Now in its eighth year, the ECLC is providing associate and bachelor degrees in birth-to-age-five early childhood education, with the first group of bachelor’s degree recipients graduating last spring. It is reaching learners around the United States and around the world. Furthermore, the program is now on the edge of a trend nationally – addressing the challenges of educating young English-as-a-Second Language learners.
Holstrom says the program was the first of its kind at UC that was authorized tofund a new program from tuition generated by its new students. Start-up costs and the initial budget were supported by the UC Office of the Vice President for Finance as the ECLC built a student base that generated tuition to pay for instructors, support personnel and business-related expenses.
The student base, meanwhile, was facing a federal mandate. New federal rules required Head Start workers to earn at least an associate’s degree, or they could face losing their jobs to someone who had one. The majority of these students were working moms in their mid-thirties who worked and lived in rural areas – students who had been out of high school for years and would find it very difficult to travel to a traditional college campus to earn their degree.
The ECLC brought the college classroom to their living room, using the Internet, VHS, CD-Rom and CVD (CDs that can be played in newer DVD players). Because the majority of the students had little experience working on computers, online learning was an intimidating prospect as well, so the ECLC built in a support network specifically to meet those needs. "Much of the program’s success is attributed to the support each student receives as their current skill level is acknowledged and students are empowered and encouraged to develop new skills," Holstrom says.
As the number of learners in the ECLC grew, the program was able to generate more tuition revenue than expenses, and began paying down its debt to the Office of the Vice President for Finance by 2003. Holstrom says by the end of this year, the ECLC will have paid off its debt in full to the office.
"I think being entrepreneurial means listening to what your clients and consumers need," Holstrom says. "We made it a point to be out in the field where we could hear what Head Start teachers, what preschool teachers and what child-care providers needed and we’d examine what we could do to meet those needs," she says.
Furthermore, Holstrom is credited with developing strategic marketing partnerships with the national Head Start Association and the Ohio Head Start Association. "We’ve offered teachers who don’t have any other choices a chance and an opportunity to work toward a degree, allowing Head Start teachers to keep their jobs. We’re stepping up transfer opportunities for students in Ohio and around the country with colleges that are grant partners with the Office of Head Start," Holstrom says.
As the ECLC reaches learners around the world, agreements with the U.S. Department of Defense are providing online degrees to early childcare professionals in the Marines, Air Force, Army and Navy.
Holstrom led a $93,000 planning grant from the Head Start Bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to begin translating online courses into Spanish, an initiative to reach Spanish-speaking teachers working in Head Start centers located in Hispanic communities. The planning grant expanded into a $1 million Bilingual Bridge grant to continue this effort.
Last fall, Holstrom was P.I. on a grant that was awarded $1.2 million from the Office of Head Start. The five-year partnership, called "Todos listos (Spanish for "Everyone is Ready")," will support 37 Head Start teachers in Ohio working with high populations of Hispanic children, providing the teachers with tuition, books and laptop computers as the teachers earn either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the ECLC.
The agreement provides for the ECLC to serve teachers in the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, the Ohio-based programs of the Texas Migrant Council, WSOS Community Action Commission and the West Side Ecumenical Ministry (WSEM). "The purpose of this grant is to get preschool Hispanic children ready for kindergarten, and the only way that can happen is if the teacher has the strategies and skills to support the children and their families," Holstrom says.
Holstrom holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Spanish. Her Doctor of Education Degree (EdD) from the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) is in curriculum and instruction/higher education administration. Her dissertation examined how older women in teacher education programs experienced a traditional college campus.