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A Creative Spark, Fanned by STEAM

TC’s Academic Festival 2016 celebrated the arts in education

TC Academic Festival 2016
Distinguished Alumni Award Winners: With TC President Fuhrman (third from left) are, from left, Nancy K. Schlossberg (Ed.D. '61), Yupha Udomsakdi (M.A. '60), Randy Bennett (Ed.D. '79) MaryEllen McGuire (Ph.D. '02), and Lida Orzeck (Ph.D. '72). At far right: Early Career Award winner David Johns (M.A. '06)

“Do all children have a creative spark in music?”

Theodore Wiprud, Vice President for Education at the New York Philharmonic and keynote speaker at Teachers College’s eighth annual Academic Festival, was speaking rhetorically.

Check out our stories on TC's Distinguished Alumni Award Winners, the day's 25 sessions and the poster session on student research.

“While we haven’t worked with every child in the world, it’s true that we have not yet found one child without a distinctive, unique, creative musical voice,” said Wiprud, who received TC’s President’s Medal of Excellence.

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At a time of ongoing challenges to arts education funding, TC’s Festival, themed “Full STEAM Ahead," was a daylong exploration of the arts as a means to link and revitalize the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.  Nearly 1,000 alumni, students, faculty and special guests gathered on campus for Adademic Festival, which is the College’s signature homecoming event.

"TC has always been an integrator of knowledge across all fields. It has done so for the past 100 years.”
—Susan Fuhrman

“This year’s Academic Festival is filled with TC’s innovative spirit in STEAM,” TC President Susan Fuhrman said in her welcoming remarks. “Today you’ll meet faculty who continue to invent new ways for integrating arts, math, science and technology with phenomenal results. TC has always been an integrator of knowledge across all fields. It has done so for the past 100 years.” Fuhrman reported on recent innovations at the College, including a new certificate program in Creative Technologies within TC’s broader program in Art & Art Education, a bilingual Latino/Latina mental health concentration; and a new doctoral specialization for teacher educators, to name just a few. She also announced that Where the Future Comes First, the College’s historic Campaign – the largest ever for a graduate school of education – has raised nearly $236 million against its $300 million goal for and created 128 new student scholarships named for TC luminaries and programs.

"It pleases me so much... to see how many people's aims have been raised.”
—Olivia Hooker

The day featured 25 breakout sessions on topics ranging from the use of technology in making art to women’s role in the military, and concluded with a poster session on research by TC students. The College also honored seven distinguished alumni – one of whom stole the show with a videotaped message sent after her health prevented her from attending.

“It would have been my joy to be with you,” said 101-year-old Olivia Hooker (M.A. ’47), a survivor of the infamous Tulsa Race Riots who became the first African-American woman to serve in the Coast Guard and later a prominent advocate for the learning disabled.

Hooker thanked her parents and the late TC psychologist Nicholas Hobbs, who, she said, “devoted himself to trying to preserve and establish justice for all the vulnerable people.” She also said that she was cheered to see “how diverse” TC is today and “how many people’s aims have been raised” by the College. “It pleases me so much,” Hooker said.

"While we haven’t worked with every child in the world, it’s true that we have not yet found one child without a distinctive, unique, creative musical voice,”
—Theodore Wiprud

Meanwhile, in a citation read by Associate Professor of Music & Music Education, Lori Custodero, Wiprud, who holds a degree in biochemistry as well as in theory and composition, was praised for “making music that challenges the mind while speaking to the heart” and “for bringing generations of young Americans along on your journey.” Wiprud then spoke about how the study of art and artistic disciplines can bolster the intellectual development of children in STEM disciplines. He played recordings of two compositions by children in the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers program, now in its 20th year, as performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra. Using experiential learning concepts first articulated at Teachers College by faculty member John Dewey, the program gives public elementary school students opportunities to compose before learning music notation.


“Picasso said that all children are born artists, and that the problem is how to ensure that they remain artists when they grow up,” Wiprud said, and closed with a question that he posed for all disciplines. “In what ways can we nurture their creativity, celebrate their cultures and make school a more joyful place?”

Wiprud’s sentiment was embodied at Academic Festival by TC’s Kids Camp, hosted by the College’s distinguished Hollingworth Center for young learners. Children of attendees engaged in a variety of STEAM-focused activities throughout the day, including working with a master carpenter-teacher to build a model train, 120th Street skyline and a TC Way platform that was presented at the closing reception.
– Patricia Lamiell

Published Monday, Apr 11, 2016

Teachers College Trustee Joyce B. Cowin (left), standing next to TC President Susan Fuhrman, hosted the College’s annual Dewey Circle Reception celebrating the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Honorees. View Gallery >>