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Dr. Wheelan speaks on the art of teaching and the accreditation process

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

 

Dr. Belle S. Wheelan is a woman who was ahead of her time, but she did not let that stop her from reaching her goals.

Wheelan currently serves as President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is the first African American and the first woman to serve in this capacity.

She spoke to the staff and faculty at Lamar State College-Orange on Thursday during its Convocation. 

“When I went to college, everybody was Dr. Somebody and they were next to God,” Wheelan said. “There was a high expectation of the students because they were on the college tract. They asked us questions. I couldn’t believe I was accepted there. It was wonderful.”

Wheelan added both she and her mother went for the same reason – to find a husband.

“That is where the men were,” Wheelan said. “I never had a female faculty member.”

While she did not find a husband, she did get an education. She said she met her husband after college.

“Remember it is the first time for that student to ask the question, even if it is the 500th time for you,” Wheelan said. “Remember the students registering for class this fall was asking for a bathroom pass in May.”

She also suggested each one to try navigating the registration process.

“When I started, we assumed the lecture method was the method,” Wheelan said. “Teaching is an art. Roles are very different today. Students are different today.”

Todays’ students are married, have children, divorced, have aging parents and not the traditional students of those freshly out of high school.

“We have to give them credentials, to build on each other to build on the degree,” Wheelan said. “A BA is not the goal of every student. We have to meet their educational needs.”

Part of meeting the students’ needs is being an accredited college.

Wheelan spoke of the accreditation process which a college must go through every 10 years.

“You just completed yours in 2015,” Wheelan said. “And I am so proud of you.” 

The process takes two years from the start to the final decision. Now, colleges must also submit to a five-year report to show progress.

One person attending said the information about each step was very informative and was grateful to Wheelan for explaining it.

Wheelan’s career spans over 40 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education.  In several of those roles she was the first African American and/or woman to serve in those capacities.