Dear Members of the Teachers College Community,
As classes begin, I want to extend a warm welcome to our new students, an equally warm welcome back to our returning students, faculty, and staff, and my best wishes to all of you for a successful, fulfilling and safe academic year.
I could not be more excited or proud of our newly enrolled students. You represent 47 out of 50 states, and 62 countries across six continents. My colleagues and I feel closely connected to you, whether you’re living in our residence halls or studying remotely from your homes throughout the world. You are now part of a community of scholars and practitioners, all united in the mission of creating new knowledge and putting it to work for the advancement of social justice and betterment of society. At the same time, we will always put a premium on being accessible and responsive to you, and hope you won’t ever hesitate to reach out to your professors, advisors, and administrators for whatever support or assistance you need.
I am equally proud of our returning students. When we were forced last March to switch quickly and with little warning to remote instruction, you rose to the occasion not only to keep on track with your own course work, but also to help even our most digital-savvy faculty deliver a more meaningful experience. Thanks to the great work by many students, faculty, and staff to strengthen online teaching and learning, Teachers College will offer our students ever more effective preparation for successful careers in education, health, psychology, and leadership.
And I am grateful and proud of all our faculty and staff, who have contributed toward keeping TC strong and focused on our mission. We all owe a special debt of gratitude to our colleagues in facilities, public safety, IT, payroll, the mail room, and others who have come into our buildings in order to protect and care for our residents, and to keep vital systems operating without interruption.
I also want to thank our administrators and faculty who have gone many extra miles to ensure a safe and successful launch to the academic year. While TC never really slows down at any time of the year, the pace at TC usually lets up over the summer.
Not so during the summer of 2020. We decided back in early June that we would prepare to conduct our classes online this fall. From that moment on, we mobilized our expertise and resources in digital learning and other areas toward delivering both outstanding instruction across all of our programs and a rewarding experience for all of our students across the College. By committing ourselves early in the summer to online instruction this fall, we have been able to focus much more effectively on strengthening our digital infrastructure and pedagogy, while also developing rigorous processes and protocols to keep anyone who does need to be on campus healthy and safe.
Although we are confident that our plans are the most prudent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand that remote learning and work presents some unique challenges. For example, our faculty are working to accommodate students in different time zones. So many among us have faced more stressors in caring for elderly or infirm loved ones. And we understand the problems that parents face given the uncertainty about schooling and the likelihood that almost every child will have at least some virtual instruction. Thus our students, staff, and faculty with children bear the difficult burden of combining work, study, and child care.
As we meet the more immediate challenges from the pandemic, we are also laying the foundation for positioning TC as the world’s preeminent graduate school of education, health, and psychology. Later this fall, I look forward to updating all of you on exciting initiatives to strengthen our academic programs, our research infrastructure, our student and career services, and digital pedagogy. We are also continuing to develop our comprehensive strategy for expanding our ongoing work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion – both throughout the College and society.
Finally, Teachers College is more than our great teaching and our innovative, vital research. We are always at our best when we work and learn together as one united community in a spirit of mutual respect. To see colleagues and members of our community rally around one another in order to solve novel, daunting problems and to keep TC on track has been inspiring. During this difficult time, we must continue to work hard at building and maintaining a strong sense of community among our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees.
As fall approaches, I am mindful of how hard so many of you have been working, and hope that everyone took time out over the summer in order to rest. For my wife Carmenza and me, spending ten wonderful days with my daughters, their spouses, and four grandchildren – and away from screens, Zoom meetings, and phone calls – was remarkably restorative. In fact, I strongly recommend taking something like a two-hour “micro vacation” from checking your devices for texts, calls, and emails after working hours as often as you can.
Heading into the Labor Day weekend, I urge all of you to take some time off for your families and yourselves. The work will still be there come next Tuesday morning, but we will all be refreshed and raring to go to accomplish great things – as a united, Teachers College community.
President, Teachers College