State of the College 2017
In my inaugural address almost 11 years ago, I said, “Teachers College earned its preeminent reputation by getting a lot done.” That’s what made so many TC giants of the past icons: They had ideas, and they got them done.
Our founder, Grace Dodge, had the idea to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to help children and families from different backgrounds excel. So she founded Teachers College.
John Dewey had ideas about how young people learn – and conceived the modern American classroom. Maxine Greene had the idea that the arts could help students make meaning of their world. She turned aesthetic awareness into a central tenet of modern education and the pursuit of social justice. Lawrence Cremin and Edmund Gordon helped us think about the community’s contribution to education. Learning occurs everywhere, and community context deeply affects the learning that happens in schools.
These TC giants envisioned a better future, and then made that future a reality.
During the past decade, we have honored and extended this legacy by ensuring that TC remains a place where talented people get things done, and where their ideas flourish, spread, and change the world. We’ve achieved this in three primary ways.
First, we’ve strengthened the TC community by energetically promoting diversity and by encouraging robust discussion.
Second, we’ve worked to maximize TC’s impact on the world by encouraging collaboration across disciplinary silos. External reviews of our departments showed scores of sparkling lights, or dots, which if they could only be connected, would create a whole equal to far more than the sum of its parts. We have made substantial progress in doing just that.
Finally, we’ve set in place priorities and plans for the coming year that will position TC to lead in education, health, and psychology for years to come.
I’ll begin with how we’ve improved our community right here on campus. A strong and welcoming academic institution requires a diverse range of cultures, experiences, and perspectives, as well as opportunities for robust discussion, collaboration, and community-building. To that end, we have made great strides in student diversity. Today, one of every five TC students comes from outside the United States; this year’s entering students represent 53 countries and speak 44 languages.
We are especially proud that 46% of TC’s currently enrolled students who come from within the U.S. identify as people of color. Eleven years ago, that figure was 35%.
We’ve also striven to enhance socio-economic diversity and promote excellence primarily by increasing financial aid. Our students are devoting their lives to the public good. We owe it to them to make their education affordable – so that they can get a jump on living their dreams and getting down to the hard work of improving our world – instead of worrying about how they’re going to pay off their debt.
I’m proud that that from 2006 to 2017, total student financial aid expenditures rose from $12 million to $30 million. A decisive catalyst of that growth was our $300 million “Where the Future Comes First” Campaign, which we formally kicked off at TC’s 125th anniversary gala in 2013. I introduced the campaign by saying that its aim was to “fund the future” – first and foremost, by supporting students. And indeed, we have created 150 endowed scholarships with gifts to the Campaign. I’ll have more to say about the Campaign later in my remarks.
We’ve also developed the infrastructure and culture to harness the opportunities that our diversity provides.
TC’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs, under the leadership of founding VP Janice Robinson, has provided opportunities for learning and connection within our walls. By organizing everything from community coffee hours, lectures, and film screenings – to safe space gatherings in times of trauma and threats – Janice and her team have created a supportive environment for talking to one another, learning from one another, and caring for one another. Janice, thank you.
Students, faculty, and administrators have also come together to strengthen the TC community in rewarding ways. TC’s Civic Participation Project creates open spaces, seminars, and other events for TC community dialogue and engagement for the advancement of social justice.
I’m very pleased to report that the Civic Participation Project will receive the Social Justice Action Award at TC’s next Winter Roundtable. My congratulations to the CPP leaders – Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Laura Smith, and Lalitha Vasudevan – and all of their faculty and student colleagues for this well-deserved honor.
Another great student-faculty collaboration has been the development of TC’s Race, Ethnicity and Inter-Cultural Understanding Curriculum Map, which enables students in every department or program to explore some 60 courses centered on these themes.
And this year, our new Black Lives Matter in Higher Education series of conversations and workshops has shed new light on how the history of race relations affects our lives as educators and as members of a scholarly community.
