Last week, Teachers College opened its doors for a reimagined, community reunion that brought TC alumni, students, faculty and friends together for engaging activities spanning service, culture, learning, caring for others and social justice for the first time since 2019.
The opportunity to come together — united in a shared purpose to build a better world — uplifted and sustained the TC community both on and off campus — through community workshops, social justice initiatives and virtual speaker sessions.
“Gathering as a community to learn from one another and exchange ideas offers a resounding reminder of the power of the Teachers College network and our collective impact,” explained TC Alumni Council President Brian Kennerly (M.A. ’92). “We — the College’s alumni, students, faculty and friends — are all bound by an unwavering commitment to enact meaningful change through education, health and well-being, and we are all made better by this community.”
See what you missed on TC Way during TC (Re)Unites below.
(Re)Unites kicked off with a Community Empowerment Celebration which convened the College’s various student and alumni affinity groups, across TC’s Asian & Pacific Islander, Latinx, LGBTQ+ and Black communities.
Campus festivities continued later that week with a plaque to commemorate and recognize the leadership and contributions of our past TC Student Senate Presidents and Vice Presidents. “Now, for this day forward, their names are engraved in the halls of Teachers College,” said Thomas Rock (Ed.D. '02), Chief Student Affairs Officer and Associate Vice President of the Division of Student Affairs. “We’re so happy we finally did this, and I thank you all.”
Alumni, students and friends then gathered in Gottesman Library for a special round of “lightning talks” with TC authors on their writing journey, publication process, and recommendations to aspiring authors. “These authors encompass the very best–and the diversity of–academic programs, research, and perspectives from TC students, faculty and alumni,” said KerryAnn O’Meara, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost and Dean of the College, who reflected on another recent event celebrating freedom of expression. “It was also not lost on me in a time of book and curriculum bans in some parts of the country that [New York City’s residents] said, ‘Here, we think books light our way, proudly.’ So what a wonderful tradition to begin celebrating our TC family authors.”
The TC community then took to the dance floor at the Smith Learning Theater to the sounds of Tempo Alegre. Cultural dance company and community partner Ballet Hispánico provided lessons and performed, a nod to the College’s own work in dance education.
Saturday, Oct. 14, kicked off a full-day of (Re)Unites festivities on campus. Community members traveled nearby to help clean-up Morningside Park, a neighborhood fixture for TC students and local residents alike.
Others participated in a yoga class led by doctoral student Jason Reid (M.A. ’21), or a neighborhood tour led by Tom Rock (Ed.D. ’02), Chief Student Affairs Officer and Associate Vice President of the Division of Student Affairs.
As part of the weekend’s festivities on 120th Street, Teachers College honored six alumni for critical contributions to their fields and the TC community. “Our goal is envisioning our collective impact in the world: what it is now, but more importantly, what it can and will be as we address key societal issues,” said President Thomas Bailey during the presentations of the 2023 Alumni Awards. “Stay involved, because our impact is the direct result of those joining us today, and the contributions of our faculty and alumni, who are not only the best and brightest, but also those who have the strength and stamina to achieve true change.”
The alumni award ceremony was followed by the Charo Uceda Women’s Empowerment Lecture, delivered by Sayu Bhojwani (Ph.D. ’14), who for more than 30 years has worked to advance political and social equity for immigrants and women of color.
“We cannot legislate our way to belonging. Representation in and of itself doesn’t get us there. We need to build community,” says Bhojwani, who currently leads the Women’s Democracy Lab, which offers support to women of color and Indigenous women elected to public office. “[Today is] an important reminder that we are part of a community that has faith in education and its adjacent fields. That we are optimistic and committed to learning leadership and service at a time when none of this can be taken for granted…Without community, there is no liberation."
The engaging discourse continued across campus with a variety of round-tables on topics related to health — for oneself, others and democracy. Peter Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education, and his colleague Pierce Godwin of the Listen First Project discussed how to have depolarizing conversations, the focus of both their work.
Meanwhile, equity and diversity in higher education post affirmative action took center stage during an expert panel featuring TC lecturer Leslie Williams (Ed.D. '19); Andrea Soonachan (Ed.D. '11); Milagros Castillo-Montoya, Ed.D. (Ed.D. '13); Roman Liera (M.A. '13); and Delmy M. Lendof (Ed.D. '13).
Learning became hands-on during a workshop hosted by TC’s Pam Koch, Mary Swartz Rose Associate Professor of Nutrition and Education; psychologist Caroline Clauss-Ehlers (Ph.D. '99); and renowned chef Julian Clauss-Ehlers that explored how cooking together and sharing meals can help build healthy relationships with food and others.
Alumni, students and friends also explored the impact of artificial intelligence in education and enjoyed hands-on experience with AI tools in the Smith Learning Theater with guidance from the Digital Futures Institute.
Denise Herrera (Ed.M. '22) offered mental health and wellness tools for educators during a special workshop.
In honor of National Chess Day, Karen Aronian (Ed.D. '15, Ed.M. '97, M.A. '96) and her daughter Laurel Aronian hosted a chess workshop for players of all ages and skill levels.
Elissa Perry, Professor of Psychology and Education, discussed evidence related to the benefits of healthy workplaces and the costs that are incurred in their absence, and offered actionable takeaways for improving leadership and team culture.
Community members then gathered for a fun networking party to conclude the TC (Re)Unites festivities.
Earlier in the week, (Re)Unites also offered virtual programming on numerous social justice issues to the community.
TC students Christina Torres and Noa Urbach facilitated an engaging virtual discussion on climate advocacy and sustainability. “Specifically here at TC, everybody has a role to play. Climate change is a public health crisis. It isn’t just an environmental crisis like the way a lot of people think about it,” explains Torres, noting the importance of intersectional conversations about climate change and sustainability across education, health and psychology to meet the full spectrum of needs that coincide with the issues. “At TC, I think we are poised to be the next leaders of sustainability to not just think about how we’re training future generations, but how are we supporting our local communities here in New York City and beyond.”
Gun violence prevention expert Sonali Rajan, Associate Professor of Health Education, sat down with Matthew J. Camp (Ph.D. ’21) to discuss her work to develop research-driven solutions. “We want to think about access to firearms as one part of the solution, but we also want to think about the other systemic factors that might be driving this kind of violence,” explains Rajan, the first president of the Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms. “The solution to gun violence prevention is not going to rest on one specific policy or practice. Like any other public health or frankly social crisis that this country is facing, we need to invest in solutions that are multifaceted, that draw on multiple disciplines, that are comprehensive, that understand there’s nuance and variation across geography and life course. I just think that has gotten missed in a lot of the public discourse around these issues.”
Sonya Douglass, Professor and Founding Director of TC’s Black Education Research Center (BERC) and Michele Verdiner, Principal at Teachers College Community School (TCCS) took to the virtual stage to discuss the ways in which TC’s groundbreaking Black studies curriculum is being implemented in New York City Public Schools.
“[BERC has] been honored to work with community-based organizations and professional educators to think about what we want our young people to know about Black education, culture and experience and ensure that we’re including the needs and voices of our school communities into that curriculum,” shared Douglass. The virtual presentation continued as Douglass and Verdiner explored the rollout of the pilot program from both the researcher and practitioner perspective, along with lessons learned throughout the collaboration with the New York Department of Education.