Message From the Dean - May 2014

Aspiration Bound

This has been a very exciting year filled with many accomplishments and endless opportunities.  We all set our individual goals and hopefully we can now view our successes.  The 2014 College of Education Checklist was filled with opportunistic optimism.  We knew we were ambitious, but we followed through and have made tremendous strides.  Listed below are some of our accomplishments as we capsule the year.

Year-long Student Teaching – We applied for the grant from the state Department of Education and received $500,000 to pilot year-long student teaching in literacy, science, and social studies across elementary, middle, and high school settings in urban, suburban, and rural districts.  Through the work of many, this pilot will be in effect next year. Thanks to J.D. Cryer and many others for securing and implementing this grant.

Meskwaki Summer Camp – We are gearing up to have a week-long residential camp for middle school students from the Meskwaki settlement.  This camp will be both academic and recreational.  Participants will engage in science, mathematics, language arts, and social studies activities as well as go on field trips to local museums, exercise in the Wellness and Recreation Center, engage in Leader in Me workshops, and learn how to create movies using current technologies.  We have selected a staff of undergraduate and graduate students to conduct the week-long activities and provide oversight of the camp. Thanks to Kenneth Reid for being the coordinator of this program.

Position Hirings – We have successfully hired a faculty member in the Library Science program.  We hired two new faculty members in both the Special Education and the Educational Psychology and Foundations departments.  We are still working on hiring an Endowed Chair of Literacy and a literacy professor in the department of Curriculum and Instruction.  We were unsuccessful in hiring heads of the Department of Teaching and Special Education.  Dr. Bill Callahan will act as the interim head of Special Education, and we are seeking and interim head of the Department of Teaching. We will re-launch the search for the Endowed Chair of Elementary Science due to a candidate pool that did not meet our needs.  We will also re-launch a search for the head of the Department of Teaching. Thanks to all of you who served on or chaired search committees this year.

InTASC Standards into the Teacher Education Program – The Elementary and Secondary Senates have been working diligently in reviewing the syllabi to determine where the current InTASC standards are embedded and replacing them with the new.  Also, the Field Experience Premier Points team have been aligning the field observation and student teaching instruments with the new InTASC standards.  Healthy discussion is in place pertaining to the eight teaching standards that are used for inservice teachers and how these standards should be incorporated into our student teaching seminars.  Thanks Lyn Countryman and others for facilitating this process.

Back-to-School Program – The Back-to-School Program was our emphasis this year on engaging our business partners and state legislators into the schools.  Teams of three visitors – legislator, business person, and secondary teacher educator - were placed in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, and the Catholic high schools.  The teams shadowed students throughout the morning and then came together on campus for lunch and to debrief the experience.  From the experience, a white paper was crafted and distributed to each of the schools.  We thought that it was important for legislators and business persons to have access to the schools and their daily routines in order to make more informed decisions and commentary about the state of education in Iowa.  Thanks to Amelia-Holden McMurray for coordinating this initiative.

School Improvement Network –Joe Hitzman, a representative from the School Improvement Network, met with the Leadership Team as well as groups of faculty to showcase the PD 360 component of the Network. This component consists of thousands of classroom lessons and other vignettes aligned with the Common Core.  The verdict is still out on how the copious content that is captured in the suite of materials can be used in our college classes.  To assist in making the connection more meaningful to the individual users, we have purchased an open agreement with the School Improvement Network in which all of our students and teacher education faculty across all aspects of our Teacher Education Program will have access for one year.  We will also have a School Improvement Network Professional Learning Community which professors can join in order to learn how to tailor the Network for their specific purposes.  Participants will receive $500 for 20 hours of professional development with an outcome of a revised syllabus that uses content from the School Improvement Network.  I have asked Farah Kashef to facilitate this Professional Learning Community with assistance from J.D. Cryer and Chad Christopher. 

Technology Professional Learning Community - In an effort to encourage and stimulate active 21st Century Learning and Teaching, this incentive award was designed to support our faculty as they integrated new learning strategies into their courses. This award required faculty to engage in 20 hours (or more) of professional development on 21st Century Learning and Teaching strategies and then upgrade a specific course based upon these methods. These methods involved integrating technology to support learning. Faculty engaged in group meetings (face-to-face or online), webinars, and workshops. They also met with the Technology Integration Specialist for course consultation. Thanks Farah Kashef and Leigh Zeitz for facilitating this Professional Learning Community.

Schindler Renovations – Mary Herring and I as well as the Feasibility Team and many other university officials have worked diligently to secure state appropriations for the Schindler Renovation project.  We were encouraged when Governor Branstad placed $2 million in his initial budget for planning and design for next year.  We were even more excited when the state legislators appropriated the entire renovation amount across a four year breakdown which is listed below.  This will allow us to move forward with the entirety of the project across the yearly allotments. Next year, we will be highly engaged in the planning and design process. 

Infrastructure appropriations:

For the renovation, modernization, and associated improvements to the Schindler Education Center for teacher education and preparation at the University of Northern Iowa:

FY 2014-2015. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 2 million

FY 2015-2016: . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .$ 11 million

FY 2016-2017: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$ 13.6 million

FY 2017-2018: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$ 6.3 million

Cultural Competency Professional Learning Community - A group of 21 faculty have met five times over the course of the academic year. They have defined culture and its constructs, examined and challenged the White Racial Frame, and worked to understand and improve cross-cultural communication. Individually they have been charged with identifying and examining personal communication pattern (high vs. low context) and to make a personal plan for becoming a proficient cross-cultural communicator. Also, they are examining a course syllabus to be enhanced for preparing future educators who are culturally competent. A final task they have been charged with is to learn about an immigrant or indigenous population in the Cedar Valley. In small groups they are reporting on characteristics of the Bosnian, Burmese, Mexican, and Native Tribes.   Thank you Stephanie Logan for the facilitation of this Professional Learning Community.

Captured here are only a few of the initiatives that we have accomplished on our 2013-2014 Checklist.  We are excited about our accomplishments and collectively we are moving toward our aspirations.  This year was an excellent example of the adage, “Internal solidarity leads to external positioning.” Thank you all for a wonderful year; and I look forward to leading you where you want to go next year. 

Dr. Dwight C. Watson, Dean

College of Education

University of Northern Iowa