Our rich history: the success of the Thomas More Education department – trips abroad, the birth of the master’s program

Tom Ward
Thomas More University

Part 48 of our series: Retrospective and Vista II: Thomas More College/University, 1971-2021

The second part of this article on Thomas More’s Department of Education will focus primarily on two developments: study abroad programs and the process by which TMC eventually introduced the Master of Education (MAT) program and later the Master of Arts in Education. (MAE) program.

Judy Harris 1992 (TMU Archive)

By the early 1990s, globalization was recognized as a permanent phenomenon with implications for all human endeavours. Another related and important trend has been the ubiquity of multiculturalism and diversity, not only in education but also in the political and social spheres. While some segments of society could afford not to think about these trends, there were special requirements for higher education to adapt to them. Thomas More’s Department of Education understood that students being trained to be teachers must have experience with students from many non-American cultural backgrounds.

Judy Harris has made an important contribution to teacher training at TMC by providing students with the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of other cultures while studying abroad. Harris herself was a graduate of Thomas More College, graduating in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. In 1982, she received her Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Teaching from the University of Cincinnati. With experience teaching elementary schools and as an adjunct instructor and student leader at the University of Cincinnati, Harris began her career with Thomas More in 1980 (Harris Curriculum Vitae).

Harris clearly recognized the benefits that TMC students would receive by understanding the diversity of cultures. One of her first experiences abroad came in 1985 when she was selected as one of 24 American and Canadian social science teachers (out of over 300 applicants) who were awarded a scholarship for a 16-day tour of Japan. The tour was sponsored by the National Council for Social Research and the Japan Institute of Social and Economic Affairs. Harris understood the importance of such a visit: ‚ÄúTeaching global understanding has become important in social science education. We need to truly understand and understand other cultures in order to establish world peace” (Utopia, April 29, 1985, p. 3).

Harris with TMS students at the statue of Thomas More in Chelsea, England, 1996. (Photo by Christina Cento Sickmeyer, courtesy of Judy Harris)

If it was necessary for teachers to acquire such perspectives, it was equally important for students who are learning to be teachers. Harris created the opportunity for the trip in 1990, this time with students – they were, in fact, instrumental in creating the next phase of study abroad.

In response to a request made by elementary education experts in her Social Research Methods…

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