Fairfield University professor leads early childhood education team to South Africa with Rotary Foundation grant



Image: Early childhood teamAt Monday's official announcement of the Rotary Foundation award of a $75,000 grant for Early Childhood Education Training in South Africa, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch joined team leader Fairfield University Associate Professor Dr. Barbara Welles-Nystrom of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and her six-member team of early childhood experts and practitioners, at Housatonic Community College to applaud the global effort this grant will make possible.

The grant is given in association with Rotary Districts 7980 in Connecticut and 9400 in Rustenburg, South Africa and will enable the team to observe and interact with the early childhood organizations associated with the Royal Bafokeng Institute. In this collaboration, Welles-Nystrom will join Dr. Laurie Noe, associate professor of early childhood education at Housatonic Community College, who will lead the training for the South African six-member team that will be sent to Connecticut. Welles-Nystrom's work is a vivid example of Fairfield University's commitment to a two-year focus on Global Citizenship.

"This is an important opportunity for Fairfield University to begin collecting cross-cultural comparative data on South African childrearing practices and beliefs which we can then use in future teaching and research as part of the Global Citizenship focus," said Welles-Nystrom. "We all look forward to collaborating with the South African team and welcome them to Fairfield University and Housatonic Community College for their March visit."

Other team members include Rotarian Tim Bartlett, executive director of the YMCA, the largest community-based school readiness program in Bridgeport; Donna Thompson-Bennett, coordinator of Bridgeport's Parent Leadership Training Institute; Heather Ferguson, a speech and language pathologist with the Bridgeport public schools; and Lindsey Davis, a kindergarten teacher with Bridgeport public schools.

Welles-Nystrom continued, "I am honored to be a member of such an exceptional group of professionals as the Bridgeport Team. I learned of the opportunity from Chris Johnson, Fairfield's director of international programs and president of the Fairfield Rotary Club and with Dean Susan Franzosa's encouragement, I became involved in this endeavor."

The goal of the Rotary Foundation grant is to improve knowledge about how government and non-governmental early childhood education agencies cooperate to improve early childhood education for at-risk children, to share early education best practices and enhance cultural and learning opportunities for both children and teachers and to improve parent engagement.

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A team of early childhood education specialists from the Bridgeport area will visit South Africa's Royal Bafokeng Nation next month to observe and interact with the early childhood organizations associated with the Royal Bafokeng Institute. Shown with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch (far right) are team members (from left to right) Lindsey Davis, a kindergarten teacher with Bridgeport Public Schools; Heather Ferguson, a speech and language pathologist with the Bridgeport Public Schools; Dr. Laurie Noe, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at HCC, who will lead the training for the six member team that South Africa will then send to Connecticut; Rotarian Tim Bartlett, executive director of the YMCA, the largest community-based school readiness program in the Bridgeport; Donna Thompson-Bennett, coordinator of Bridgeport's Parent Leadership Training Institute; and Rotarian and Associate Professor Dr. Barbara Welles-Nystrom of Fairfield University who is team leader of the South African collaboration. 

Photo credit: Anson Smith/Housatonic Community College

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 16, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 151