2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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Fall Convocation: Looking to the Future

The President and Dean of Teachers College welcomed the 1,200 new students in their annual State of the College address on September 16.

President Arthur Levine focused on TC's future and Dean Karen Zumwalt spoke about the progress being made by the consolidated academic departments.

"Now is the moment for us to think about what we want to do and how we want to do it," President Levine told the TC community.

"We are going to be concerned with education from womb to tomb, in classrooms and outside of classrooms," he said. "If we are going to carry out this mission," Levine said, "we need facilities, technology and services to support it."

Work has begun, he said, to fix the infrastructure, improve classrooms, repair the roof, and allow accessibility to people with disabilities. He added that a five-year technology plan began this past year, as well. The College has also begun looking at the effectiveness and size of administrative services, making salaries fair and competitive, and setting up multi-year budgets.

To do this, he noted, TC needs the financial resources to fund that vision. For the second year in a row our budget is in the black, he said. The upcoming Capital Campaign will further strengthen TC's financial base, he added. And a top priority determined by the TC community is providing more fellowships and scholarships.

In addition to plant repairs, academic reorganization, and budgetary effectiveness, Levine noted that we can't forget about those we want to reach. The Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation can be our vehicle for expanding our academic reach, he added.

Some considerations Levine put forward were that the demographics of higher education are much different today than they once were. We also need to consider providing professional development to people in their offices and their homes. If we don't, TC risks losing students to other institutions that are willing to use technology to meet the needs of potential students. He said, "We have to move forward or retreat."

Teachers College has been approached by many companies that want to work with us to provide distance learning and educational products, Levine said. Among the firms are CBS, IBM, McGraw-Hill, cable stations and start-up companies.

Rather than reacting impulsively to the offers that come our way, he suggested we think about who we want to educate in the decades to come and how we want to do that. As part of that process, Levine has initiated two studies.

One is to determine who is entering higher education and what they are doing. The other is to assess who we want to educate, what kind of education they most need, and how they want to receive it. It will look at who else is offering it to them now and what technology they are using.

The studies requested by the President will help the College determine which companies to become involved with. A task force consisting of department chairs, senior administrators and constituents of the College will review the results.

"Not to make a decision is to decide," Levine concluded. "In many respects we are in the same position as the founders of this College." They saw students not being educated who needed education and decided that the best way to educate them was to use new methods. The solution for the next hundred years of TC's history may be the use of new technologies.

Dean Zumwalt then stepped up to the podium to welcome everyone to the 112th year of classes at TC. She noted that this year we broke last year's record of the largest group of new students in decades. Out of a group that consists of mostly part-time female masters students in an age range from 20 to 81 years old, the average student, she noted, is a 33-year-old American white female. However, in a room of 800 students at orientation, only one student in the room fit that profile.

As was done in the past, TC professors, adjuncts and instructors who received exceptionally high course evaluations were recognized by the Dean. Seven teachers who were rated exceptionally high by students in two or more classes last year were presented a $300 stipend at the convocation. They were: from Arts and Humanities-Associate Professor Ruth Vinz, and Instructor Rene Schillinger; from Curriculum and Teaching-Associate Professor Barbara Keifer and Adjunct Assistant Professor Valerie Bang-Jensen; from Organization and Leadership-Professor Tom Sobol (who also had one course in Curriculum and Teaching), Adult Education Lecturer Jeanne Bitterman, and Visiting Professor Keville Frederickson. Professor William Anderson, Health and Behavior Studies, who retired at the end of the academic year, had four courses in the top 10 percent of student evaluations.

Before closing her remarks, the Dean noted that the increase of the College's involvement with the public schools should be celebrated and expanded. "Given our founding purpose, I believe the inequalities that plague our system of public education deserve our attention," she noted. "Schools serving needy students need more than average resources."

"It was these inequalities which motivated me to enter teaching 32 years ago," she continued. But she stated that she didn't think the inequalities would still exist so many years later, and she encouraged listeners to make an effort to work toward first class public education for all children.

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