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.
The 1980s: Commencing Our Work
- Julia Roberts begins a series of one-day summer workshops for gifted education professionals. These workshops run for ten years and feature innovators in the field of gifted education.
- Julia teaches the first graduate courses in gifted education at WKU, one of the first universities in the state to offer such courses.
- We provide our first program directly for gifted and talented students when we host the Duke Talent Identification Program’s (TIP) Kentucky State Recognition Ceremony. The event, which The Center has hosted every year since, recognizes seventh graders who have scored exceptionally high on ACT or SAT exams.
- The Center launches our first summer enrichment program: the two-week residential Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS). The camp, which comes to life as a way to provide a practicum to WKU graduate students in gifted and talented education, allows academically talented students who have completed grades six through eight to take a wide range of classes and form a community whose members share similar outlooks and interests. A nonresidential option is later added. By 2017, almost 5,700 students from across the country and several foreign countries have participated in the camp.
- The Center holds our first Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY). The camp is created in coordination with Duke TIP, which wanted to expand its own summer program and reached out to The Center through Susan Leib, the gifted consultant at the Kentucky Department of Education. The three-week residential camp is held in late June and July for students in grades 7–10 who have achieved high scores on the ACT or SAT. VAMPY provides gifted young people the chance to focus on one course for six hours each day and to connect with like-minded peers through a variety of social activities. As of 2017, almost 5,600 students from across the country and at least eight countries have attended the program.
- Recognizing that Kentucky’s new Commonwealth Diploma program would increase the need for outstanding professional learning for Advanced Placement (AP) course teachers, The Center cooperates with The College Board to supply weeklong summer workshops in teaching AP courses. By 2017, more than 9,000 teachers have come to our AP Summer Institute to learn how to teach everything from biology and human geography to English literature and studio art, with many topics taught at both beginning and experienced levels.
- WKU first offers the endorsement, or area of specialization, in gifted education. It is the only Kentucky school to continuously offer the entire sequence of four graduate courses as a one-year program. As of 2017, more than 400 educators have earned this endorsement at WKU, and the university is one of seven in the state to offer it.
- We initiate The Center’s travel program with two- or two-and-a-half-week international educational tours led by Julia and Dick Roberts for high school honors students (and eighth graders, beginning in 1994) taken before or after our summer programming has finished. These summer trips include the British Experience (England, Wales, and Scotland), the European Experience (Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands), the Italian Experience (Florence, Rome, Pompeii, and Venice), and two visits to China. We take our last long summer trip in 2003 but continue with tours over fall and spring break.
- The Center holds our first annual Symposium on Kentucky’s Children Who Are Gifted and Talented, funded by a grant from the Richardson Foundation. In 1991, we team up with the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education (KAGE) to hold the symposium annually. The goals of the events, which are attended by a wide range of stakeholders, are to disseminate information on current research and practice, discuss and recommend appropriate learning opportunities, discuss economic and policy considerations, and develop policy guidelines. By 2017, we have held 26 symposia.
- The Center for Gifted Studies becomes an official center at Western Kentucky University with an enactment by the WKU Board of Regents.