part of its mission, the COEHS hopes to work toward a goal of retaining and graduating at-risk students, with the support of the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan.

“The COEHS is pleased to have a student retention program which is supported by approximately $1 million from the state, through a King-Chavez-Parks (KCP) Select Student Support Services grant,” Jackson said. “Andrea Kitomary, our student retention, and recruitment coordinator, serves as the principal investigator. A key component of our service to students is to give them the resources and assistance they need to achieve, academically. This is a six-year study involving 40 undergraduate students who are considered to be ‘at-risk,’ according to KCP guidelines. These students have been connected with success coaches, are supported by faculty engagement, and provided the chance to learn from various speakers. As the study advances to its conclusion, in 2023, we will look to compare their results and histories to another set of students who were not participants in the program. All schools have their own retention issues. Once we know what elements are truly supportive, the plan is to scale up our programming, and implement it to benefit students from all backgrounds.”

Jackson said that the college has secured other grants, such as an award from Ferris’ Diversity Office to help increase cultural competency among its students and instructors. Kitomary and Kavanaugh recently received a $5,000 grant from NEA to improve literacy rates for elementary students. Amy Kavanaugh, in the School of Education, will use the funding to support pre-service Early Education teachers who work with at-risk Riverview Elementary students, to improve literacy rates.

“Another School of Education project that we are proud of is our new Teacher Cadet program at Innovation Central High School, in Grand Rapids, which is a collaborative effort with the city’s public school district,” Jackson said. “Through dual-enrollment classes, participants who continue at Ferris would start out with 11 credits earned toward their degree.”

Jackson said that the School of Criminal Justice is looking to build on its successes by affording those students in the Bachelor of Science program, who qualify academically, the opportunity to amass anywhere from nine to 12 credits toward the university’s Master of Criminal Justice Administration degree.

“This is a program we offer through the university’s 20 statewide sites,” Jackson said. “A student in the program could receive their Bachelor degree in four and a half years, or a bachelor’s and master’s in their field in five and a half. The Criminal Justice graduate curriculum is seeing a shift toward online instruction, so that we might serve the needs of students at the more distant statewide sites more effectively, through this type of instruction. It’s a definite recruitment tool.”

Jackson said that there are approximately 600 students in Ferris' Criminal Justice program, and for those who intend to begin their careers as police officers or sheriff’s deputies, the final two years of study focus on the competencies required to become licensed professionals.

“Whether a CJ student intends to earn a Generalist degree, complete our academy training or continue their studies with a Master of Criminal Justice Administration, we help them to see the breadth of opportunities that are available to them,” Jackson said.

The School of Education has also taken stock of student needs in recent years so that those who enter the program with hopes of forging a career in the classroom are made aware of other potential outcomes. Jackson said that the practical skills students develop through the education curriculum are valuable in different walks of life.

“The struggles of earning a state-level teaching endorsement are real,” Jackson said. “A general, non-teaching Education degree offers a well-rounded curriculum that can help a graduate enter fields like banking, or provides them marketable skills for management opportunities. We want a student’s time on campus and financial investment to produce a positive result, so seeing that they complete their degree is a key consideration for our college.”

Another example of the college’s effort to respond to student and industry needs is the implementation of a Digital Media Software Engineering completion curriculum that could be completed entirely through online instruction. Jackson said that the college will debut this offering in the Fall 2019 semester.

“A growing number of students choose to spend their time in learning by working online,” Jackson said. “We expect that this DMSE offering will be a game-changer for people in West Michigan, the state and the region. Many students are very interested in pursuing this field, but may not want to receive instruction on either the Grand Rapids or Big Rapids campuses. The School of Digital Media is working through their final courses in this curriculum, developing outlines for offering all this instruction online.”

Jackson said that employers and employment data indicate the need for coders and other professionals in software engineering, which prompted the college and its School of Digital Media to advance their timelines to prepare this offering, rapidly.

“When we first began discussions with the SDM faculty about this conversion, the thinking was that it might be a five-year project,” Jackson said. “It’s a tribute to everyone involved that the work will be accomplished in just one year’s time.”

Jackson acknowledged that Digital Animation and Game Design instruction has considerable appeal to students who may envision high-paying career opportunities, such as development positions with game manufacturers like EA Sports or Sony. The skill set that DAGD students acquire through their learning is being put to use in an ever-growing list of technological applications.

“This certainly has a deep connection to the lifestyles of many young people, and the prospects of how gamification could be utilized in the fields of education, business and healthcare evolves very quickly,” Jackson said. “Our DAGD students were able to show off some of their creations during Homecoming last fall. We are glad that the School of Digital Media has chosen to create a virtual reality lab, which will augment this curriculum.”

One of the college's highlights for each academic year is the Ferris Media Festival, where the talents of graduates in Television and Digital Media Production, DAGD and other disciplines are featured.

“An alumni-driven event such as this allows current students to see, and believe they can be part of projects like the ‘Call of Duty’ games, or to achieve the level of success similar to Lindsay Pepper, an alumna and Big Rapids native, who is an Emmy-winning member of the production team for the Netflix series ‘Stranger Things,’” Jackson said. “Our degree programs offer students significant skills that enable them to become valuable contributors in the entertainment industry, along with broadcast, instructional and institutional media.”

A longstanding and occasionally overlooked element of the COEHS operation is the Reserve Officer Training Corps program, or ROTC. Jackson said the 2018-19 academic year has presented an exciting opportunity, particularly for those students from “Promise Districts” like Baldwin, where the community provides tuition support for qualified high school graduates.

“ROTC participants are frequently found in our Criminal Justice programs, but those in the Corps can pursue any degree path,” Jackson said. “A new mission for the corps has been established, with the university being required to produce seven commissioned officers within a five-year period. Since ROTC will work to meet all costs related to the qualified participant’s academic tuition needs and provide them a stipend, we have real hopes to highlight this opportunity. We believe that students will agree there is great value in making the commitment, so they can earn their degree, then enter an adventurous and exciting career path, doing so with a reduced, or non-existent level of student debt.”

Jackson concluded that the College of Education and Human Services was not unique in such efforts to support students throughout the process of earning a degree, with a focus on limiting student debt, but he was proud of the contributions and initiatives offered by each of the COEHS schools during his two-and-a-half years as dean.

“Our students are making crucial and personal decisions, with regard to their careers and future obligations,” Jackson said. “We must do everything we can to help them turn that investment and effort into a positive and successful outcome.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Arrick Jackson is the Dean of Ferris State University's College of Education and Human Services.

John Smith is the communications specialist in the News Services and Social Media department of University Advancement and Marketing.

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