A Decade of Excellence and Equity
In her final State of the College address, TC President Susan Fuhrman sums up an era of change and advancement
“TC’s programs and centers are products of an environment where innovation is encouraged, where ideas can be tested, and where excellence can flourish,” said Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman in her final State of the College address on October 18th.
Fuhrman, who will step down this coming June, summarized a remarkable 11-year run that has included major research advances in the College’s three core areas of education, psychology and health; a renewed emphasis on social justice, diversity and civic education; TC’s emergence as a leader in digital education and education technology; and a hugely successful Campaign that has significantly increased student scholarship support and facilitated the renovation and enhancement of the campus.
Fuhrman and Janice Robinson, Vice President for Community & Diversity, also presented the College’s annual Elaine Brantley Award for Community and Civility to Lisa Cazzola,Associate Director for Administration and Operations, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and Sonya Jones, IT Training and Communication Coordinator, Computer Information Systems. And, as in past years, the day was marked by several musical performances and tributes.
A Broader Range of Perspectives
Among the many gains TC has made on her watch, Fuhrman singled out both the College’s increased diversity and its increasing awareness and activism around diversity issues.
The percentage of U.S.-born students identifying themselves as persons as color has risen from 35 percent when Fuhrman took office in 2006 to 46 percent today, while the entering class of 2017 represented 53 different countries and brought the number of different languages spoken in TC classrooms to 44. Meanwhile, crediting the work of Robinson and her team in creating “a supportive environment for talking to one another, learning from one another, and caring for one another,” Fuhrman said that TC has responded to the increasingly fraught national climate that confronts people of color with innovative student-faculty collaborations such as the Race, Ethnicity and Inter-Cultural Understanding Curriculum Map” – a 2013 initiative that charted all course offerings at the College that address those themes; the Civic Participation Project, which has addressed issues such as the mass incarceration of youth of color; and the past year’s launch of the discussion series “Black Lives Matter in Higher Education.” She praised the latter initiative for shedding “new light on how the history of race relations affects our lives as educators and as members of a scholarly community.”
A Faculty Greater than the Sum of Its Parts
In a parallel effort that has also paid major dividends, TC also has increased and amplified its research contributions by reducing barriers to internal collaboration.
“We’ve worked to maximize TC’s impact on the world by encouraging collaboration across disciplinary silos,” Fuhrman said. “External reviews of our departments showed scores of sparkling lights, or dots, which if they could only be connected, would create a whole equal to far more than the sum of its parts.”
“We’ve worked to maximize TC’s impact on the world by encouraging collaboration across disciplinary silos. External reviews of our departments showed scores of sparkling lights, or dots, which if they could only be connected, would create a whole equal to far more than the sum of its parts.”
— Susan Fuhrman
Perhaps the foremost example of connecting dots was the establishment in fall 2011 of a new academic department,Education Policy and Social Analysis (EPSA), which united the College’s many stellar policy-minded faculty and programs.
The spirit of collaboration also led to the creation of TC’s Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education and Policy, which has conducted ground-breaking studies on the state of play in K-12 nutrition education and helped shape national nutrition legislation, and the College’s “Reimagining Education” initiative, which for the past two summers has brought hundreds of educators to campus to learn new methods to promote learning in racially diverse schools.
Each of these efforts, and scores of others, owe their success to the TC Provost’s Investment Fund, which has invested more than $4 million during the past decade in promising cross-disciplinary collaborations among faculty. This in-house seed fund has been just one facet of the “smart, steady academic leadership” of Provost Tom James, Fuhrman said, crediting James for moving TC into an era of unprecedented inter-departmental cooperation.
Individual researchers have also continued to shine. In the past year alone, Fuhrman said, faculty have published 207 peer-reviewed articles and received 60 major awards and honors. The election of two TC faculty members to the presidencies of elite educational organizations – Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology & Education, as President-Elect of the American Education Research Association, and Regina Cortina, Professor of International & Comparative Education, as President-Elect of the Comparative and International Education Society – casts yet another “light on faculty excellence,” Fuhrman said.
“I’ve been filled with joy every time I hear someone refer to TC as a community or a family. We must continue to overcome silos and to honor civility and respect, even as we undertake the difficult discussions that are essential to good education."
