Summer Letter from Susan Fuhrman | Teachers College Columbia University

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Summer Letter from Susan Fuhrman

With the 2010/11 academic year behind us, we can look back on a busy spring marked by intellectually rewarding gatherings of alumni, excellent achievements by faculty and students, and significant progress toward creating powerful and enduring solutions in education.

Dear Friends:

With the 2010/11 academic year behind us, we can look back on a busy spring marked by intellectually rewarding gatherings of alumni, excellent achievements by faculty and students, and significant progress toward creating powerful and enduring solutions in education.

Our third Academic Festival in April featured Dennis Walcott, New York City’s newly appointed public schools chancellor, delivering our annual Phyllis L. Kossoff Policy Lecture to a packed Cowin Conference Center.

The theme of this year’s Academic Festival --- “Learn to Live Well: Bringing Education to the Table” –featured a wide range of presentations, from a talk on sexual literacy by alumna Dr. Ruth Westheimer (Ed.D ’70) to a keynote address by health advocate and media personality Dr. Ian Smith (MA ’93) on the need to eradicate the “food deserts” in poor neighborhoods.   

An alumni gathering at the end of April for TC’s International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) featured alumnus Johnston Barkat, United Nations Ombudsman, who is charged with mediating conflicts involving UN staff worldwide.


A growing societal need for innovative thinking in education was dramatically underscored by the addresses delivered at our May commencement ceremonies by three distinguished speakers: Former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert; Baltimore public schools chief Andres Alonso; and former TC faculty member Linda Darling-Hammond, now a professor at Stanford.

Mr. Herbert urged graduates to “let the world know that … your commitment to serving the interest of (the nation’s) children will not be derailed.”

Our phenomenal, passionate graduates will not be derailed. They head forth from graduation with bold plans for changing the world that they envisioned and refined at TC. You can meet some of our graduates at /

As our graduates move on, TC has continued moving forward in affirming our leadership in research, practice, and policy.

Among the spring highlights:

  • TC-based researchers released a new report, “Learning Trajectories in Mathematics: A Foundation for Standards, Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction,” that summarizes efforts to date to build curricula based on empirical evidence of how students’ understanding develops in response to instruction and where it might break down.

  • A TC-authored paper on the use of web diagrams for strengthening students’ grasp of Earth Science concepts was selected by the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) as one of the top 10 papers published in science education in 2010.  The paper was co-authored by O. Roger Anderson, Professor of Earth Sciences and his student, Julie Contino, a program coordinator at the American Museum of Natural History.

  • Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Virginia & Leonard Marx Professor and co-director of TC’s National Center for Children and Families, is co-directing a landmark new study on the effect of affordable housing on low-income families. The effort, funded by a $1 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will quantify the impact of affordable housing on financial stability, housing quality, and physical and mental health, as well as school outcomes for children.

  • A new study presented at Lincoln Center in early June by TC’s Research Center for Arts and Culture (RCAC) finds that aging artists are models for society – especially as the workforce changes to accommodate multiple careers and as baby boomers enter the retirement generation. (To view the entire study and an executive summary, go to

  •  We announced the launch this coming fall of a new Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis (EPSA), which will enroll its inaugural class and unite our world-class policy faculty whose expertise encompasses all phases of educational and human development.


This past spring also brought the big (and welcome!) announcement of our plans to partner with the New York City Department of Education in this coming fall’s launch of the TC Community School, which will welcome its first kindergarten class of 50 students. This non-selective public school of choice will serve the children of New York City’s Community School District 5 in Harlem. Updated information about the school will be posted at

Finally, I’m proud to report that a number of TC faculty members were honored during the past several months.

David Hansen, Professor of Philosophy and Education; Henry Levin, William H Kilpatrick Professor of Economics & Education, and Anna Neumann, Professor of Higher Education, were named 2011 AERA Fellows, a designation reserved for “exemplars for the field of education and models for the next generation of researchers.”

Mariana Souto-Manning, Associate Professor of Education in the Curriculum & Teaching Department, received the 2011 AERA Award for Innovations in Research on Diversity. 

Maria Torres-Guzman, Professor of Bilingual Education, received the 2011 AERA Bilingual Education SIG Lifetime Achievement Award for her “long-standing excellence in scholarship related to bilingual education.”

The May 2011 issue of The Counseling Psychologist includes a 42-page profile of Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology and Education, detailing “the personal and professional accomplishments of one of psychology’s most accomplished and prolific scholars.” 

Faculty members Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Herbert P. Ginsburg (Jacob H. Schiff Foundations Professor of Psychology and Education) have been elected to the National Academy of Education (NAEd) for their pioneering efforts in education research and policy development.

Ernest Morrell, the new director of TC’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education, was elected vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English, the preeminent organization of literacy educators in the United States. Professor Morrell, who officially joins our faculty in the fall, will begin a four-year tenure of leadership that will include serving as NCTE president.

And last, but by no means least, TC hosted the 90th birthday celebration for IUME’s founder and champion for underprivileged children: Edmund Gordon, our Richard March Hoe Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education.

As you can see, this has been a tremendous year at Teachers College --- and we are only growing stronger. During a recent visit to Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, I received unmistakable signs from our alumni that TC is the world’s leading destination in education research, policy, and practice. I was especially heartened to observe the enthusiastic response to my announcement that we will be establishing the John Dewey Scholarship, which will enable us to enroll great future education scholars and leaders from Asia who otherwise could not afford to come here.

Our future strength and impact on society will depend on our ability to make Teachers College an affordable choice for our most promising students and an irresistible destination for top-flight faculty – on a campus that supports excellence. To create the endowment we need for scholarship and student support, and to equip our beautiful but aging buildings with the technologies and amenities that promote cutting-edge work, we are gearing up to launch the largest fundraising campaign in TC’s history.

Ultimately, our goal is to produce a new generation of innovative educators, scholars and leaders who can communicate across organizations, cultures and countries and flourish in any setting. In other words, I am describing leaders like you --- leaders who, we hope, will continue to engage with TC as our most valuable ambassadors to the communities we serve. I look forward seeing many of you during the next year. As I continue to discover everywhere from Boca to Beijing, when you join a gathering of TC alumni, you are among the best of friends.


Warm regards, 
Susan H. Fuhrman


Published Thursday, Jun. 30, 2011


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