On April 18, the College of Education hosted Stakeholder’s Day at Norman Hall to reconnect with donors, alumni, and friends of the college.

Guests traveled from around the state to learn more about current and future projects involving our students and faculty, centered around our college’s tradition of transforming education.

To kick off the dynamic event, Dean Glenn Good and Associate Dean of Personnel Affairs and Student Engagement Erica McCray welcomed the crowd with warm opening remarks before Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development Thomasenia Adams spoke on reframing “problems” as opportunities instead of setbacks. She explained that our college community uses each new problem we face as a springboard of learning– fostering stronger collaboration, engaging in deeper research and producing impactful solutions for our schools and communities.

The immense power of collaboration was further emphasized by keynote speaker Danita Dehaney, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. She talked about the impact of educational research and provided examples of how the Community Foundation partners with UF and other state universities to address some of our state’s most immediate needs, such as boosting literacy rates and addressing children’s mental health struggles after crises.

Attendees experienced an auditory journey through “Pure Imagination” as the P.K. Yonge student choir performed Gene Wilder’s most famous song among others before Tim Vetere, Ph.D., discussed how UF is leading the way in preparing teachers to meet the demands of education today while reimagining a future that will benefit Florida classrooms and beyond.

In the true spirit of showcasing our next generation of educators, a student panel discussion was facilitated by Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Elayne Colón. Panelists expressed their appreciation for various scholarship opportunities, expanded on research they’ve participated in, and considered their plans for the future after graduation.

Justin Ortagus, Ph.D., and Paul Perrault, Ph.D., senior vice president of community impact and learning with the Helios Education Foundation, delivered a presentation on research being conducted through the college’s Institute of Higher Education’s partnership with Helios, focusing on topics such as reducing student achievement gaps and decreasing college drop out rates.

After lunch, Shaunté Duggins, Ph.D., described some of the incredible projects being implemented by New Worlds Reading through the Lastinger Center for Learning as they work towards instilling a lifelong love of reading for Florida students, VPK-5th, who are not yet reading on grade level.

Visitors were also treated to donor and alumnus Joe Thigpen III’s (Ph.D., ‘74), enthralling backstory, from the Peace Corps in Brazil, to his army service in the Vietnam War, to his career as a consultant and executive coach. Woven throughout was the underlying impact his University of Florida education had on his life and career success.

“I came to realize the value of what I had learned here,” Thigpen said of the College of Education. “I learned that who you are and how you treat people really mattered. I learned our stories stem from our beliefs which dictate how we experience the world and how we view the people and the immense community around us… and I learned the power and importance of empathy.”

“Because I came to appreciate the value of my education here at the university at a very deep level, I felt a compelling desire to give back.”