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American Samoa Community College (ASCC) President Dr. Seth Galea’i informed Governor Lolo Moliga last week that the College has reached a milestone for education in the Territory. In a letter dated July 10th, the Western Association for Schools and College’s Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WASC-ACSCU) informed Dr. Galea’i that it has granted Initial Accreditation status to the ASCC Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) Program.


After his conversation with Dr. Galea’i, Governor Lolo subsequently shared with his Cabinet the good news that after almost a decade of internal planning and consultation with WASC, the ASCC Bachelors degree in Teacher Education is now fully accredited.


“The accreditation of the B.Ed is a realization of a goal that many people at ASCC have contributed to for many years,” said Dr. Galea’i, who recalled that the first discussions of the College offering a four-year Education degree took place not long after it first opened its doors in the 1970s.


“Striving towards this goal, especially in the last few years as it has come closer to becoming a reality, has strengthened the quality of our self-assessment in ways beneficial to the institution as a whole.  The accreditation is a testament to the quality of our teamwork at the College, as well as our ongoing professional relationship with WASC. There have also been many past Governors, ASCC Presidents, Department of Education Directors, and others who have contributed to this achievement. I believe we stand on their shoulders.”


In the recent years leading up to this milestone, ASCC has developed a four-year Teacher Education Program geared towards students who intend to work in the local education system. Teacher Education majors can begin their theoretical studies while still undergraduates, and by the time they enter their third and four-year courses, they spend a significant portion of their time in a real elementary or high school classroom. In addition to focusing on the unique challenges and opportunities of education in American Samoa, the ASCC B.Ed program offers local students an opportunity to earn a four-year degree without going off-island.


In addition to regularly scheduled review visits by the WASC-ACCJC, representatives of the WASC-ACSCU have made several visits over the last few years to evaluate the College’s ongoing development of the B.Ed program.


“The accreditation process is designed to assure academic quality,” said ASCC Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle.  “The WASC-ACSCU has a process that helps institutions move through each stage of developing a new program— from eligibility to candidacy to initial accreditation.  While it seems that it took ASCC a long time to reach accreditation, in reality we moved from eligibility to initial accreditation in less than two years.  This is a process that can take some schools up to 10 years. We’re grateful to the WASC-ACSCU for recognizing the quality and the unique nature of our B.Ed. program and assisting us along the fast track to accreditation.”


WASC comprises two main accreditation bodies, the ACSCU, which reviews four-year institutions, and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (WASC-ACCJC), which oversees two-year institutions. As a community college long accredited by the WASC-ACCJC to confer nationally-recognized Associate in Arts (AA) degrees, in order to make the transition towards offering a four-year Bachelors degree, ASCC has pursued a “joint accreditation” arrangement in which the WASC-ACCJC continues to accredit the institution as a whole, while the B.Ed program comes under the purview of the WASC-ACSCU.


Part of the WASC-ACSCU review involved Teacher Education majors completing the requirements of the four-year program and graduating prior to the actual accreditation of the program, with the understanding that their degrees would take full status retroactively upon completion of the process. The first ASCC B.Ed. graduates, Mrs. Tasia Talamoni and Mr. Selutoga Fuiava, received their degrees in spring 2012. Three more students completed the program in fall 2012, and another two in the spring of this year.


Teacher Education Department Director Dr. Lina Galea’i-Scanlan said that another two students will tentatively complete their B.Ed. degrees in the fall 2013 semester. With the B.Ed. now fully accredited, Dr. Lina Galea’i-Scanlan looks forward to a future of great promise for the program. “There are no words to describe how excited and proud we are to have reached this great milestone,” she said. “To be fully accredited puts us on the same level as other four-year programs throughout the US. Our department is deeply humbled to have been part of this journey, and we look forward to continuing to offer a quality B.Ed. program for our territory.”


For students who may be interested in pursuing the B.Ed., Dr. Galea’i-Scanlan offered an overview of what it entails. “Our program has several pillars, one of which is the focus on Samoan Language and Culture,” she explained.


 “At both the AA and the B.Ed. level, we integrate methods, practices and pedagogy to address the Samoan Child and his/her development and diverse learning needs. Each of our 300-400 level courses include field training that allows our students to get hands-on learning experience with a mentor as well as time to utilize what they learn in different classrooms for their practicum experience. We believe our program offers our people an opportunity to earn a professional degree without going off island, and is affordable for families here.  We believe that we can contribute to providing our people with quality college education and also help with the professional development of our local teaching force.”


In addition to Dr. Galea’i-Scanlan, the Teacher Education staff includes full-time faculty Dr. Larry A. Purcell, Mr. Filemoni Lauilefue, Mr. Sonny Leomiti, Ms. Shirley Delarosa, and Mr. Richard Park. For more information on the program, call ASCC at 699-9155 and ask for the Teacher Education Department.