James Pappas, vice president of OU Outreach and dean of the College of Liberal Studies, is committed to lifelong learning. For the past 26 years at OU, he has dedicated himself to advancing continuing education for students from all walks of life.
Recently, Pappas drew international attention for his work. The Universitatea din Bucuresti, or the University of Bucharest, awarded him an honorary title of Professor Honoris Causa for his contributions to lifelong learning. The prestigious award, typically given out by European colleges fewer than 10 times a decade, was presented on April 26 at a public ceremony at the University of Bucharest, Romania.
The University of Bucharest, considered among the most important universities in Romania and southeast Europe, was established more than a century ago. Its Faculty of Psychology and Educational Studies selected and voted on Pappas to receive the honor.
Pappas was cited for his “outstanding ach-ievements in the field of adult and continuing education,” according to Romita Iucu, vice rector of the university. As a result of the ceremony, Pappas “became an elite member of our scientific community,” Iucu said.
“This recognition came as a surprise and was very humbling,” Pappas said. “The University of Bucharest is a great institution of higher learning in Europe. I am deeply honored by this award from my esteemed colleagues in Romania. I believe it recognizes, too, the great work in which the University of Oklahoma and OU Outreach are engaged, and it is another opportunity to showcase the university on the world stage. And for all of that, I am very thankful.”
In April, Pappas delivered an address to members of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Studies, providing his perspective on lifelong learning trends and the future of the field. After a ceremonial vote at the event, Pappas was officially recognized as an honorary professor.
Following the ceremony, Pappas participated in the Fourth International Conference on Adult Education at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi in Iasi, Romania, where he moderated a panel on adult higher education in the United States and Western Europe. Pappas also chaired the induction ceremony for the International Adult and Continuing Education (IACE) Hall of Fame, in which six internationally known adult and continuing educators were inducted.
“I’m excited about the fact that, while this is a personal award, it also recognizes that the University of Oklahoma is regarded internationally as a good school,” Pappas told The Oklahoman.
The award recognizes Pappas’ outstanding achievements but, just as importantly, serves as a first step in building a relationship between the two universities. OU currently has little involvement with any Romanian institution, but Pappas said the University of Bucharest is interested in expanding its own adult education programs and hopes to form a partnership that will benefit both schools, according to The Oklahoman.
“In the College of Liberal Studies, we focus on adult education, and that’s something the University of Bucharest is very interested in,” Pappas said in the interview.
“OU is a good model for how those types of programs can work. If we can develop activities between the two universities, it would enhance our ability to teach, as well as theirs, and create a great environment for exchanges.”
As more and more adults return to school to seek higher degrees, the importance of continuing education in the United States and Europe will continue to grow. This means that colleges will have to adapt to adequately cater to their students’ needs.
“What we’re seeing is that having more adults with master’s degrees can help a country’s economic development,” he said. “The University of Bucharest is very interested in seeing how we do it here and how they might assist their adults return to school and use that to help their country.”
This is not Pappas’ first encounter with international college relations. The OU Outreach program, of which he is vice president, has more than 30 programs on U.S. military bases around the world. Additionally, the College of Continuing Education teaches development classes for adults in various industries across the globe and works closely with exchange students studying at OU.
Before coming to OU, Pappas served as associate dean of liberal education, associate dean of continuing education and director of academic counseling at the University of Utah. He has worked as a psychologist in the Veterans Administration, a faculty member at Indiana University and an assessment officer with the Peace Corps. He has also consulted with governmental, business and educational organizations in the areas of psychological assessment, training and development and marketing.
Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.