Message from the Dean - Feburary 2014

Scaffolds, Safety Nets, and Foundations

As many of you know, I am an avid movie watcher.  I have been following the Academy Awards since 1980 and I try to see every nominated picture.  Recently, I was reading an issue of Entertainment Weekly that featured the ultimate viewer's guide to the Oscars.  One of the actresses nominated for Best Supporting Actress is Lupita Nyong'o who played a field slave combating the lust and rage of her plantation master in the film 12 Years a Slave.  When asked about her performance, she said that even though the film was harsh and brutal, the film is also necessary because it "takes a flashlight and shines it under the floorboards of our nation, and reminds us of what it is we stand on."

If we took a flashlight and viewed under our floorboards in the College of Education, we would find pillars of strength that have been built on the backs and brawn of many.  Mary-Sue often shares with me noted people who once worked in the College of Education.  As she shares their history and presence in the College, she remembers them and their contributions fondly. As I listen, I think about another brick in our foundation.  We are indeed working in a legacy place with a strong foundation, and we should not forget our history as we launch our future.

When I think of the pre-professionals we prepare for the world of work, I view them as incredibly talented, energetic, and optimistic about their futures.  They seek guidance and wisdom from us as mentors, counselors, and professors.  Occasionally, they need some "couch time" with us to simply talk about their lives outside of the classroom.  We need to lend a compassionate ear to support our pre-professionals in a wrap-around way.  This type of support is the scaffold that is needed in order for them to restore their strength and to fly solo once again.  We provide scaffold support along the way so that our pre-professionals can establish a firm foundation in their profession.

Even when our pre-professionals exit our program and the foundation is emerging, they will probably need our scaffold support as a safety net every once in awhile.  We need to stay in touch with our graduates and let them know that we can always avail ourselves when necessary if they are in need of support.  I know many of you do this on a consistent basis because it is embedded in your consciousness as a caring and supportive professional.

As I reflect on my life, the theme of scaffolds, safety nets, and foundations has had a prevalent role in my development.  When I was younger, my parents and teachers provided the scaffold I needed in order to develop into an independent person.  When I floundered, my parents and others provided the safety net I needed to recoup and move forward. When my parents passed away, I was so thankful for all that they provided because finally I had inherited all of their strength to create my own solid foundation.  As we shine the flashlight under our own floorboards, we should recognize the pillars of strength of our legacy.  This will enable us to continuously provide the scaffold support and safety nets for our pre-professionals as they build their foundations.

Dr. Dwight C. Watson, Dean

College of Education

University of Northern Iowa