— Susan Fuhrman
And over the past decade, TC has produced a wealth of paradigm-changing work, on fronts that include:
- Neuroscience, where studies by Kimberly Noble, Associate Professor of Neurology & Education, have demonstrated the negative impact of poverty on brain development in young children;
- Community college research, where Thomas Bailey, George & Abby O’Neill Professor of Economics & Education, and TC’s Community College Research Center have released a steady stream of research on dual enrollment, remedial education and other issues that directly affect the nine million students now attending the nation’s two-year institutions;
- The global refugee crisis, where Associate Professor of Practice Mary Mendenhall and Assistant Professor of International & Comparative Education Susan Garnett Russell have introduced new methods for training teachers working with displaced children, and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology Lena Verdeli has introduced new methods for providing psychosocial support that have been taken up by the World Health Organization.
Fuhrman also cited the work of George Bonanno, Professor of Psychology & Education, in demonstrating that the majority of people are far more resilient to trauma and loss than was previously thought; the ongoing impact of the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project, led by Lucy Calkins, Robinson Professor of Children’s Literature, which has reinforced its status as a leading provider of professional development to educators, particularly during the advent of the new Common Core State Standards; and the assistance provided to 40 New York City public schools by Michelle Knight-Manuel, Professor of Education and Associate Dean, in developing “culturally relevant, college-going cultures that reflect the cultural knowledge, background interests of their students.”
Equally important, Fuhrman said, TC’s faculty have “proved themselves to be great institution-builders by investing their time, care, and talents to make TC work better for everyone – especially our students. As a result, our students are happy to be here, and our faculty and staff are happy to inspire them and steward their careers toward success, fulfillment, and a legacy of service to humanity. That’s what I call a virtuous circle.”
Truly Putting the Future First
Saluting Vice President for Development & External Affairs Suzanne Murphy, Fuhrman said that students have also benefited from TC’s historic Campaign, Where the Future Comes First, which has now exceeded its $300 million target. As part of that effort, the College has created 150 new named scholarships, including 50 in the past year alone. During the past 11 years, TC also has increased its financial aid outlay from $12 million to $30 million, Fuhrman said, giving thousands of TC students a “jump on living their dreams and getting down to the hard work of improving our world instead of worrying about how they’re going to pay off their debt.”
She added that despite the campaign’s officially scheduled closing in December, “we plan to go all out fundraising for more student scholarship support throughout the academic year. In fact, fundraising for student scholarships will remain one of my four top priorities for my final year as president.”
Meanwhile, the impact of funds already raised are visible to anyone entering TC’s historic campus. Fuhrman praised Harvey Spector, Vice President for Finance & Administration, and his team for infrastructure improvements that have included upgrades to more than 25,000 square feet of classroom and instructional learning spaces.
Yet even as she celebrated the accomplishments of 10 years, Fuhrman also focused on unfinished business. She called for the TC to remain “deeply engaged” with New York City, citing the “special relationship” the College has reinforced with its surrounding neighborhood in recent years, anchored by the creation of the Teachers College Community School, which in the six years since it opened has become the preferred choice for parents of school-age children in West Harlem.
She urged administrators and faculty leaders to reduce the financial burden of a TC education through “creative redesign” of duplicative programs and course work.
“I know there are enthusiastic arguments for each discipline to have its own methods courses, but surely we could group disciplines at some level above the program or even the department to create synergies and efficiencies in methods preparation,” Fuhrman said.
She announced her intention to devote much of the coming year to shoring up TC’s position as a leader in education technology and expanding “digital professional development programming.”
And, returning an initiative she introduced in the 2016 State of the College address, Fuhrman lamented the nation’s “deep frustration about our country’s racial tension and violence; the extreme polarization of the electorate; the unwillingness to listen to opposing views; the spread of fake news; and the depressingly low rates of voting and active participation.” She renewed her call for TC to take the lead in the effort to “reframe civics education and foster political participation,” concluding, “I’ve been filled with joy every time I hear someone refer to TC as a community or a family. We must continue to overcome silos and to honor civility and respect, even as we undertake the difficult discussions that are essential to good education. In the years to come, I would like to think back to my TC family with warmth and love and hope that it remains a friendly, supportive home for generations to come.” – Steve Giegerich
Published Monday, Oct 30, 2017