Rosemary Caffarella, Ph.D., has graced the field of adult education with her keen mind, compassionate spirit and caring presence. Her scholarship has influenced generations of leaders, researchers and theoreticians as well as professional practitioners, due to the quality and significance of her work in adult education. Caffarella believes her role as an educator is to assist learners to critically examine and reflect on how they define knowledge, learning and education.
Early in her career as assistant dean of the University of Maine’s Graduate School, she spearheaded the development of two interdisciplinary graduate degrees, a master’s and a doctorate degree for adults. During that process, she worked with natural and social scientists, engineers, business professionals and others who learned about and developed respect for the field of adult education. In subsequent university positions as a faculty member at the University of Maine, as well as Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Northern Colorado, and Cornell University, she has influenced both adult education and a spectrum of students from other disciplines who have taken the adult learning torch to their disciplines.
Being a leader in the adult education field, Caffarella has contributed scholarly research and the resulting literature that has in turn significantly impacted the field of practice as health care professionals, engineers, corporate executives and others better cultivate their understanding of the adult learner population. Her work has improved program development efforts that impact the functioning of these organizations and communities.
Caffarella’s lifelong career trajectory and knowledge have coalesced—successful administrative acumen and community development work, award winning program development, well respected teaching and scholarship, deep understanding and contribution to adult learning and psychosocial development of women—to contribute to the groundbreaking nature of her breast cancer education initiative in the country of Malaysia, a context where no word existed for breast cancer, and even discussing it is has been a taboo. After her own diagnosis of breast cancer, Caffarella galvanized energy and donned her adult education cap, and began visiting patients and planning educational programs, first in the U.S., and then other countries.
In Malaysia specifically she was able to create, in collaboration with Universiti Putra Malaysia, a breast cancer education program that has grown into a nation-wide effort to support these programs throughout Malaysia. The program sponsors such activities as translations of materials into the language of the country, support groups together with an education program, counseling and a telephone information line, a Web site portal with many resources, a resource center and educational programs for general public. These programs are now funded by various ministries and non-governmental organizations along with universities, and are a part of the Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Medicine and Social Science Institute. In addition, the program has many willing and committed volunteers. Her efforts have now progressed beyond Malaysia as an invited participant in the Breast Health Global Initiative for low-and middle-income nations sponsored primarily by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
A few of the numerous honors attesting to Caffarella’s impact include an array of awards for teaching excellence. She was the recipient of the Malcolm Knowles Award for contributions to self-directed learning, and twice the recipient of the Cyril Houle Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education. She was been awarded several research grants for her work in adult and continuing education.
Caffarella has written approximately 14 books, including three monographs, 20 book chapters, 35 refereed journal articles, 60 papers in proceedings and numerous non-refereed articles. Her award winning book, Learning in Adulthood, has been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
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