President's Letter | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation

President's Letter

Hope Springs Eternal

Academic Festival at Teachers College is a joyous celebration of the richly diverse creativity of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. This year’s Festival, themed “Full STEAM Ahead,” was an exuberant call to add the arts to the nationwide educational focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The Festival’s keynote, composer Theodore Wiprud, Vice President for Education at the New York Philharmonic, described his efforts to make the Philharmonic’s famed Young People’s Concert series more interactive for our multimedia era.

“We are harnessing technology in all subject areas to revitalize the ideas of Dewey, Greene and others for our times.”
—Susan Fuhrman (Ph.D. '77)

“The core of our mission is to bring great performances to all kinds of people,” Dr. Wiprud said. “Our techniques are rooted in Leonard Bernstein’s legacy, but also in Maxine Greene’s and John Dewey’s.”

It was a gracious nod to TC’s history and to our continuing belief in what Dewey called “the audacity of imagination.” We approach arts education, which began at the College, as a means of nurturing imaginative audacity in all fields. Indeed, in this issue’s cover story, on the College’s new Creative Technologies program, Professor Judith Burton argues that the arts must be taught with other subjects “in such a way that they extend and inform each other, making thinking more multidimensional, layered, flexible and complex.”

The Creative Technologies program builds on artistic traditions forged by TC alumni ranging from Georgia O’Keeffe to Raphael Montañez Ortiz. The program also reflects how we are harnessing technology in all subject areas to revitalize the ideas of Dewey, Greene and others for our times. This issue also provides a rundown of some striking examples of those efforts.

As Dr. Burton says, “It’s not just that we are learning techniques and technologies. If you know how to play and explore and experiment and be reflective — to learn openly and flexibly — you can ultimately do almost anything.” 

Speaking of people who can do almost anything, another powerful moment at Academic Festival was provided — in absentia — by Dr. Olivia Hooker (M.A. ’47), a 101-year-old survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race riots who became the first African-American woman to serve in active duty in the Coast Guard and then a pioneering advocate for the disabled. Feeling a bit under the weather, Dr. Hooker, who was to receive the Teachers College Distinguished Alumni Award, sent a videotaped message expressing her gratitude for being honored and her delight in “what Teachers College is like today — how diverse, how many people’s aims have been raised.”

We at TC take great delight and pride in our unique Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship program, also featured in this issue. Former Fellows have become university deans, chaired professors, global non-profit leaders and business entrepreneurs. They have celebrated their unique identities while making societal inequities their collective focus. As Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of New York City’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, suggested at the Fellowship’s 20th anniversary celebration in March, such “creative dissent” benefits us all.

Our world faces difficult and unprecedented challenges. Creativity and diversity are among our most valuable assets in meeting these challenges. That Teachers College thrives by celebrating and advancing these ideals every day makes me proud and optimistic about our future.

Susan Fuhrman Signature

Published Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016

Susan Fuhrman