The second thrust – encouraging scholarly and programmatic collaboration – involves harnessing faculty expertise across departments and disciplines. Seven years ago, for example, we brought together TC economists, sociologists, and legal and policy experts to create an entirely new department: Education Policy and Social Analysis. EPSA has become a hub for cutting-edge research and a training ground for future education policy makers and leaders. And it has raised TC’s influence on the biggest issues in education, from school choice to equity in education financing.
Cross-disciplinary collaboration has also enabled TC to launch new centers and institutes with wide-ranging impacts.
For instance, educators, community activists, and policy makers from all over turn to TC’s influential Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy, led by Pam Koch, for cutting-edge research and policy on food and nutrition. The Center’s research is widely cited both in and out of academia, and is used to develop major school and government policy.
The new Institute for Psychological Science and Practice, under the guidance of Peter Coleman and Caryn Block, enhances TC’s longstanding leadership in psychology by bringing together psychologists from five departments.
Collaboration has marked our professional development programs as well as degree programs. Last year, Amy Stuart Wells, along with Michelle Knight-Manuel, Felicia Mensah, Mariana Souto-Manning, Detra Price-Dennis, and other TC colleagues representing several departments, organized and led “Reimagining Education: Teaching and Learning in Racially Diverse Schools,” the first professional training institute of its kind. 150 educators and school leaders from across the country came to TC for a wide-ranging four-day conference. Word spread; when we offered the institute again this summer, the number of attendees doubled. Nearly 50 TC faculty, graduates, and students from six departments and more than a dozen programs and institutes served as speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders. The group is now working with Vice Provost for Digital Learning, Steve Goss, to get the program online.
A number of these collaborations were sparked by the Provost’s Investment Fund, which for the past ten years has supported innovative faculty work. In total, we have awarded 144 Provost’s Investment Fund grants for a total of $4 million. The Fund and its spinoff, the Rapid Prototyping Program, which has generated $186,000 to date to support non-degree efforts, have been enormously generative. They sparked many groundbreaking new programs, such as the nation’s first master’s program for diabetes educators, directed by Kathleen O’Connell; the Ivy League’s first master’s program in Spirituality and Psychology, founded and led by Lisa Miller; our Creative Technologies programs and lab, created by Judy Burton and Richard Jochum to enable art education students to explore emerging technologies in the art world; a Reading Specialist master’s program, directed by Delores Perrin, which provides experience in reading and writing assessment and intervention; and our Executive Master’s Program in Change Leadership, under the direction of Debra Noumair. Known as XMA, this stellar program prepares executives to lead their organizations creatively and responsibly through social and economic change.
TC’s programs and centers are products of an environment where innovation is encouraged, where ideas can be tested, and where excellence can flourish. Chiefly responsible for creating that environment –- and providing smart, steady academic leadership over the past decade –- is our Provost and my colleague, Tom James. Tom, thank you.
Tom’s success has been predicated on the strength of our outstanding faculty. They have proved themselves to be great institution builders by investing their time, care, and talents to make TC work better for everyone – especially our students. As a result, our students are happy to be here, and our faculty and staff are happy to inspire them and steward their careers toward success, fulfillment, and a legacy of service to humanity. That’s what I call a virtuous circle.
A great example of the virtuous circle of collaboration at TC is our work with our neighbors in Harlem. In 2007 I asked Nancy Streim to oversee the launch of our new Office of School and Community Partnerships in order to bring sharper strategic focus and execution to our efforts to improve local schools in Harlem. In 2011, those efforts came to fruition with the opening of Teachers College Community School, which soon became the most in-demand public school in Harlem.
In total, 500 TC students and 60 TC faculty members have put best practices to work at TCCS, and gained valuable professional experience serving the educational, psychological, and health needs of Harlem students and their families.
I’ve stressed how our faculty members excel when they work with one another and collaborate on institutional initiatives such as TCCS.
But we must also recognize how stellar they are as individuals. It could take me all day to illustrate this point, so I’m going to focus on just a couple of aspects of their accomplishments.
