“Talent, entrepreneurship and the desire and drive to do great things are givens in our community,” declared President Thomas Bailey this past week in his first State of the College address, and “individual innovation and creativity are in the DNA of Teachers College.” But to too great a degree, Bailey said, “our excellence relies on the initiative of individual faculty, staff and students” – a barrier that must be overcome “if we want to reach the potential of our ability to contribute significantly to building a better world.”
[Read the complete text of Bailey’s State of the College remarks.]
Delivering his assessment after 17 months on the job, Bailey announced a goal of “college-wide excellence for all” to ensure that the success of faculty, students and staff will never be “reduced to a matter of chance or to their personal persistence in digging out the help they need.”
GRATITUDE METER Bailey canvassed the audience on what they were most thankful for this year, and their texted answers appeared in a word cloud behind him onstage. He also led a brief TC trivia quiz. (Photo: Bruce Gilbert)
“No one at TC should feel that they are being left to sink or swim on their own, because, beyond a moral imperative, we all benefit when everyone swims, and swims well,” he said.
Talent, entrepreneurship and the desire and drive to do great things are givens in our community,” but, to too great a degree, “our excellence relies on the initiative of individual faculty, staff and students.
To that end, TC’s President announced plans to:
Consolidate departments and regroup programs in order to enhance collaboration and reduce administrative burdens on faculty. Under the current structure of 10 departments and 50 individual programs, more than a third of TC faculty devote significant time to administrative responsibilities, which limits their ability to mentor, teach and conduct research.
Calling the new initiative “an edit, not a rewrite,” Bailey said that “this simplification will give us a structure through which we can encourage initiatives in student mentoring, teaching, program reform, diversification of curriculum, mentoring of junior faculty, and other measures.”
Bolster outside funding for faculty research. During the 2018-19, TC faculty conducted $60 million in sponsored research — an impressive total, Bailey said, but one that he and Stephanie Rowley, TC’s Provost, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, believe can be significantly increased.
Currently, “only about half of our faculty secure outside funding,” he said, while overall, only “a small group of centers, institutes and individual researchers accounts for a very significant portion of annual sponsored research awards.”
No one at TC should feel that they are being left to sink or swim on their own, because, beyond a moral imperative, we all benefit when everyone swims, and swims well.
Under a new initiative to change this picture, faculty will receive “the support that they need both to find funding and to administer their grants when they win,” Bailey said. Indeed, TC already is implementing a coaching program through which grant-writing professionals walk faculty through the process of securing outside sources of funding. The College also has established a grant repository — “a kind of internal ‘What Works Clearinghouse,’” Bailey said, that gives new and experienced grant writers alike access to examples of successful grant proposals from colleagues.
A new Provost’s Research Advisory Team will convene in January to help to further delineate the needs of faculty and increase interdisciplinary research projects. And TC has launched a national search for a tenured faculty member who will serve in the newly-created position of Vice Provost for Research.
Create “clearer and better-supported career pathways for students.” Bailey announced the planned expansion of TC’s career services function into a “full-service operation” to guide students toward meaningful employment, including through increased connections to TC alumni. The College also is creating a “student hub” on the first floor of Thorndike Hall and launching a Fellowship Task Force, to be led by Provost Rowley, that will direct students toward funded fellowships from the American Educational Research Association and other sources.
Enhance professional development for TC staff. “For TC to flourish, we need our staff employees to have the support that they need and to enjoy opportunities for professional growth and development that enable them to flourish,” Bailey said. Led by JoAnne Williams, Vice President for Finance & Administration, and Lisa Seales, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, the College is rethinking its systems for promoting wellness and supporting training and professional development. And in an announcement that drew loud applause, Bailey announced that “we will change our practice on the taxation of tuition remission for courses taken at TC.” The taxation of these benefits significantly reduces their value, he said, so starting in January, “any coursework at TC that is demonstrably related to an employee’s job will no longer be treated as taxable income.”
For TC to flourish, we need our staff employees to have the support that they need and to enjoy opportunities for professional growth and development that enable them to flourish.
Transform the College’s Gottesman Libraries into a “dynamic center for digital pedagogy and research.” Bailey called the Library a “crown jewel, with cutting-edge resources, a staff of highly talented professionals, and the phenomenal multimedia teaching and learning capabilities of the Smith Learning Theater.” But past projects such as the STEAMnasium hosted by the Learning Theater and the “Teaching the Levees” curriculum co-published by the Library’s Ed Lab division “only scratch the surface of TC’s involvement and potential with new technology.”
The library will soon become home to a resource center, run by TC’s Office of Digital Learning, that will connect students and faculty with technologies that are fundamental to 21st century teaching and learning. It will also conduct research that will determine the most effective approaches to digital and technology-based instruction.
Enhance diversity and the working climate at TC. Bailey announced the establishment of a Teachers College Diversity Scholarship to attract and support the learning of low-income and historically underrepresented students on the TC campus. Rowley and he also are pursuing ideas to diversify curriculum, promote inclusivity in teaching and mentoring and reinforce TC’s commitment to being a “harassment-free and bias-free” institution.
With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, Bailey closed by reflecting on what he has been most thankful for in the months since he became TC’s eleventh president. He saluted Rowley and Williams, calling them “exceptional partners who are playing crucial roles in all of the work I’ve discussed today.” He marveled at “the depth and richness of the College’s intellectual community,” which, he said, “abounds in innovative energy and individual excellence in teaching, research, practice, and service.” But above all, he told his audience, he has been thankful for “your unwavering dedication to Teachers College.
“I recognize that change can be difficult and even unsettling. Yet, you have remained focused on your work, reflecting your dedication to creating a stronger TC and better future for everyone. And for that, I will always be very grateful.”