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Zankel Fellowships Boost Urban Service at TC

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Katie Picard, a new student at TC who will work as a Reading Buddy in a local public school

Bequest from late board Vice Chair to provide $10,000 scholarships

Among President Susan Fuhrman’s priorities for TC, two top the list: stepping up the College's already strong commitment to urban teaching and service, and boosting financial aid. The two are clearly linked, as financial burdens can force students -- either during or after their time at TC -- to seek the kinds of higher-paying jobs that aren't typically found in the city’s neediest areas. 

Now a new program called the Arthur Zankel Urban Fellowships is combining both objectives. Created a year ago through a $10 million bequest from the late TC Board Vice Chair Arthur Zankel, the Fellowships are now providing the first cohort of 35 TC students  with $10,000  each  in return for working as interns at one of the following organizations -- the Teachers College EdZone, including the Reading and Math Buddies programs; the Student Press Initiative (SPI); the Heritage School; Columbia Secondary School; InsideSchools.org -- a Web site that reports on New York public schools; TC’s Office of Teacher Education/School-Based Support Services (OTESS) or Associate Vice President Nancy Streim’s new partnership with local public schools. The students will be required to work at least five hours per week in one of these programs. 

“I did youth work for nine years before coming to TC, and I really want to be connected to young people in the community while I ‘m in grad school,” says Zankel Fellow Mateo Cruz, who will work for SPI in the Lab School in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on the lower West Side. Cruz, who is pursuing a degree in Organizational Psychology, be part of an SPI team that helps students self-produce books of writing on different topics, but he also hopes to help the school’s Student Activism Committee produce a booklet on HIV prevention. “That ties in closely with my academic focus on organizational consultation and change in relation to diversity issues in the workplace.” 

“This is a great program for me, because I’m committed to working in city schools, either here or in Washington, D.C.,” says Katie Picard, a new student at TC who will work as a Reading Buddy in a local public school. “I’m planning to be a speech pathologist, and even though this is reading rather than speaking, it all falls under the same realm.”

Picard, whose mother is a speech pathologist and whose grandmother attended TC, says the financial help is also much appreciated – confirmation to those involved in running the program that it’s meeting a core objective.

“Our work in education and our positive impact on human lives are greatly enhanced by the Zankel Fellowship,” said Thomas James, Provost and Dean of the College. “The internship component is a particularly compelling feature of the program.”

Erick Gordon, director of SPI, is excited to see what the five Fellows his program is receiving can do. “One of the strengths of the program is that it taps into fresh student talent," he says, "We have an incredibly diverse, energetic student body, and what SPI offers is a very real-world collaborative internship experience.”

Project Director Claudette Reid says that the program selection was designed to reflect the wide range of ways that TC relates to education. “It’s not just teacher education; it's the entire college. We want to give every department the opportunity to participate.” In fact, each academic department was involved in selecting the Fellows. “These programs aren't just about tutoring,” Reid says. “The students may be doing writing or research, but their work will help the students and parents of New York.” For instance, she says, the research conducted by Fellows for InsideSchools.org will be used to help immigrant parents better understand and navigate the New York City school system.  And Fellows who work in OTESS will identify city schools that can most benefit from hosting TC pre-service teachers in their field placements.

Gordon emphasizes how hands-on the learning experience can be for the Fellows. “They'll be co-teaching lessons, actively planning curricula, mentoring students documenting the projects, and being organizational support to teachers. They’ll be doing everything from tracking student consent forms to taking headshots of authors. They get to learn in a very real-world and messy way about high-stakes project-based learning.”

Reid says that the process is focused on giving back to the community. “We want to share what we have, to take the knowledge the students amass at TC and use it for the common good.”

Gordon is optimistic about the Fellows. “These are strong, competitive candidates that bring a wealth of experience and background knowledge. In a program like ours, which believes that collaborations grow from people's unique expertise, there’s a lot that they have to offer.” 

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