Liberal studies program largest major at CSUN

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The implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act has become one of many influential factors contributing to increased student enrollment in CSUN’s liberal studies program, said Elizabeth Adams, CSUN’s interim director of liberal studies.

Since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in 2002, there has been an increase in public school teachers returning to universities to obtain their official teaching credentials, she said.

“The (Los Angeles Unified School District) had a lot of teachers on emergency teaching permits, but after No Child Left Behind, the district has tried to get them onto a credential track,” Adams said. “No Child Left Behind requires that teachers be highly qualified, which means they have to have the right credentials. The schools prefer new graduates from CSUN’s credential program, as opposed to a teacher that’s been teaching without the proper credentials for a few years.”

Liberal studies is currently the largest major at CSUN, consisting of about 2,200 students, with about 750 of those students eligible to participate in this year’s commencement ceremony, Adams said.

“We have a lot of graduates this year,” she said. “Usually, we have (between) 600 (and) 700 eligible.”

She cited various reasons as to why liberal studies is particularly popular among students.

“We’re perceived as a good program,” Adams said. “We have the ‘Teachers for a New Era’ Carnegie Grant, which is the Title 2 Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant. It’s helped us provide smaller, better classes, and allowed us to get non-education faculty involved in teacher training.”

Liberal studies adviser Tanya Cline agreed with Adams’ assessment of the program.

“CSUN tends to be an early adopter of state requirements,” Cline said. “We’re the first to develop newer programs, so we tend to receive grants and recognition and because of that, we attract more students.”

Adams said there were other factors that may attract students to CSUN’s teaching credential program.

“We’ve had very good success with our Integrated Teacher Education Program, which lets students get their (bachelor’s degrees) and preliminary teaching credential(s) at the same time,” she said.

The relatively high turnover rate in the teaching profession ensures a constant, high demand, Adams said.

“There’s always a need for teachers, especially in special education,” Adams said. “Regardless of (the) economy, teachers will always be able to find a job. L.A. is growing, and the surrounding regions are growing, which means there are more kids that need teachers.”

Renee Arellano, graduating senior liberal studies major, said she has learned to become a special education teacher.

“Special (education) teachers are in growing demand,” Arellano said. “I wanted to (teach special education) because it was where my heart was. I know it will be a lot easier for me to get a job.”

Teaching may also be attractive to students because they see teaching as being a clear career goal, Adams said.

“Some majors don’t have clear goals, but a liberal studies (graduate) knows exactly what it is that they’re going to do once they’re out of school,” Adams said.

However, Cline said teaching is not a profession to fall back on.

“I think people who are going into teaching really have a passion for it, or they wouldn’t go through all the rigorous testing and coursework,” Cline said.

Arellano expressed similar views about the credentialing process.

“I’ve come across a lot of people in my classes that opt not to get their (teaching) credential because they’re so burnt out and tired,” she said. “You get to a point where you cross over from simply being a liberal studies major to working on getting your credential, and it’s so much work that people decide they don’t want to do it, that they’re not cut out for it.”

Cline said most of the liberal arts students she comes across go into teaching because they love to work with children and want to make a positive impact on children’s lives.

“Many times, they were impacted by a teacher they had when they were younger, and (students) see it as a way to give back to the community,” she said.

Arellano said her desire to teach has been with her for a while.

“I knew that I wanted to teach (special education) since I was in first or second grade. I had an aunt that was a special (education) teacher, and I (used to) sit and watch her (teach),” she said.