Dean’s Welcome Message – August 2015

Dear all,

There is nothing more thrilling or inspiring than the start of the new academic year. To our new students, thank you for choosing to join us and share our mission. To our returning students, welcome back! We have missed you. Our classroom laboratories, offices, corridors and virtual highways are waiting to buzz again, filled with your enthusiasm and collegiality.

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I hope summer afforded you time for relaxation and creativity and that you return rejuvenated. Of course, much has been done during this break that contributes to our scholarship and outreach. Despite the anxieties about state budgets and federal grant programs, many faculty succeeded in securing external grants before the semester ended.  Congratulations to Jennifer Cromley, Stephanie Smith, Rob Lindgren, Susan Fowler, Dorothy Espelage,  Amy Santos, Gloria Gonzalez,  Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky, Meghan Burke, and Micki Ostrosky. In addition, 48 new grants were submitted from May 16 through August 15  including a $10 million application for an Institute for Educational Sciences center.  Superb!

Thank you to all involved in these efforts. Over the past few months, Dorothy Espelage, Jenifer Delaney, and Lorenzo Baber also made a significant impacts by testifying before legislators and policy makers.

We are progressing with leadership of the ‘Illinois Learning  Sciences Design Initiative’ (ILSDI) with a very strong set of submissions for the Phase I Seed Funding proposals to invent and test tools and theories for eLearning ecologies. There were a total of 13 submissions (involving a large number of faculty and students, and excellent coverage of various colleges, units, and centers from across campus). We ended up funding 10 of the 13 proposals. Fall promises to be bustling with activities around this initiative. To learn more – visit the videos of Symposium presentations . Our deep appreciation to Associate Dean for Research, Fouad Abd El Khalick and those who work in the Bureau of Educational Research for the innovative and supportive ways in which they enable our success.

A warm and hearty welcome to Chris Dunbar (Professor in EPOL) and Luc Paquette (Assistant Professor in Curriculum & Instruction) who are joining us as our newest faculty members. And congratulations to Gloriana Gonzalez, Jennifer Delaney, Joe Robinson, Linda Herrera and Mary-alayne Hughes on their promotions.Congratulations to Lorenzo Baber who has accepted a tenured faculty position at Iowa State University. We also wish Professors Violet Harris, Sharon Tettegah, and Richard Herman the very best for their retirements.  

This academic year we have seen an increase in our undergraduate population. I particularly welcome the increased diversity of our freshman class.  Our new major Learning and Education Sciences has attracted over 40 candidates in its inaugural year, with students looking for a variety of careers as educators in the knowledge economy. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Chris Span and his team in the Office of Academic Affairs are to be commended for their efforts in securing these results.

There are so many other achievements to bring to your attention but for the moment I would like to share with you a few highlights of the summer.

One is the study group that visited Australia. Twenty three undergraduate and three graduate  students, accompanied by Susan Michaels, Johnell Bentz and Kathy Ryan, visited Australia comparing the US and the Australian education systems.  They arrived uncertain of what to expect but well prepared to be ambassadors for our College. They traveled down the East coast from Cairns to Townsville to Sydney and Canberra engaging with students, teachers, principals, researchers and other educators. I caught up with them in Canberra for a debriefing and was greatly impressed by the deep knowledge they had acquired and their generous spirits in interpreting a new country. Head of School,  Peter Kell, from the Charles Darwin University, was a Fulbright Scholar at our College last semester, and is to be thanked for helping with the coordination of this extraordinary experience for our students, particularly arranging for them to engage with Australian indigenous educators. We are also grateful to our colleague, Rita van Haren, who arranged the school visits in Canberra.

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Also this summer, Professor Linda Herrera’s Global Studies in Education (GSE) study abroad had an extraordinary meeting with Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coliera Preca the President of Malta for an hour long discussion about migration, child rights, diversity in schools, and the importance of forgiveness.


We have made a commitment to assist all our students to study abroad, so it is heartening to see increasing numbers takeup of such opportunities’.

Internationalizing learning here in Champaign is a College commitment, so it was equally heartening to see the piloting of a Chinese language and culture camp for local children over the summer, supported by the Confucius Institute. This was undertaken in collaboration with alumnus Betty Chan and using her approach to Chinese language learning.  Thank you to Allison Witt and Wei Liu for overseeing this initiative. 

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When we choose to be part of the College of Education, we do so as a consequence of a deep commitment to the public good. This sense of purpose cannot be diluted by any disruption caused by bureaucratic missteps, institutional adversity or policy changes. Our primary goal is exploring, inventing, testing and applying ways in which we can make it possible for others to achieve across the lifespan. We come together, in our difference, committed to forging common understandings and productive ways of addressing the many factors of our intersectionality – socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic, religious, gender and sexual orientation.  The Black Lives Matter campaign and the Immigration reform movement are two instances of what yet needs to change. All of us, equally human, must grapple with the impact of historic injustices even as we embrace the promise of a more just future with educational opportunities for all.

As we start another academic year together, what could be more exciting and meaningful than the journey we share, and the power entrusted to us as educators, to make a positive difference in the lives of others and of course, the planet that sustains us.

Wishing you all a productive and creative new academic year.

Dean Mary Kalantzis