First, our faculty scholarship has had enormous impact, accounting for nearly $50 million in sponsored research this year alone – up from $32 million in 2006 – and making a huge difference in the world.
One always hesitates to name names because one can’t name 160 names, but please indulge me while I skip across the departments to highlight some of the amazing achievements of the past 11 years.
For example, Kim Noble’s research on how poverty affects brain development – featured in a lead article in Nature – led to her study on whether monthly cash stipends for mothers of young children can help minimize or counteract those effects. Currently supported by the NIH and several foundations, Kim’s project could change the course of education and social policy – and improve the lives of countless lower-income students and families.
Andrew Gordon has leveraged his research on the biological causes of movement disorders to develop therapies that help young people with cerebral palsy. He has documented gains in children’s mobility following just three-and-a-half weeks of Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy, or HABIT, which requires children with severe limb weakness on one side to make equal use of their weak-side limbs.
TC’s 21-year-old Community College Research Center, led by its founder, Tom Bailey, remains hands-down the leading independent authority on our nation’s two-year colleges and the nine million students they serve. In 2015, the CCRC published Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success, the result of a major study on guided pathway reform. The book’s recommendations for increasing student retention and achievement have already been implemented around the country. The CCRC also recently produced the first state-by-state report on the effect of high school dual-enrollment courses.
At the opposite end of the educational timeline, TC’s National Center for Children and Families continues its work to transform the lives of children in the U.S. and across the globe.
The Center’s co-director Jeanne Brooks-Gunn has made major news in recent years with studies showing that children do not fare worse if their mother works during the first year of life; that there is a strong and significant interaction between certain genetic markers and post-partum depression; and that during lean economic times, some mothers may impose harsher and even violent discipline on their children. For her article on spanking and childhood behavior, Professor Brooks-Gunn received the 2017 Society for Social Work and Research Excellence in Research Award.
The Center’s other co-director, Sharon Lynn Kagan, has influenced early childhood education policy in just about every state and many nations. She has chaired the National Task Force on Early Childhood Accountability and led research comparing early childhood education systems of several nations, consulting on a major report ranking the quality of early childhood education in 45 countries – an outgrowth of her work for UNICEF in helping to create early childhood learning standards for the world’s poorest countries.
Mary Mendenhall has developed professional development programs for teachers in refugee camps, who have classes of 150 children or more – and who are often refugees themselves.
They are addressing a daunting worldwide problem, where nearly half of all displaced primary school-age children do not attend school, and virtually none goes on to college.
Also working with refugees is Lena Verdeli, whose research on interpersonal psychotherapy among depressed adults and adolescents in Uganda led the World Health Organization to officially recommend the method to treat debilitating depression in traumatized populations. Lena was the lead writer of the training manual the WHO launched last fall, and thanks to her work, TC's Clinical Psychology Program received the American Psychological Association's first award for programs that foster international and global perspectives.
Charles Basch has become a major national adviser on reducing health disparities, thanks to his work documenting the links between health conditions and academic underachievement among low-income students and students of color. His research has helped launch programs that position schools as the point of delivery for monitoring the health of young people and ensuring basic interventions, such as the use of eyeglasses for students who are having trouble reading the chalkboard.
Christopher Emdin has pioneered the use of hip-hop and rap to teach science educators how to turn middle- and high-school students on to science and math. Chris is the foremost authority on how educators can harness the power of youth culture to help students understand and formulate complex academic concepts. His work – including his 2016 book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too – has reinvigorated public discussion on how culturally-responsive teaching and learning can help reduce educational achievement gaps based on race and socioeconomic status.
Judith Scott-Clayton has testified before the U.S. Senate on the need for federal financial aid reform. In a 2013 Brookings Institution report, she proposed major Pell Grant reforms to strengthen on-time completion and student success in college. She has been a major force in the movement to simplify the FAFSA form.
