Dean’s Message for Alumni News

This fall promises to be quite exciting as we close out our centennial celebration and then gear up for new projects and activities in the spring. I want to remind […]


November 20, 2006



This fall promises to be quite exciting as we close out our centennial celebration and then gear up for new projects and activities in the spring. I want to remind everyone to plan on attending the Centennial Conference Nov. 2-4, “Closing the Achievement Gap through Partnerships,” which will be held at the St. Petersburg Hilton We have an impressive array of national speakers (Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Richard Rothstein, Etta Hollins, and Heather Weiss), an excellent panel discussion with leading superintendents across the state, and numerous presentations by our college faculty and students along with a cross-section of presentations from around the country. This conference is an impressive demonstration of UF’s commitment to ensuring all children have equal access to quality instruction, and underscoring the need to build strong partnerships with families, schools, and community groups in a time of rising economic and social disparities. In addition, each department will feature its own centennial speaker either during the fall or spring semester. Watch this newsletter for more details about the speakers and their topics. Finally, we have three presentations this semester by candidates for the Fien Professorship, and I hope each one will generate a strong audience.

The most exciting research news impacting the entire college has been the new “Science for Life” program that is funded by a $1.5 million dollar grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and with extensive support ($2.5 million) from UF sources. This highly innovative — in fact, one could say truly revolutionary — program will help transform undergraduate education in the life sciences, and will build students’ research capacity from freshmen to postdoctoral associates. More than 10 colleges, 49 departments, and 200 UF faculty are involved in some aspect of this program. Our college is heavily involved in almost all components, including the creation of a new interdisciplinary curriculum for the state of the art Core Lab that will be constructed in the Health Sciences Center, the development of a new science education minor, oversight of a new postdoctoral mentoring program in partnership with Morehouse College, outreach activities with Alliance science teachers, and the internal evaluation of all program activities and outcomes. I serve as one of the co-PI’s and associate directors of the project. Other college faculty working on this project are Tom Dana, Troy Sadler, Linda Behar-Horenstein, Bernie Oliver, Luis Ponjuan, and Mark Shermis. As this program continues over time (we are funded for four years), I fully anticipate there will be additional opportunities for other college faculty to become involved if they are interested. But be forewarned; some of us are finding this program so all-consuming we are now dreaming about it!

Last year, the dominant thrust was a focus on strengthening and enhancing the research culture within the college. Under the leadership of Associate Dean Paul Sindelar, we made great progress, and activities planned this year will build upon those initiatives. This year, the issues that will now become more prominent are redefining public scholarship and creating trans-disciplinary programs. While our college has featured a variant of public scholarship (the scholarship of engagement), this model does not fully account for the variety and complexity of other forms of research that also fit within a broader definition of public scholarship that increasingly characterizes many public research universities. The question of trans-disciplinary programs is important because President Machen’s strategic work plan for the university strongly emphasizes greater collaboration among all academic units, and major funding from foundations and federal agencies parallels his thinking. The recent HHMI award (the first ever for this university) is an excellent example, and the fact that UF committed so much in internal funds is a clear signal of both the president’s and the provost’s priorities as they seek to enhance the national reputation of this university. As we move forward in the development of our own strategic work plan, we need to keep these points in mind.

In future columns, I plan to keep everyone informed of new directions the university and the college will take in response to the rapidly changing landscape in higher education. Now entering my fifth year as dean, I continue to be impressed and amazed at the wealth of talent, energy and ideas we have in our college, and I expect us to have another outstanding year. Living in Florida, it’s hard to avoid using meteorological allusions, so I’ll close by saying who needs hurricanes when the college of education has become the new driving force behind the winds of change sweeping across campus.

— Dean Catherine Emihovich.