CSU and MCSD Forging Comprehensive Partnership

Soft Skills Conference Scheduled Next Week for PK-20 Educators

Columbus State University and the Muscogee County School District are embarking on an unprecedented partnership designed to improve the caliber of teaching and learning in this region, and to better prepare local students for today’s workforce.

A tangible result of this partnership is a ground-breaking conference scheduled next week for educators and administrators from all levels of local education. Chief among the goals is to promote active learning techniques that incorporate soft skills desired by today’s employers. Such skills include real-world problem-solving, working well in teams, communicating effectively, and meeting professional workplace expectations.

Called E3 (Engage, Equip, Energize), the two-day event will involve almost 200 teachers, professors, deans, principals and other education leaders. Organizers expect participants to be active and engaged in the learning process, to be challenged to think critically, to learn more about developing and teaching soft skills, and to have some fun while interacting with other top educators from this community.

Sponsored jointly by the Muscogee County School District and Columbus State University, E3 will take place on Oct. 9-10 at the Cunningham Center on CSU’s main campus. The event is by invitation-only.

E3 is being organized by Tom Hackett, a former public school principal, and former provost and interim president at CSU who is now a CSU education professor and executive director of K-12/university partnerships; former Muscogee County teachers of the year Kim Lester and Stefan Lawrence; Bridget Markwood, an active learning and leadership consultant who has developed and led soft skill youth development programs for nearly 20 years; CSU Assistant Vice President of Institutional Assessment Kimberly McElveen; Sally Baker, education director for the Springer Opera House; and Kim Shaw, a CSU physicist, co-director of UTeach Columbus and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education's 2015 Georgia Professor of the Year.

“This conference is the most visible result so far of a partnership that has been building and developing for years between CSU and the Muscogee County School District,” said Chris Markwood, president of Columbus State University. “Developing some new initiatives has taken place over the last year, but a partnership of this magnitude would not have been possible if CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions had not already been working closely with the school district for many years.”

The PK-20 partnership with the Muscogee County School District (MCSD) will:

  • Align university curriculum with what MCSD seeks for its teachers.

  • Collaborate on faculty development to promote more active learning.

  • Plan for the development of an urban lab school.

  • Begin planning for the transformation of school libraries into innovation and discovery centers.

  • Expand efforts to advance soft skills in PK-graduate education with MSCD and CSU.

  • Increase participation in Move On When Ready (now being called Dual Enrollment).

“As we showed when the news came out that the Muscogee County School District’s average total score on the SAT beat the state average for the first time, our students and teachers are making strides in the classroom,” said MCSD Superintendent David Lewis. “Becoming stronger partners with Columbus State University bolsters our efforts further. We expect this collaboration will better support our current teachers, better prepare our future teachers and ultimately improve student achievement.”

Markwood and Lewis presented the partnership plan during a MCSD School District work session in November.

Since then, they have worked to implement these goals with various groups within both organizations and in the community. CSU has involved its Center for Quality Teaching and Learning, its Quality Enhancement Project and its Leadership Institute.

Columbus Technical College also plays a part, which is particularly relevant with the Move On When Ready/Dual Enrollment initiative, and as part of the Columbus 2025 plan to develop a talented and educated workforce to help spur business development in this region.

“This E3 conference is an event that will set the stage for even more innovation and creativity in the classrooms at CSU and in our local school district,” Markwood said. “We also hope it will show the business community how serious we are about responding to their needs.”