George Bonanno’s groundbreaking work – which upended conventional wisdom by revealing that most people cope with trauma and loss with surprising resilience – inspired us to create TC’s Resilience Center for Veterans and Families, thanks to a gift from David and Maureen O’Connor.
The Center provides vital support for veterans and their families readjusting to civilian life, and prepares counselors and therapists to address their psychological and practical needs.
A very powerful force for meeting the needs of teachers and schools is the TC Reading and Writing Project, which has benefited the world of education through its published research; its development of state-of-the art teaching tools, materials, methods, and assessments; its work with schools in New York City and throughout the nation and the world; and its week-long institutes that have drawn more than 170,000 teachers.
Last year, Heinemann, a leading publisher of professional development books and provider of resources for teachers, introduced a new library series of books for grades K-8, selected and vetted by the Reading and Writing Project.
All of this is a testament to the vision, entrepreneurship, and leadership of the Project’s Founding Director Lucy Calkins. Lucy, congratulations.
Professor Michelle Knight-Manuel is helping 40 New York City public schools address the “lowered expectations and inequitable access to high-quality learning opportunities” that account for why students of color trail their peers in high school graduation rates and measures of college readiness. Michelle has guided establishment of “culturally relevant, college-going cultures that reflect the cultural knowledge, background and interests of their students.” Every adult, from teachers to security staff, shares accountability for getting students to think about college – from encouraging sixth graders to go on campus visits to urging seniors to carefully evaluate whether colleges will support their needs and interests. “It’s about shifting perspectives to see students of color as college-bound or college-ready," Michelle says. "Because if you don’t, you’re not going to support them."
Alex Bowers is working with the Nassau County BOCES to assess the data literacy and data research needs of 20,000 teachers and administrators in Nassau County districts. Preferred analytics and visualizations will be developed and users will be empowered to employ them.
Eventually, the codes for these tools will be made available nationally, enabling practitioners anywhere to use data in order to improve student success in practice-friendly ways.
Beth Tipton has developed a web-based tool for enhancing the generalizability of large-scale evaluations, making it possible for research on promising educational approaches to be more definitive.
Honored this year by the American Psychological Association with the Anne Anastasi Distinguished Early Career Award, Beth is now working on software that combines generalizability and statistical power.
Noah Drezner is a leading authority on educational philanthropy and how colleges and universities can engage their alumni in more inclusive ways. He is the founding editor of a new peer-reviewed journal based at TC, the Journal of Philanthropy and Education, which will publish its first issue next month.
Many of the faculty I’ve mentioned were hired since 2006. Tom James and I are delighted that nearly half the current faculty came to TC under our watch, all bringing intellectual firepower and superb credentials to their fields.
This year’s new arrivals are no exception. Daniel Fienup is reimagining how we instruct and assess individuals with disabilities.
Mark Gooden, the new director of our Education Leadership program, helps urban-school leaders tackle institutional racism.
Douglas Mennin is changing the treatment and public understanding of anxiety and depression.
At this time, I would like to take a moment to remember members of our extended TC family whose commitment to excellence and the advancement of social justice inspired us, and whose passing we continue to mourn:
Kathleen Tolan, an educator who was one of Lucy Calkins’ closest collaborators in the Reading and Writing Project;
John Henry Browne, an inspirational, longtime instructor in our English Education program;
And, of course, Morton Deutsch, whose work on transforming conflict and hate into understanding and peace made him one of the world’s greatest thinkers, social psychologists, and activists of the last century.
A third way to shine a light on faculty excellence is to point out the public and professional recognition of the stellar work coming out of TC. For example, in the past year, two of the most prestigious research societies in our professions turned to TC for leadership.
Regina Cortina was named President of the Comparative and International Education Society. And Amy Stuart Wells became president of the American Education Research Association. The AERA also presented three major honors to TC faculty: an Early Career Award to Detra Price-Dennis; a Mid-Career Award to Mariana Souto-Manning; and the Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award – the AERA’s highest honor – to Hank Levin, an economist of education whose work has helped guide federal, state, and local education policy for decades. Specifically, Hank’s demonstration of the massive economic benefits of graduating more high school students has been instrumental in designing policies to boost graduation rates.
