Reflections On Our Graduates And Our College – May 2016

Dear all,

In the University calendar, there is no happier moment than Convocation, the symbolic moment when we come together to celebrate what we have learned and achieved together.

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Congratulations to all students who are graduating. We are proud of you and expect much as you embark on the next stage of your lives.  We appreciate that you chose to be part of our College community and that you will be our ambassadors in the future. You have left your mark on us, as we have on you.   Thank you to all faculty, instructors, staff and administrators who have toiled to ensure that students meet their potential. Of course, given that we are the College of Education at the University of Illinois, we are equally committed to producing a very particular type of graduate—one prepared not only with knowledge and skills, but with the sensibilities to navigate the complexities of all types of learning institutions and enhance the performance of learners of all backgrounds, free from any form of discrimination. With graduation, 450 of you will now become the next generation of Education alumni to influence public policy, improve learner outcomes, and provide new research that will invigorate how learning and teaching happens.

Our corridors are abuzz with those of you completing your studies. I can still remember my own anxiety about examinations and wish you the best. We are in the process of forming a College student advisory committee that will help us to ensure that we are aware of all issues that matter to you. Thank you for all those who have been nominated and are willing to serve. There is much that we need to be vigilant about, including the following observation/request made by one of C&I graduate students.

“I feel minority students need more support/encouragement because we face more hidden obstacles. Sometimes I think our faculty forget that. Like we were once those same little black & Latino kids that we study…& the ones our faculty make us read about. Our obstacles didn’t end just because we became PhD students. & we’re not always going to talk about them just because we’re articulate, it’s difficult stuff. We need to know we are cared for, more in the form or a family-like structure than a “business” relationship….”

I am heartened by the knowledge that the College of Education at Illinois is a strong community that cares about well-being.  And I am proud to say that it remains a highly ranked leader in preparing students to teach and lead throughout the state, nation, and world. We continue to thrive because of the creative faculty scholars who populate our classrooms, our enterprising students who collaborate on research and outreach with professors, and our alumni, who are prominent practitioners that make a real difference.

Much has been accomplished this year. Here is a sampling of what has occurred during the last 12 months and why we are hopeful about the future:

  • CEC led and completed a scenario-based discussion and planning exercise, drawing heavily upon the College faculty’s expertise and insights to develop recommendations to orient the College’s budget allocations and planning efforts as we steer the College toward greater excellence and more thorough responsiveness to the State of Illinois educational needs and to societal educational needs.

DSC_0143     scenario 5

Education has always offered the promise of democracy. This is not just a cliché. It is one of the key means for removing barriers to success, solving social problems and for creating conditions that underpin innovation as well as inclusive sociality. We are certainly privileged to be working in such a field, and certainly privileged to be in the College of Education at the University of Illinois given its traditions and its mission. Let’s not ever take this for granted. Let’s rejoice in what we share, and take pride in making a positive difference in the lives of others.

I do have to admit however, that this past year has been unusually difficult for everybody. It certainly has made us reflect on how robust we need to be to keep negotiating our collaborative endeavor in the face of internal and external challenges.

At the national level we have seen extraordinary levels of disrespectful and divisive discourse that cannot help but have an impact on us all. It has unleashed fears about who belongs, and who has the right to dignity and a good life in the United States of America. It has given license for new forms of racism, sexism, homophobia and jingoism circulate unabashed in the media and even on our campus. It has muted calls to redress racial injustices that have for far too long hobbled our aspirations for a fairer and safer lifeworld. Members of our community have been personally traumatized by vile posts on social media and chalking on campus grounds.

At the State level we have witnessed an equally extraordinary inability of those who govern us to do what is expected of them and ensure that the needs of citizens are duly met. The absence of a state budget for higher education has been debilitating for our University and our College. It has layered another set of fears and anxieties into the lives of students, staff and faculty. Coupled with the instability of campus leadership, we have had to face unusually constraining times.

Despite this, we have not waivered from our commitment to each other, our students and to our scholarship. We have worked thoughtfully together to consider how to maintain what is most important to us – our research, teaching and community engagement in the service of the public good. Along the way it has required even more difficult dialogues, a morality of compromise, consensus building, respect for each other and a steadfast commitment to creativity and innovation.

There are no words sufficient to express my admiration and gratitude to all.

Dean Mary Kalantzis



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