The History of The Center: More Than Thirty Years of Service
“Everything we do is in response to a need.” — Dr. Julia Roberts, the Executive Director of The Center for Gifted Studies.
For more than thirty years, The Center has been concerned with the issues and needs of gifted students. With humble beginnings in a cubicle-like office to a current reputation of excellence throughout the nation, The Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University realizes that, in spite of progress, many needs remain unaddressed. With the support of friends, The Center looks forward to the future and to meeting those needs.
Becoming The Center: 1980 – 1989
1980 – Travel: The Center began offering travel experiences when Drs. Julia and Richard Roberts took a group of teachers to England for a month. Since 1986, educational tours have been taken once or twice a year. Groups of eighth grade and high school honors students, as well as interested adults, have accompanied the Roberts to China, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium. A series of overlapping grants from 1993 to 1996 through the United States Information Agency Grants and the Citizen Exchange Council, The Center established a Russian/American educational partnership. Russian students have attended VAMPY and Americans have traveled to Rostov-on-Don with The Center. In 2005, Dr. Roberts was invited to lead a People to People gifted education delegation to the People’s Republic of China.
1982 – The Gifted Endorsement for Teachers: Dr. Roberts incorporated gifted and talented classes into WKU’s graduate curriculum, and the first group of classes was offered two years before Kentucky established an endorsement for teachers of gifted students. WKU remains the only Kentucky university to have offered the four-course gifted endorsement cycle completely each year since its inception. The program allows teachers to become certified in one year.
1982 – Duke TIP Program: The Center has hosted the Kentucky Recognition Ceremony for Duke’s Talent Identification Program since 1982. Each May, some of the most academically talented seventh graders in the Commonwealth are honored at Western Kentucky University. These students took the ACT or SAT and earned qualifying scores.
1983 – The Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students: Teachers working on their gifted endorsement needed a practicum working directly with gifted and talented young people. The Center formed the Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS). That first summer, sixty students attended four of eight classes. SCATS has expanded to almost forty classes and well over two hundred students.
1984 – The Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth: After the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP) contacted the Kentucky Department of Education, then-WKU President Dr. Donald Zacharias and Dr. Julia Roberts visited Duke and realized that WKU and Duke were natural partners. One year after the affiliation began, The Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth, VAMPY, was created. In its first summer, thirty-one campers took advantage of three classes. Today, VAMPY features over a dozen classes across the curriculum spectrum with more than two hundred annual participants. VAMPY campers have come from 21 countries and 6 continents.
1984 – The Advanced Placement Summer Institute: In cooperation with the College Board, the AP Institute took the form of a week-long course. The AP Summer Institute has serviced over 5,000 teachers from almost every state and over a dozen foreign countries. Institute consultants are experienced Advanced Placement teachers and certified College Board consultants who have demonstrated their ability to help other teachers prepare to teach Advanced Placement classes. Today, seminars for both experienced and new AP teachers are offered for more than 500 educators each summer.
1989 – Becoming The Center for Gifted Studies: The Center for Gifted Studies became an official center at Western Kentucky University, with an enactment by the WKU Board of Regents in June.