Other members of our faculty also received prestigious awards.
John Allegrante received the 2017 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award from the Society for Public Health Education.
Ansley Erickson’s book Unequal Metropolis will receive the History of Education Society's Outstanding Book Award.
Felicia Moore Mensah received the 2017 Outstanding Science Teacher Educator of the Year Award from the Association of Science Teacher Education.
Kim Noble received the Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science.
Lori Quinn received a Training in Grantsmanship for Rehabilitation Research award from the NIH.
Susan Recchia’s article on “Preparing Early Childhood Professionals for Relationship-Based Work with Infants” received the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education Distinguished Article award.
And this past summer, the American Psychological Association renamed one of its most prestigious honors for lifetime achievement the Derald Wing Sue Award for Distinguished Contributions to Multicultural Counseling, and gave Derald the first award in his name.
Overall, in the past year alone, TC faculty published 207 peer-reviewed books and articles and garnered 60 major awards and honors.
I’m proud of all of our faculty, students, and staff whose work has advanced the public good.
I’m also proud to note the success of our “Where the Future Comes First” Campaign in advancing the College – starting with creating 150 new scholarships and strengthening ties with our 90,000 alumni.
We have more than doubled the number of TC alumni donors, and have motivated alumni across the country and the globe to become actively involved in their local alumni groups.
In addition to creating scholarships, the Campaign has funded the future of students and faculty in two ways: by providing for physical and technological campus improvements; and by enabling faculty to put innovative ideas into action.
Take our capital improvements. Classrooms on the second floor of Grace Dodge Hall have been beautifully renovated, while the adaptive, super-high-tech multimedia space of our magnificent Smith Learning Theater at the Gottesman Libraries offers infinite possibilities for immersive teaching and learning.
Funded by a most generous gift from TC alumna and Trustee Camilla Smith and her husband, George, and designed with the contributing insight of our library director Gary Natriello, the Smith Theater officially opened last week. If you have not yet taken a tour of the Smith Learning Theater, I encourage you to do so.
In total, we have renovated and transformed more than 25,000 square feet of classroom and instructional learning spaces across the campus. Our thanks to Harvey Spector, TC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, and to his entire team for their dedicated oversight. We can see and feel the impact of their work everywhere, from the much-improved dining hall and residential halls, to the safer, upgraded campus infrastructure.
Campaign gifts have done so much more. They have supported ongoing faculty research and opened new avenues of research. And they have enabled us to launch exciting new centers and programs, including a new doctoral concentration in Dance Education, supported by alumna Jody Gottfried Arnhold, and our Teaching Artist Certificate Program, designed to provide pedagogical and practical skills to professional artists who teach in diverse classrooms.
The certificate program was created with the generous support of TC Board Vice Chair Leslie Nelson and her family. Leslie has not only been one of our most generous donors. She has also served as a phenomenal Campaign Vice Chair, alongside her fellow Campaign Vice Chair Bill Rueckert, and the Campaign’s outstanding Chair and supporter, Marla Schaefer.
Our great thanks go to them. We also thank the first Co-Chairs of the Campaign, Laurie M. Tisch and John Rosenwald, as well as all who have served on the Campaign Committee for their dedication and support.
A special word about Bill Rueckert. He is celebrating 20 years as a member of the TC Board of Trustees, and he has served at the top for the past 14 years.
Like his great aunt Grace Hoadley Dodge, Bill has always imagined what was possible to achieve, and said, “Let’s do even more.” Bill, it’s been a pleasure and honor to call you my boss and my friend for the last 11 years. We are all truly grateful for your leadership and support.
All of us also will be forever grateful for the guidance, support, and friendship of Jack Hyland, our beloved TC Board Co-Chair who passed away this past August.
Jack played key roles in launching so many innovative programs and initiatives that advanced the public good, and we all miss him terribly.
