Greetings! Welcome Back! Welcome Ahead!
A message to Faculty and Students from Interim Dean, Dr. Dana Fusco
It was best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us . . .
~Charles Dickens, 1859, The Tale of Two Cities
The times we are in today remind me of this passage. Of the fullness of life – challenging, at times, stressful but also full of hope and promise. I cannot wait to meet you all, to listen, to learn, to build and rebuild. We have much to do. We will succeed, we will stumble, we will grow, but most importantly, we will do it together.
Let’s make the Queens College, School of Education
the Place to Go, the Place to Grow, the Place to Glow
#1. Navigating the Pandemic Environment
We still need to navigate the ever-changing and uncertain COVID climate. The pandemic has had repercussions throughout our college, school and communities. There has been great loss and much suffering, and it is critical that we all tread lightly and show great compassion, patience, and continued resilience. Going into the 2020-2021 academic year, we face a budget crisis. Cuts are likely and we must now mitigate the damages such that teaching and learning are maintained at the highest of standards. The online environment presents many challenges, but it also presents many exciting opportunities. I am eager to highlight best teaching practices in our online spaces so that together we can learn and grow what works well and what does not. I also want to ensure that all faculty and students have the support needed to start the semester ready to fully engage in their academic pursuits. Towards that end I asked students to complete a Student Technology Need Survey, you can view the results in the link below. Faculty are already being surveyed by the college. Finally, I know many are wondering about the clinical placements for Fall. Guidance will be issued before the start of the semester.
#2. Restoring full Accreditation Status
As you likely know, the School of Education was put on probationary status in 2018 for failing Standard 5, Provider Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement. Restoring our accreditation status is a top priority. In the Spring 2020, I had the pleasure of working closely with the staff of OAA and faculty across the School of Education and its external programs to right the path. We submitted our Probationary Self Study Report; we have started to address the stipulations; and we have begun work on the Advanced Program accreditation. Our site visit is December 2020. We have much more to do in the Fall to ensure a successful visit, but I am hopeful for a positive outcome.
One immediate and important action that all faculty and students (candidates) can take is to fully engage with the School’s Chalk and Wire ePortfolio system. All candidates need to have an active Chalk and Wire account and they must submit their assignments in the semester they are due. Additionally, all faculty teaching courses with embedded Chalk and Wire assignments need to complete and/or monitor the assessments and related candidate submissions. This will provide the School of Education with comprehensive data that allows for informed, data-driven decision-making as it relates to program improvements, modifying or replacing existing assessments, and providing more focused academic advisement to our candidates. Your support is appreciated and critical to our success.
#3. The Creation of Three Taskforces
Three issues emerged during our accreditation work in the spring that need to be addressed this coming academic year. These three issues were presented to and adopted by our Executive Steering Committee in May.
Issue #1: A need for clearer, consistent and transparent admissions and progression policies.
Issue #2: A need to review the curriculum sequencing of programs.
Issue #3: A need to design pedagogically robust and sequenced clinical experiences.
Starting in September, I will charge three taskforces to begin the work of remedying these concerns:
Click here to sign up for a taskforce. Students are welcome to join and require at least one faculty recommendation letter.
- POLICY TASKFORCE
- CURRICULUM TASKFORCE
- CLINICAL TASKFORCE
#4. The Will to Change Initiative
Prior to beginning as Interim Dean of the School of Education, I hosted the first virtual event of the Will to Change Initiative. The event itself and a resource collection can be found on the Dean’s Initiatives section of the SOE website. This will remain a top priority. We must collectively and systematically uncover and illuminate the policies and practices within the School of Education that silence, marginalize, and disrespect faculty, staff and students, and particularly faculty, staff and students of color. In addition to Fall and Spring events, some of the areas that the SOE will begin to address include but are not limited to:
- Disparities in graduate program enrollments by race/ethnicity
- Disparities in faculty representation by race/ethnicity
- Retention rates of students of color
- An interrogation and decolonization of curriculum
- Professional development on anti-racist pedagogy
- Preparation for working in and with communities of color
#5. Identifying and Illuminating our Ethos
There are thousands of teacher education programs throughout the country. What makes Queens College the place to go? What are our niche areas and how do we communicate who we are to the outside world? I plan to launch a marketing campaign to include a redesign of our website and eventually a national newsletter. It is important that we highlight QC as a place to grow and a place to glow. Opportunities to grow both in and outside of the classroom as well as faculty and student accomplishments should be illuminated boldly and loudly. We have much to be proud of so let us shout from the mountaintop.
It is perhaps cliché to state that we live in a time of great uncertainty. Yet, maybe it bears repeating. Almost everything about our future is unknown: when will the current pandemic end? When will schools reopen? What will the “new normal” look like? Will we recover and heal from the wounds reopened time and time again by practices that are historically drenched in injustice and racism? Will we return to policies that perpetuate injustice? Will the racialized inequities of social class ever be named and held accountable? How do we create solutions that address the fact that inequalities are embedded in a thick social and cultural weave of intersectional forces?
Children and young people do not come to the classroom as blank slates on these issues. They watch the news; they are on social media; they hear the adults around them react to the headlines. They are taught how to think about, understand, and make meaning of events. Too often they un-learn the tender, naïve, and often much more humane responses of children and replace them with adult soundbites that often do little to unpack the profound complexities of social issues.
Many adults are locked into their own responses – emotional responses and intellectual ones. We often do little in the way of asking our young people what they are thinking and feeling, how they understand current issues, what they need to help them interpret and come to grips with current realities. Too often we offer quick solutions instead of opening up the world for their discovery, curiosity, interrogation, and creative expressions.
Critical thinking, creativity and compassion are the mindsets and heartset that should belie our pedagogical response. Education without these skills is just another seal on the closed minded and trapped thinking that too many adults and leaders are beholden to. The ability to ask questions, interrogate truths, be open minded, take on alternative perspectives, have empathy, be compassionate – these are the foundational cognitive, social and emotional skills that are needed to combat the toxic identities that are pervasive in American society today.
I invite us all to think about how we can unlock and unleash the potential of the next generation of educators and educational professionals, and by extension, children and youth. How are we supporting critical thinking, creativity and compassion in and outside of the classroom in order to create a just and inclusive democracy?
WAYS TO CONNECT WITH ME
- Email me your input and ideas at SchoolofEdsuggestions@qc.cuny.edu
- Feel free to get on my calendar for some one on one time
- I will also host open meetings with various stakeholder groups
- Once on campus, I will have open hours for faculty and students to stop by for some coffee and chat.
Best wishes for a safe, productive and exciting year,
Dr. Dana Fusco
School of Education