October 2, 2008

Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology and Partners Celebrate the Urban Initiative Inaugural Event


Contact: Jaya Bhumitra of Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology, +1-310-568-5773, [email protected]

Groundbreaking Program Prepares Education and Mental Health Professionals for Long-Term Work in Underserved Communities

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) will celebrate the inauguration of its Urban Initiative on Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. The Urban Initiative is an umbrella program developed by Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology to establish a national model for preparing education and mental health professionals to work effectively in underserved urban communities. The Urban Initiative's goals are to develop a new generation of education and mental health professionals with the skills and will to work in culturally and ethnically diverse urban settings for the long-term, as well as impact future legislation affecting education and mental health services.

"GSEP has a long tradition of engagement with our urban neighbors. For more than 50 years, we have been preparing teachers, administrators, and mental health workers for service in the Greater Los Angeles area. Building on that history of service, the Urban Initiative has been developed to deepen the link between GSEP professional preparation programs and the education and mental health needs of those in urban settings," said GSEP Dean Dr. Margaret Weber.

The evening will include a reception and program hosted by Alma Salazar, Director of Education and Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and UNITE-LA, and feature two keynote speakers, Faye Washington, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA of Greater Los Angeles and Rhonda Brinkley-Kennedy, Psy.D., MFT, newly- appointed Director of the Urban Initiative. In addition, GSEP alumni and current students working in urban settings will provide testimonials from their experiences in front of the Urban Initiative partner organizations; GSEP faculty, staff, students, and alumni; and officials and community leaders from the Los Angeles area that are expected in attendance.

Dr. Aaron Aviera, clinical faculty at GSEP and Clinic Director of the Pepperdine Union Rescue Mission Clinic, a partner of the Urban Initiative providing free psychological services for Los Angeles' homeless, described why he is excited about the program: "It is one thing to devote your energy and talents to training students to go off into ventures in the world to provide service. It is much more exciting, as a faculty member and as a department, to both work alongside with our students and train them at the same time. There is a synergy that happens when you are in the classroom providing background education while also working on the ground with your students to make a tangible difference."

The Urban Initiative is integrating a research component into the program from the very beginning in order to evaluate the success of its efforts, refine its attempts to provide effective programs, and develop new resources as the Initiative matures. This research will take shape through the Urban Fellows program, which includes several key strategies: exposing students to the realities of urban environments so they may become cognizant of the damaging impacts of poverty; encouraging students to examine the preconceptions that might influence how students approach their work with urban residents; and broadening students' understanding of the complex interplay of economic, educational, familial, and cultural issues, and the impact of those issues on the students' capacity to provide quality service.

"This program is powerful because many of the young teachers that are placed in urban schools did not attend an urban school themselves," explained Dr.Anthony Collatos, Assistant Professor of Education at GSEP and a leader of several Urban Initiative projects, including the Urban Parent Teacher Education Collaborative. "They are teaching across race and culture and difference, and the Urban Initiative gives them the resources and insight necessary for success and sustainability in these challenging environments. Our students learn how to avoid burnout, become aware of different types of abuse, and understand the history and demographics of the community in which they will be working. As a result, the vast majority of our students have not only accepted positions in urban schools, but they are continuing work there years later, and are even holding leadership positions."

Dr. Collatos also discussed how the Urban Initiative ties into GSEP's mission to serve. "It is not only about having a presence in our academic community," he said. "It is about making a difference in our actual community, outside the walls of the classroom. Thus, the core of the Urban Initiative is not just to serve but to actually changethe conditions that actually cause the needto serve."

Urban Initiative Director Dr. Brinkley-Kennedy emphasized that, "The unique structure of GSEP as a graduate school of both education and psychology provides us the ability to design interdisciplinary approaches to solving complex urban problems in both the educational and mental health spheres. With that goal in mind, the Urban Initiative will continue to build knowledge, inspire service, and create change in Los Angeles, and hopefully one day nationwide."

Programs under the Urban Initiative

Multicultural Issues Impacting Community Speaker Series--- a biannual lecture featuring speakers who represent diverse backgrounds and views relating to education and mental health. These events assist in our students' journey towards multicultural proficiency.

Multicultural Research and Training Lab--- a forum for psychology doctoral students engaged in multicultural research to discuss and receive feedback on their clinical dissertations topics, as well as foster the creation of professional relationships.

Pepperdine Resource Youth Diversion and Education Program--- prevention, intervention, and counseling programs for at-risk youth and their families in Orange County, which are staffed by graduate and postgraduate interns from GSEP.

ProfessionalDevelopmentSchoolPrograms--- a deepened urban preparation program for pre-service teachers conducted in several Los Angeles area schools, enabling professional learning in a real- world setting.

Union Rescue Mission Clinic--- under the supervision of faculty, psychology students provide for the mental health treatment needs of homeless persons in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. The project is researching new forms of therapy for homeless populations.

Urban Parent Teacher Education Collaborative--- a cohort in the Master of Arts in Education with Teaching Credential program that focuses on the social and cultural foundations of education as well as engaging urban parents and community members in the education process.

Los Angeles Job Corps--- a system that provides a vocationally- focused alternative schooling for low income students, where GSEP psychology students have provided much needed counseling services on- site. Talks are underway to provide increased collaboration in the areas of education and mental health.

Teacher Research Centers--- a development of school-based action research projects designed to improve student achievement. These centers have the potential of transforming partnership schools into nationally-recognized centers for action research in urban education.

Urban Fellows Program--- a collaborative training program for education and psychology graduate students, which will prepare and help sustain a new generation of professionals who are committed to work in culturally and ethnically diverse urban centers.

About thePepperdineUniversityGraduateSchoolof Education and Psychology (GSEP)

GSEP is an innovative learning community where faculty, staff, and students of diverse cultures and perspectives work collaboratively to foster academic excellence, social purpose, and personal fulfillment. Through its integrative course work and practical training, GSEP prepares students to serve the needs of others through skilled leadership. GSEP offers seven master's and five doctoral programs across its five graduate campus locations throughout Southern California and online. Programs are fully accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing or the American Psychological Association. For more information please visit: http://gsep.pepperdine.edu/.

SOURCE The Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology

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