All of our Trustees are a big reason why I can announce this big news: Just last week, we reached and surpassed our $300 million goal.
Raising $300 million to fund TC’s future is a huge accomplishment that could not have happened without the leadership and tireless dedication of Vice President Suzanne Murphy and her team of talented professionals at Development and External Affairs. Suzanne dreamed big and worked impossibly long hours with her team to make the Campaign a success beyond all of our dreams. Please join me in congratulating Suzanne and her colleagues at DEA for really getting things done.
But wait! We’re not done yet. While the campaign is scheduled officially to close at the end of December, we plan to go all out fundraising for more student scholarship support throughout the academic year. In fact, fundraising for student scholarships will remain one of my four top priorities for my final year as President.
It was former trustee Abby O’Neill who said, “Education is the secret of it all.” Abby, whom we lost this year, saw how TC developed its students into extraordinary educators and recognized that too many aspiring teachers face large financial burdens. So she created a generous fellowship for TC students who want to teach in New York City’s most underserved communities.
Gifts like Abby’s change the lives of TC students, who go on to change the lives of their students, patients, clients, and communities. The impact of a scholarship gift is exponential.
That is why we will continue to work tirelessly to put a TC education within the financial reach of as many outstanding students as we can.
Our second priority this year is to position TC more firmly as a leader in research on education technology. Though the field is in one sense booming, with a new breakthrough touted seemingly every week, true quality control is another story.
As the home of the first educational technology graduate program in the world – revamped in 2014 as our Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design Program – TC has the unique capacity to help assess the pedagogical effectiveness of new ed-tech products; to analyze learning outcomes; to apply research on best design practices; to conduct cost-benefit analyses; and to design and create products themselves.
TC now has 36 interns placed in tech companies, bringing the benefit of expertise to start ups that have little funds to dedicate to education research. But fortunately, about 15 TC faculty are engaged in research projects on instructional technology use and effectiveness.
And last month we launched the 2017 Innovation Award – a contest open to students at TC and all of Columbia. Participants will work in teams to develop concepts and prototypes for apps, games, software, or other products that can serve as effective and practical educational tools. The initial response has been overwhelming. We hope you all join us for the final showcase on December 13th.
My third priority this year will be expanding TC’s digital professional development programming.
TC alumni and working professionals everywhere have long turned to TC to keep up-to-date on advances in their field, to gain new credentials for career advancement, and to feed their passion for lifelong learning.
In recent years, we have created many new workshops and programs, including certificates and advanced certificates in such fields as conflict resolution, professional coaching, and teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages.
But to reach the widest range of learners, we will continue to expand TC’s digital footprint in education, psychology, health, and leadership.
That footprint is already big. Over the past year, more than 20,000 students have enrolled in TC’s online courses, programs, and institutes, from TESOL and nursing education to the innovative online version of the Cowin Financial Literacy Program, which in five years has benefited more than 1000 practicing educators from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries.
Our new College Advising Program, led by Riddhi Sandil, is off to a great start. Sponsored by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and designed for counselors and college-access professionals in underserved high schools, this program has already enrolled nearly 200 students, with many more on the waiting list.
In May, we launched the online version of our Bilingual Speech-Language Pathology Advanced Certificate Program led by Cate Crowley. And this past summer we offered a course in Teaching Reading to Struggling Students led by Dolores Perin.
A number of other new programs are in the works. These include an online certificate program in medical education, which will provide advanced skills in adult learning for physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and other medical professionals in teaching and mentoring roles.
Many programs and institutions at TC are implementing digital learning into their curricula. For example, last fall, our Klingenstein Center for Independent and International School Leaders partnered with Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning to launch a Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, called “What Every Teacher Needs to Know about the Science of Learning.”
The MOOC was offered for free on EdX as part of a White House Initiative and reached 12,000 educators in 170 countries. We hope to spread more and more of TC’s intellectual riches to learners around the globe.
