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Engaging in Research: An Award-Winning Faculty

The members of the faculty of Teachers College are serious about having an impact on people's lives through their work. Many of them have received honorary recognition for the many contributions they have made to their respective fields. Many are appointed to leadership positions in outside organizations, and others are honored within the institution by serving as endowed chairs and professors.

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child and Parent Development and Education, is one such professor. This year, the American Psychological Society (APS) awarded Brooks-Gunn the 2002 James McKeen Catell Fellow Award, which recognizes APS members for their outstanding contributions to the area of applied psychological research. Brooks-Gunn is a leading scholar on the effects of poverty on families and has participated in dozens of influential research projects on topics that include the effects of growing up poor, the ramifications of certain public educational policies, and growing up female. Her specialty is policy-oriented research focusing on family and community influences on the development of children and youth. Her research centers around designing and evaluating interventions aimed at enhancing the well-being of children living in poverty and associated conditions. Click here for information on her most recent research.

To support the ongoing work of faculty who are making a difference, endowed chairs and professorships are created through the generosity of donors to the school. Four members of the faculty were honored by being named endowed chairs in 2002.

Robert O. McClintock, who has been a Professor at Teachers College for more than 30 years, was named the John L. and Sue Ann Weinberg Chair in Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education. "I've always thought of myself as being primarily a student of the historical and philosophical foundations of education. For the last 20 years, I've been deeply involved in trying to apply digital technologies to the reform of education," he said. "To me, the two enterprises are one: the theoretical and the applied side of the same commitment. It is an occasion where I can renew the intellectual roots from which I have drawn inspiration throughout my career. I'm very excited about that."

Ruth Vinz, former chair of the Department of Arts and Humanities and former Interim Dean, was awarded the Enid and Lester Morse Endowed Professorship in Teacher Education. The Morse Chair is intended to strengthen the capacity of Teachers College for the initial and continuing professional education of teachers. In reflecting on her new role, Vinz said, "The Center associated with this Chair has the potential to serve as a convening place for teacher educators at the College and across the nation, a place that coordinates many of their interrelated research agendas, projects, partnerships, and initiatives."

Pearl Rock Kane is the recipient of the Klingenstein Family Chair for the Advancement of Independent Schools. Kane, who has been director of the Klingenstein Center for 21 years, plans to use resources from the endowment to build on the experience of the Center to promote dialogue between public and private schools and to foster global understanding through greater involvement with international schools.

Warner Burke, a Professor of Psychology and Education in the Department of Organization and Leadership, was named Edward Lee Thorndike Professor of Psychology and Education by President Arthur Levine. Thorndike was the leading behavioral psychologist of his time and is best known for his advocacy that instruction should pursue socially relevant goals and for the establishment of the testing movement. His ideas provided a shift in thinking that ultimately made the development of instructional design possible.

Burke teaches leadership, organizational dynamics and theory, and organization change. He recently completed four years as Chair of the Department of Organization and Leadership. "I would like to create a graduate program for future managers and leaders of non-profit organizations," he says of his new role. "We could do the equivalent of an executive MBA program. It would be a cohort program for people who are in the working world. Teachers College has a record of doing that kind of thing all over the place and doing it very well."

Minority Postdoctoral Fellows

Teachers College also supports the development of scholarship among minority postdoctoral researchers through its Minority Postdoctoral Fellows program. For the 2002-2003 school year, Rosalie Rolón-Dow and Trica Keaton came to TC to continue and expand on the research they began in their Ph.D. studies. Rolón-Dow is working with Puerto Rican students in urban middle schools and Keaton is studying the experiences of contemporary immigrants. Click here for more information on their work.

Mellon Visiting Scholars

Another effort to encourage minority scholarship at the College is done through the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) which will be bringing several visiting minority scholars to campus each year for the next three years thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program allows a diverse group of senior scholars from all over the country to present their research and scholarship, and in the process enhances the TC and Columbia communities. While the duration of visits and the responsibilities of the scholars will vary, all will present at least one public lecture that will be open to the entire University and the local Morningside Heights and Harlem communities.

One of this year's Mellon scholars, John Huston Stanfield, presented a colloquium on the different ways that intellectually gifted black males are discovered and cultivated and how they use their talents. Stanfield is Chair of Indiana University Bloomington's Department of African-American and African Diaspora Studies. He also has served as Executive Director of the Morehouse Research Institute in Atlanta.

In the spring of each of the three years covered by the grant, a conference will be held that will convene scholars from many disciplines for several days, focusing on a specific theme for each year.

Research that Makes a Difference

Keeping the focus on educational concerns provides a wide array of research topics to be examined. TC faculty members are breaking ground in many areas that can make a difference in the decisions and practices of educators, policy makers, psychologists and others concerned with what is best for students.

One debate that policy leaders across the country have been involved in is how society can best help jobless mothers and enrich their children's lives. In 1996, the reform of family welfare policies moved millions of women into low-wage jobs. But how have state welfare-to-work programs touched the lives of young children since that time? Sharon Lynn Kagan, the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Policy, co-directed a team of researchers on a study that was presented in April to answer that question.

The "Growing Up in Poverty Project" report, written by a consortium of scholars from Teachers College, the University of California-Berkeley, Stanford and Yale Universities, looked at 948 mothers and preschool-age children for two to four years after the women entered new welfare programs in California, Connecticut and Florida. Findings indicated many concerns about the overall well-being of the family as well as some positive gains in children's school readiness and cognitive skills. For details on the study, click here.

Poverty is not a prerequisite for problems that students experience, however. Professor Suniya Luthar has looked at adolescents from affluent households and found that high pressure to achieve along with isolation from their parents is associated with depression and substance use among these adolescents. In some cases, Luthar found that substance abuse among suburban high-school students was higher than for inner-city students of the same age. For more details, click here.

George Bonanno, an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education, is heading a study funded by the National Science Foundation that will examine how the survivors of the World Trade Center attack are faring as a result of their experiences on September 11th. In light of their exposure to grave danger in fleeing buildings, the experience and horror of watching people jump from buildings or others engulfed by debris, survivors are prime candidates for experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Past research done by Bonanno and his research associates reveals, however, that many individuals who are exposed to sudden and violent incidents such as those experienced in the World Trade Center attacks are extraordinarily resilient. They recover their equilibrium and return to normal functioning within a month or two after the event. Bonanno and his colleagues found that individuals who are disposed to self-enhancement-those who tend to have a self-deceptive, overly positive view of themselves-have been shown to be better able to cope with extremely adverse conditions.

This new study is designed to explore whether self-enhancing individuals who were directly exposed to the World Trade Center attack-those in or near the Twin Towers, those in immediate danger, or those who witnessed horrific sights-might cope better than other individuals who are not self-enhancing. The study looks at how survivors of the World Trade Center attacks go through and express their emotions when they talk about what they experienced on September 11th. The results of this research will help to determine whether self-enhancing individuals process emotions differently than other individuals and, if so, whether these differences hold the key to their unusual ability to cope with extreme adversity.

Bonanno's work on this study was highlighted in an article called "Repress Yourself," in the New York Times Magazine on February 23, 2003.

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