Convocation Remarks 2017
August 25, 2017
And, so, it has come to this…I stand before my valued colleagues of the College of Education for the eighth and final time to open the year. We have a more important transition to make because the College of Education doesn’t stop, the work we have to do cannot stop, the university goes on and the needs of our students and the citizens of Texas and beyond do not diminish. Our work is ongoing and the only thing we can do is try to change our emphases and initiatives in ways that make sense. Last year, I asked you to engage with the strategic planning process and you did, in unprecedented ways. I wish today to report to you on the results of our planning efforts, our new and continuing directions. I will do so succinctly, but they will shape our work for the next six years, so you will hear more about them in time.
First, we propose to increase graduate enrollments in ways and areas that make sense, attracting ever more highly qualified students by revising our current programs in a timely way; by developing and implementing new master’s and doctoral programs in areas in which we already have strong faculties and in which there exist good opportunities for prospective graduates; by delivering programs in a variety of formats such as hybrid, blended, onsite cohorts, executive models, etc. that meet the needs of students; by reducing net costs to graduate students in several ways to make us more competitive regionally and nationally, including seeking a program of tuition fellowships; by building resources for recruitment nationally and internationally, as appropriate; and partnering with the College of Science and Engineering in innovative ways to address the STEM education crisis in the state, including increasing the impact and scope of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.
Second, we propose to continue and enhance our leadership in quality educator preparation by actively collaborating with all appropriate departments and colleges across campus, especially the College of Science and Engineering, to develop and assess the best, most innovative models of preparation; by developing and implementing a rigorous research agenda on cutting-edge teaching and learning modes, especially culturally responsive STEM education in collaboration with the College of Science and Engineering, innovative learning spaces, Honors classes, and a variety of clinical practice improvements in many disciplines; by implementing a comprehensive research agenda specifically around educator preparation in the Office of Educator Preparation; by maintaining and improving on current accreditation reporting mechanisms; and by enhancing our partnerships with cooperating districts and teachers.
Third, we propose to greatly increase our research and external funding profiles by continuing to build a supportive infrastructure, about which you already heard earlier; by promoting and supporting cross-college, cross-institutional, and international collaborations; incentivizing research teams in a handful of targeted areas including wellness promotion, the special education and autism spectrums, culturally responsive STEM education, educator preparation, and others as appropriate; by developing faculty in grant proficiency, research and evaluation methodology, and project planning; and by supporting our already successful externally funded activities in STEM methods and professional development.
Fourth, we propose to ensure the success of all of our students by intentionally moving the demographic composition of our student enrollment, especially our educator preparation students, to reflect the school children of Texas, creating a more diverse and supportive learning community; by intentionally building enrollments of veterans, of former foster children, of students with a variety of abilities, and of any other groups we can identify that will represent the broader population; by supporting professional development for faculty and staff in culturally responsive pedagogy and student support; by increasing the number of bilingual/bicultural educators and other professionals by increasing majors in current programs and by increasing bilingual/bicultural awareness, instruction, and practice in all programs of the College of Education; decreasing large class sizes; and by developing and supporting faculty learning communities that focus on student retention and success.
Fifth, we propose to address immediate and increasingly troubling needs for facilities, technical staff, and faculty by providing permanent funding for several research coordinator and analyst positions that are absolutely critical for grant proposal support and accreditation and compliance reporting and assessment; by requesting and making the case for badly needed instructional and research laboratory space including large portions of a renovated Jowers Center, additional cadaver lab space in Health Professions, collaboration with the Meadows Center for Outdoor Education, and Recreational Sports fields, an enhanced STEM maker space and active learning facility, and collaborative learning spaces in each department; by hiring sufficient new faculty to service burgeoning enrollments and bring faculty teaching loads into line with other, similar institutions, as well as making possible several new doctoral programs; and by ensuring that the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research becomes sustainably self-supporting.
Whew! That’s a daunting agenda, but one that you have developed and one that we all can achieve. Some of the specifics that I mentioned will happen this year and some in years to come, and there are also a few other initiatives that cut across multiple areas that we will pursue this year. First, we will continue to support faculty in all areas of teaching and scholarship, including, but not limited to strong support for external funding activities, which you have already heard from Jon Lasser and Eric. Our faculty are our fundamental resource, the people that will make the College of Education succeed or fail. We need to make sure that all our faculty feel safe and supported and able to be productive and we will be working hard to make that happen, especially for those who have reason to feel vulnerable. We intend to explore alternative delivery of coursework in a number of formats where it makes sense and can be done in a quality manner. We will work in intentional ways to recruit students that reflect Texas at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. We are going to pay attention to students that may be left behind so that our retention will increase. We are going to emphasize bilingual and bicultural awareness of our faculty because that is the best way that we can make our programs properly relevant to our students and to the students of Texas. These are some of the areas we will be emphasizing.
And let me say one more thing. We, the leadership team, right to the top, will not tolerate violence, harassment, vandalism, or intimidation toward any member of our community. To that end, each department and the College will be sponsoring a series of programs and discussions and learning communities around diversity, inclusion, and celebration of difference. I urge you to participate in these events, for they will help us come together as a college and as colleagues so that we continue to lead the university in this work. Make no mistake, we do lead the university and that is as it should be.
Ok, this is getting too long. So, in closing, let me simply and humbly say this: it has been an honor and a privilege, as well as the high point of my career to serve you, the Texas State College of Education. I promise that I will give my all to finish my part of this work in the same way that I have done it so far—collaboratively, decisively, and happily. And then I will leave it to you, creating an unbroken line, just as we all have inherited the work from those who came before. And that’s the way it should be. Please give your next Dean the kindness and hard work and candor that you have given me and my work will have been worthwhile. Thank you.