The School of Education at Mississippi University for Women is creating spaces to enhance student performance and provide professional development for community educators.

“The School of Education supports many community partnerships and connections. These new spaces allow us to have modern and collaborative meeting spaces with our community stakeholders,” said Penny Mansell, director of The Child and Parent Development Center at The W, who coordinated the renovation for the School of Education.

After 10 months of planning and construction, a collaborative early childhood classroom and a flexible professional learning environment are among the spaces that were recently created by the School of Education. The new learning environments are centered around providing teacher candidates with the skills to succeed and the confidence to practice those skills. The entire first floor of the School of Education, which includes three classrooms, three offices, the lobby and the hallway, was renovated to facilitate learning and brain-building. 

According to Mansell, the design was inspired by the building’s original mid-century modern architecture. She said the school embraced the functionality and lines of the architecture to build a bright and creative space that allows for the freedom of collaboration and innovation.

Mansell explained, “We wanted to come out of the pandemic with modern and new spaces that allowed us to meet together, fire a creative spark and build a willingness to learn and grow. It was important that our students and community partners have vibrant spaces to collaborate.”

Rooms 120 and 124 have already been used by different departments across campus as learning spaces for early childhood development. Students from The W’s speech-language pathology program and Jumpstart have used the newly renovated spaces due to the hands-on classroom design. Mansell said she looks forward to the spring when more professional development will be offered, like a session sponsored by Dr. Bonnie Camp to teach early language development with puppets for early childhood educators.

“Based on research, the newly created space will capture the brain’s attention while supporting students’ preferred way of learning. This will enable the brain to process, retain and recall the information learned, which will lead to student success,” said Melinda Lowe, director of the Office of Outreach & Innovation at The W.

Lowe added that the PHILL project is a multi-year, $300,000 project. The first phase of $150,000 upgraded the physical learning environments and will allow all stakeholders to embrace creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. Phase two begins in January 2023 and will add the technology to provide methods for learners to interact in a synchronous online and in-person delivery method. All teacher candidates can practice their craft using scientifically-based research in the Collaboratory and children of all ages can participate in place-based learning enrichment activities. In spring 2024, The PHILL will roll out additional quality professional development opportunities for Mississippi educators.

Improvements to the School of Education were made possible by the Phil Hardin Foundation whose goal is to be a catalyst for educational opportunity and community improvement in Mississippi.

Lowe said, “The Phil Hardin Innovative Learning Labs (PHILL) Project offers the School of Education an opportunity to begin a systemic reform initiative by providing innovative learning laboratories for not only faculty, staff and students, but also children of all ages.”

In the past decade alone (2011 through 2021), the Hardin Foundation has paid out more than $27 million in grants to improve student achievement; make educational and enrichment opportunities more available and equitable; increase understanding of Mississippi arts, culture and history; and build community capacity. Since the foundation’s creation in 1964, the foundation has invested $70 million toward this goal.

“Room 124 was originally the Phil Hardin Laboratory for Home Economics in 1973. The entire first floor of EDHS is now the PHILL (Phil Hardin Innovative Learning Lab) and will be used as a creative and flexible learning and meeting space, primarily supporting early educators. After 50 years, it’s phenomenal that we’ve been able to come full circle with another Phil Hardin project that will impact our student success. We are hopeful that these new and innovative spaces will help us recruit our next generation of educators and give existing teachers a positive place to build relationships and expand their skills,” said Mansell.

The W’s School of Education is dedicated to innovation from early childhood through post-graduation in a complete lifelong learning model of education. The School of Education is organized to enhance The W’s degree-based teacher preparation programs while also providing critical outreach to the region and state through development opportunities for working professionals, life enrichment programs for members of the community, early childhood and parent education and development and enrichment programs for Pre-K – 12 students. The School of Education is comprehensively designed to serve student populations from Pre-K through retirement.

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.