Claflin University launched a new educational program on Tuesday known as The Institute of Teaching and Nursing.

TITAN is an educational institute that is a part of the South Carolina Institutes of Innovation and Information.

SCIII is a nonprofit organization that offers support, resources, exposure and aid in the educational development of all seven historically Black colleges and universities in South Carolina.

“Through the leadership and vision of state Sen. John L. Scott, the South Carolina General Assembly appropriated over $18 million in 2021 towards the development of the educational institutes of the seven HBCUs. There are specific focuses and disciplines united to increase opportunities and exposure for their student bodies, on campus, and the surrounding communities in the area,” SCIII Executive Director Dr. Gwynth Nelson said.

The TITAN institute will primarily focus on providing opportunities in the areas of teaching and nursing, according to Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack.

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There’s a critical need for employees in those fields locally, regionally and nationally, he said.

“The TITAN institute will focus on education for students who are pursuing teaching and nursing careers and I know that this will be transformative, a true game changer for Claflin University and the community,” Nelson said.

Nelson said corporate partnerships will help students find scholarships, internships, jobs after graduation and other opportunities.

“SCIII provides the perfect conduit for partnerships between South Carolina HBCUs and states, business and industry, improving the overall workforce in South Carolina. We know you are great and SCIII is excited to experience the expansions in the greatness of Claflin and TITAN,” Nelson said.

Dr. Shannon B. Smith, chair of Claflin’s Department of Nursing, was a key factor in pushing for the TITAN institute and helping implement TITAN programs at Claflin.

“Nursing took on a new look with COVID-19 and we have great opportunities to help eliminate health disparities across the African American population and TITAN is an opportunity to enhance what we do in nursing,” Smith said.

Smith plans to tackle and eliminate health disparities, not only across South Carolina, but also within the African American population through exposing high school students to exceptional opportunities and experiences through a summer institute.

“One of the things I have noticed as a longtime educator in nursing is that many students who want to enter nursing are not well prepared. They don’t get what they need in high school so they come to a nursing program ill prepared and not completing the programs,” she said.

“Through our summer institute with nursing, we want to engage high school students first to help them understand what college is about. We want to help them get acclimated as well as help them develop study habits and also understand what nursing is. We want to give them experiences where they can chat with nurses and actually see what happens in that field or course, and from that we hope that they will end up in our BSN program and ultimately in that master’s program as well,” Smith said.

Claflin University will also be able to acquire new state-of-the-art equipment through TITAN that will help students gain real-world experience and skills.

“Through an academic practice partnership with the Family Health Centers, we are exposing our family nurse practitioner students to the real world in the rural settings of South Carolina. Statistics tell us when patients see providers who look like them, they have better outcomes and so this is a big piece of what we will do with TITAN,” Smith said.

Smith also has plans to incorporate educational summits into the TITAN institute so that students can become equipped and qualified candidates when looking for jobs in the industry.

“What we want to do is find out those key areas in the clinical environment where providers need students to be prepared so that we can in turn prepare them so that they are the best-qualified candidates for those jobs in the industry,” Smith said.

Dr. Anthony A. Pittman, dean of Claflin’s School of Education, also played an important role and shared visions of how TITAN will be administered at Claflin University.

“Where teacher education is concerned, common among our challenges are requisite licensure examinations. The impact of program entrance assessments on aspiring teachers and teachers of color leaves no doubt that TITAN is not only essential, but critical to efforts in South Carolina to sustain and to develop a diverse set of educators for all of South Carolina’s K-12 learners,” Pittman said. One of TITAN’s goals is to strategically and systematically prepare students for tests.

Pittman plans to arrange opportunities for aspiring teachers to learn various skillsets that will help with the taking of standardized tests and that will help in the classroom.

“We intend to engage in experiential observations that will center classroom management and the development of positive classroom climates that are conducive to learning and accomplishing academic achievement for K-12 students,” Pittman said.

Periodic workshops will be held and keynote speakers will be able to share knowledge about their efforts to aid underperforming schools.

“Among the anticipated outcomes are to strengthen the nexus between high schools and our institutes of innovation and information, particularly around teaching and nursing,” Pittman said.

Claflin University and TITAN hope to bring in more students who are interested in teaching and nursing and give them cutting-edge experiences and opportunities that can better help the campus, the student body and the community as a whole.

Sen. Scott, a Columbia Democrat, said, “We’ve got to introduce more young people to teaching and nursing. Our young people are shifting to larger areas to go to school and are missing out on a great experience when they leave their area and don’t participate in HBCUs.”

Lauren Pringle, a 2022 Claflin University mass communications graduate, is reporting for The Times and Democrat as a Lee Enterprises-sponsored summer intern.

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