For almost 40 years, Dr. Cheryl Polson has demonstrated incomparable expertise and leadership as both scholar and practitioner for diverse adult populations. Further, she has been a strong advocate for how research and existing knowledge can improve adult education practice. Her research has examined how adult basic education instructors identify and accommodate disabilities for their students. She also has introduced adult education concepts and literature to practitioners working in diverse disciplines outside the field to include academic advising, meat and poultry food safety training, and homeland security. She co-edited a book that provided the field with a contemporary view of military education while also revisiting the original groundbreaking study of adult education in the armed services.
One of Polson’s most read pieces, “Teaching Adult Students” (1994) has been described as the most practical and useful article ever published on teaching adult learners. In 2002, she co-authored Responding to Adult Learners in Higher Education, which filled a major gap in the literature by combining the theory and research of adult education and college student development.
Polson co-conducted a nine-state national research study supported by a $525,000 grant by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research. This seminal research yielded a model for the Adult Basic Education community to successfully accommodate adults with disabilities.
Her efforts to extend the field’s visibility include two decades of working with the International Meat and Poultry HACCP Alliance’s instructor training and her weeklong classes on adult learning and teaching for the Midwest Journeyman and Apprenticeship Program and the National Glaziers, Architectural Metal and Glass Workers Apprenticeship Program.
Her recent works have focused on the application of adult education principles to military and homeland security education, including co-editing a New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education volume on military education, a first-time focus for this series. Over her career she has secured more than $2.6 million in external funding to develop credit and noncredit programs for faculty, soldiers, and military spouses. She also secured $2 million for the creation and delivery of a program to prepare Brigade Commanders’ and Command Sergeant Majors’ spouses for their informal command leadership roles. For her efforts she has received several awards from the military community, including the Council of College and Military Education’s William F. Kennedy Award and the Army’s Patriotic Civilian Service Award, as well as the Malcolm Knowles Outstanding Adult Learner Program of the Year Award from AAACE.
Since 2008, Polson has conducted numerous workshops on teaching adults at the annual Homeland Security Education Summit meetings. She co-conducted the only mixed methods research study to identify core content areas to be included in homeland security higher education graduate programs. She was invited to co-author a chapter outlining the history and evolution of homeland security education for a new homeland security textbook and done numerous workshops introducing adult education concepts to this emerging profession. In 2013, Polson was named to the board of directors for the International Society for Preparedness, Resilience, and Security, the newly formed homeland security education association.
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