3 to PhD: Concordia’s Revolutionary Education Model

It all started in 2008 with a knock on the window. It was LaShawn Lee’s first day as principal of Faubion Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. She had just been told that there was next to nothing with regards to funding for her students, 80% of whom were part of the free and reduced lunch program. Then Joel Schuldheisz, a professor at Concordia University-Portland, knocked on her window. He asked if she needed any help. They talked at length and began to envision what they could do to address Faubion students’ many needs.

3 to PhD: Concordia's Revolutionary Model

Their ideas evolved and a collaboration was formed between Faubion and Concordia. In 2012, Portland Public School’s Building Improvement Bond was passed and it included rebuilding Faubion. Concordia stepped in to fund an Early Childhood Education Center, STEAM labs, maker spaces, and a Health and Wellness Center. Trillium Family Services and Kaiser Permanente signed on to provide counseling, and dental and health care services.

Now it’s finally here. On August 29, 2017, the grand opening will unveil the new Faubion School + Concordia University, a 3 to PhD® community, and 138,000 sq. ft. building that includes wraparound support for up to 800 preK-8th grade students.

But this is more than an innovative facility; it’s a revolutionary new education model known as 3 to PhD. To dive deeper, I spoke with Madeline Turnock, the Strategic Communications and Partnership Advisor at Concordia University-Portland.

Where did the name “3 to PhD” come from?

The “3” is for the first three trimesters of life and the “PhD” stands for Pursuing one’s Highest Dreams: This represents the support that 3 to PhD offers families beginning with prenatal care in the first trimester and continuing on to help children reach their full potential. The idea behind this stems from years of research on the importance of the earliest years of life, the social determinants of health, and how to best enhance the lives of children and families. 3 to PhD brings all of that together to close the opportunity gap and create safer, healthier, and more educated communities.

How exactly are Concordia students involved, and what type of impact does their involvement have?

Service learning is integral to the undergraduate student experience, so many of Concordia’s students choose to help at Faubion. For example, student nurses can use what they learn in the classroom to provide first aid training for the kids at Faubion. Meanwhile, CU student athletes help monitor recess and become kids’ role models. Over 300 Concordia faculty and student volunteers serve as mentors, reading coaches, and tutors at Faubion.

Many pre-service teachers enrolled in Concordia’s College of Education complete their training at Faubion, working with mentor teachers and a diverse group of students. Concordia students’ involvement provides needed support, while promoting a college culture in Faubion School.

I read that there’s also a healthy food program. How did that get started and how does it work?

This effort was spearheaded by ”basics,” formerly Pacific Foods, who will run a Food Club with help from Concordia business students. The Food Club will accept EBT, a food benefit program for low income qualifying people, and it will have a table with free organic food that people can take without having to sign in, and a demonstration kitchen to teach older kids how to cook healthy meals. There’s also a backpack program run by nursing students so kids in need will have healthy food over the weekends, and St. Michael’s Lutheran Church also helps provide food for those backpacks. Educator and innovator Juliette LaMontagne recently visited and was impressed by how we provide free, healthy food without stigmatization.

How can other schools replicate the 3 to PhD model?

You have to have community partners come together to form long-term relationships that are in the best interest of children. We toured many different schools to see different models and there’s nothing like 3 to PhD, where pre-service teachers are fully embedded in a public PK – 8 school with such a diverse population, and with so many different components.

Replicating our model does not mean you need a new building. It’s about providing wraparound services that kids need in order to thrive. So many kids are coming to school hungry, dealing with trauma from home and not ready to learn. A school can be the heartbeat, the safe haven of the community. But every piece must be in place for a child to be successful.

If other schools are interested, we can put a team together to help develop 3 to PhD in that location. We’re developing a toolkit so this model can be replicated – stay tuned!

It sounds like 3 to PhD requires a great deal of collaboration.

Yes, it’s highly collaborative, including parents, community members, top leadership at founding organizations, educators, and many, many more.

Prof. Joel Schuldheisz [who first knocked on principal LaShawn Lee’s window] continues his involvement. Co-design teams also work continuously to develop and enhance curriculum with and among educators.

I know community engagement has been an important aspect of 3 to PhD. How has the community gotten involved, and do you think the community needs to be involved in order for it to work?

Yes, you have to work together with the community to figure out its unique needs and how to best meet those needs. It’s not a top-down approach. It’s a collaboration, working alongside community members. We held dozens of community meetings and co-design groups.

What are two crucial elements needed to make 3 to PhD successful?

Resiliency and persistence. You have to remain absolutely focused on the needs of the children and the families. If everyone remains focused on the children’s success, then great things will happen.

How does all of this affect online graduate students? Why should it be important to them, even though their experience is a virtual one?

The key learnings from 3 to PhD will be used to inform future curriculum across Concordia’s education programs. There will be a lot of research and information we can glean along the way and as results roll in. At Concordia, our mission is to prepare leaders for the transformation of society. 3 to PhD is our mission in action—helping to build a better community from the ground up. We hope online graduate students will benefit from their association with this flagship effort and start 3 to PhD in their own communities.

For more information about 3 to PhD, check out this video now.

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