Finally, we are deeply committed this year to developing and implementing TC’s Civic Education Initiative.
I announced the initiative at last year’s State of the College, when I expressed deep frustration about our country’s racial tension and violence; the extreme polarization of the electorate; the unwillingness to listen to opposing views; the spread of fake news; and the depressingly low rates of voting and active political participation. I said that schools have not fulfilled their critical mission of preparing young people to be active citizens, and that the decline of the teaching of civics has contributed to our divisive political climate.
I said that it was clear that we need to do more to reframe civics education and foster political participation – and that TC has the resources, the expertise, and above all the responsibility to lead the way.
TC faculty eagerly heeded the call and came together throughout the year to set the Civic Education Initiative in motion. They envisioned a series of curriculum development, teacher professional development, and digital projects for teachers and students from early childhood through grade 12.
We are now seeking funding for a variety of efforts aimed at students and teachers in New York and throughout the nation. No other initiative could be more in line with the history and mission of Teachers College.
To quote John Dewey, “Apart from the thought of participation in social life, the school has no aim.” Our great hope is that the striving for social justice, the spirit of civic camaraderie, and the commitment to helping others that flows through TC will spread both outward to schools and communities everywhere, and forward for generations and generations.
When I think back on my time at TC, I will think of our shared love for our work, and the deep respect we have had for each other as colleagues, friends, and citizens of a community truly like no other.
Although I still have eight months to make farewell remarks, I’d like to leave you today with a few thoughts about the future. First, I hope that TC will always keep its eye on the cutting-edge – the imperative of making a difference with our work. Of course this means forging new scholarly ground; I have given many examples of our faculty doing just that this afternoon. But it also means assuring that our educational programs are innovative, forward looking, and splendid. I hope that TC maintains the practice of external review, calling in renowned experts periodically to assess and advise on the quality, distinctiveness, and attractiveness of our programs. I use the word ‘attractiveness’ advisedly; we have definitely diversified revenues here at TC – bringing in new grant and gift dollars and adding non-credit revenue – but we remain tuition dependent. And we rely on attracting students in an ever more competitive environment. Just this month, New York state charter schools were granted the authority to certify their own teachers without any tuition charges. Although this will face court challenges, we must acknowledge the challenge of much lower-cost competing professional programs, not just in education but in health and psychology too.
Excellence will remain our biggest selling point, but can we make our programs more attractive by making them less credit-heavy and therefore less expensive for debt-burdened students? Much state or accreditation related mandated content could be handled through modules rather than courses and we could reduce our degrees closer to the state minimum in credits through creative redesign. While we are talking about cost-related redesign, might we look across programs for duplications that cause us to make less than best use of our wonderful resources? I know there are enthusiastic arguments for each discipline to have its own methods courses, but surely, we could group disciplines at some level above the program or even the department to create synergies and efficiencies in methods preparation. Similarly, many teacher education colleges are focusing on core or high leverage practices that cross teaching subjects. Have we done enough to look across our teacher education programs for synergies?
Second, I hope that we can maintain our commitment to our community. I strongly believe that universities, like houses of worship, are cornerstones of a community — they predate and will postdate community-based organizations and political groups that come and go. We in Morningside Heights have not always been community-facing, as comes to mind readily these days as we come up to the fiftieth anniversary of the Columbia protests and engage in discussions of free speech, bringing back memories of those a half-century ago. TC faculty and students are deeply engaged throughout the city (as well as elsewhere in the nation and the world), but we have worked to create a special relationship in the neighborhood, with our schools partnerships, activity in the Morningside Area Alliance and collaborations with local organizations. I truly hope that continues.
Finally, I have been filled with joy every time I hear someone refer to TC as a community or family. This has not always been the case. We must continue to overcome silos and to honor civility and respect, even as we undertake the difficult discussions that are essential to good education. In the years to come, I would like to think back to my TC family with warmth and love, and hope that it remains a friendly, supportive home for generations to come.
Published Friday, Oct 27, 2017