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Better Positioned to Meet the World's Challenges


TC Turstee William Dodge Rueckert

TC President Susan Fuhrman

TC President Susan Fuhrman

“Five years ago, I called on my TC colleagues to leverage our founding mission and inherent strengths into a more innovative, dynamic, and consequential version of Teachers College – a TC equipped to play an ever more influential and beneficial role in our neighborhood and city, nation and world -- while also leading the way in “educating the future” in this exciting yet turbulent century.

“Yes, my goals for TC were ambitious, and I am proud to report that pursuing these goals has made us a stronger, more nimble, and more financially secure institution.”

On the day that TC’s Board of Trustees announced that she has signed on for another stint as President, Susan Fuhrman devoted her annual State of the College address to reviewing the College’s key accomplishments during the past five years and to announcing its major goals for the next five. [click here to view the full transcript of Fuhrman’s remarks]

“Obviously, we cannot yet claim credit for ending illiteracy in our own time,” she said. “Or solving college access and completion challenges, or innumeracy, or hunger, or any of the problems that plague us.

“And yet, thanks to enormous gains and strides we have made in all areas of the College, we are better positioned than ever to face these huge challenges.”

Moments earlier, in announcing that Fuhrman would continue leading TC’s effort to meet those challenges, Board co-chair William Rueckert called her “a proven winner” and cited reviews by outside evaluators that praised her inspired leadership style and singled out TC as one of the nation preeminent educational institutions.

Much of what TC has accomplished on her watch relates to “programmatic innovation,” Fuhrman said – “the intellectual ferment that comes from getting our major thinkers and trailblazers to share ideas and work together.”

Beginning in 2007, the College undertook a series of external and internal reviews of all academic programs, aimed at identifying focal points for interdisciplinary collaborations by faculty and students. The effort has given rise to a new academic department, Education Policy and Social Analysis, and several new faculty-driven projects and programs, including the nation’s first master’s degree program in Diabetes Education and Management, and a social studies curriculum focused on the national debt, which will be deployed to high schools across the nation. These and other efforts were initially backed by the TC Provost’s Investment Fund, which seeds cross-disciplinary faculty collaborations.

In addition TC has:
  • Launched a new public Teachers College Community School. In line with Fuhrman’s promise five years ago to make TC more responsible for improving local schools, TCCS, which opened in September, serves children in Harlem’s School District and anchors a larger consortium of Teachers College Partnership Schools where the College is working with school-based educators to improve student outcomes. The school offers an array of “wrap-around services” to the community, modeling a cost-effective approach that Fuhrman believes universities are best positioned to deliver. Development of both the school and the Partnership have been spearheaded by TC’s Office of School and Community Partnerships, created by Fuhrman in 2007;

  • Put its financial house in order. “We have restored TC’s financial health and adopted measures to sustain our financial health well into the future,” Fuhrman said. By bringing many budget processes online, by adopting and implementing multi-year operating budgets, and most importantly, “by living within our means, we have achieved internal operating surpluses, which we were able to use to terminate millions of dollars of long-term liabilities.” In addition, TC has built a “strong, integrated, professional fundraising apparatus” that last year boosted total commitments by more than 30 percent over the previous year to one of the highest dollar tallies in the College’s history. TC’s endowment also continues to perform above the national average, beginning 2011 at over $200 million for the first time since August 2008.

  • Improved its financial aid offering and enrollment management and created a TC environment that students find more welcoming, enjoyable and conducive to learning. With a 76 percent increase in financial aid since 2005, the College has grown its enrollment to a modern-era high and increased applicant yield from 40 percent to 51 percent during the past two years. It has also grown more selective, increasing efforts to recruit students of color. Nearly one-fifth of all TC students now hail from other countries, Fuhrman said. Students who choose the College now find an improve course registration process, greater access to the administration, a TC email address for life, improved service from the Office of Doctoral Studies, and – “perhaps the most comforting pleasure of all,” Fuhrman joked – “permission to bring food and drinks into the Everett Lounge.”
So what’s next? In outlining ways that TC can build on these impressive accomplishments, Fuhrman said the College “has reached a pivotal moment where research in the learning sciences, our unmatched interdisciplinary depth in education, health, psychology and human development, our experience in the field, and our heightened sense of mission position us more than ever before to be the nation’s premier academic resource and catalyst for educational transformation.”

Nationwide, Fuhrman said, there are “dramatically new understandings, based on cognitive research and neuroscience research, about how people learn,” and also new tools to assess and support learning. Yet there continues to be a gap knowledge and potential, on the one hand, and application on the other.

“Education schools are predominantly still teaching future teachers, school leaders, and teacher educators about teaching, when they need to be teaching them more about learning,” she said. “Teachers of students of all ages… need to know about the new findings about learning and about new learning supports so that they can apply them to instruction.”

For TC, she said, that means, first and foremost, viewing the new research as “an opportunity to assess and improve our own teacher education programs” and to think of new approaches for making our learning-based instruction available to others – particularly as new teacher education programs offered by non-academic institutions increasingly emphasize “generic skills” and depart from “the grounding in subject-specific pedagogy and deep understanding of learning we think new teachers need.”

Other imperatives Fuhrman outlined for TC to capitalize on advances in learning include designing learning-based curricula for students of all ages; preparing tools to support and assess learning that can be taken to scale commercially; testing and refining the College’s knowledge at the TC Community School; exploring new ways of thinking about the productivity and cost-effectiveness of the educational system; and reducing the “crushing debt burden” that afflicts many of the College’s own master’s degree students.

TC’s upcoming 125th anniversary will be “a truly monumental milestone,” Fuhrman concluded – “an occasion for us to remind the rest of the world and ourselves how important TC has been to the world… As we train our gaze toward the future, I am grateful to all of you, and excited about the great work we will do together. I see great things ahead for TC. I hope you do as well.”


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