College awaits approval of new specialist degree

Emma Austin

WKU currently offers a Master of Arts in Education in gifted and talented education and development and has plans to move forward by offering a specialist degree available to students who already have a master’s.

The program was approved by the Board of Regents last month and is awaiting approval by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Julia Roberts, Mahurin Professor of Gifted Studies, said she initiated the idea to offer the specialist degree and anticipates it assisting people who already have a master’s degree but wish to further their qualifications in gifted and talented education and development.

“Many different people would find the specialist degree in gifted education and talent development useful,” Roberts said, listing educators, policy makers and workers in nonprofit organizations as people who could find a background in talent development.

Roberts has worked at WKU for more than 35 years, during which time she began the Center for Gifted Studies, which “provides exciting educational opportunities for gifted young people, rigorous professional development for teachers, and support for parents of gifted young people,” according to its website.

“WKU has a lot of resources for this particular specialty,” Roberts said. “We have a long history of offering programming for gifted students.”

Roberts is also the executive director of the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, the school offered through WKU to high school students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.

“The success of Gatton Academy has been pretty remarkable,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of opportunities here at WKU, and we specialize in the area of gifted education and talent development.”

WKU is the international headquarters to the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, as well as the headquarters for the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education.

“We’re mighty proud to be offering as much programming and graduate work as we do at WKU,” Roberts said. “This is truly an outstanding course of study for us to offer.”

Sam Evans, dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, said the program would benefit individuals who may not work in an educational setting but have an interest in the area of gifted education and talent development.

“It’s designed for individuals who . . . also have an interest in furthering the work we do as a society in providing appropriate experiences for individuals who have been identified as having exceptionalities in academic ability,” Evans said.

Evans said WKU has been a leader in Kentucky for a number of years in providing programs for students seeking to work with children identified as gifted.

“This is a very appropriate step for WKU in terms of academic degree programs because of the importance of providing appropriate education experiences for all students in our public schools,” Evans said. 

Reporter Emma Austin can be reached at (270)745-0655 and [email protected]