Dean’s Message – Centennial Message to Colleagues of the Future

(The following note, penned by UF Education Dean Catherine Emihovich, was among the items buried in a time capsule Dec. 7, 2006, in a ceremony culminating the College of Education’s […]


January 17, 2007



(The following note, penned by UF Education Dean Catherine Emihovich, was among the items buried in a time capsule Dec. 7, 2006, in a ceremony culminating the College of Education’s yearlong centennial celebration.)

Catherine Emihovich, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean
December 7, 2006

It’s a very odd, and rather unsettling, experience to be writing a message to whoever will read it 50 years from now. The burial of the time capsule on this date was the culminating event in a year-long celebration of the first 100 years of the College of Education’s history since it was founded in 1906. As I reflect on the past, what is striking to me is how little some aspects of education have changed over those years. Clearly, significant changes have occurred with the kind of information students need to acquire, and the delivery of instruction is just now beginning to be substantively impacted by the increasing use of technologies such as laptop computers, electronic white boards, assistive devices for students with disabilities, etc. But what has not really changed is that students still arrive at a school where they go to their classroom, see the chairs lined up in rows (or in more modern schools, tables), and listen to the teacher (most likely a woman) who is standing in front of the room presenting the lesson. The schools of 2006 may have far more facilities than past schools, but the majority of teaching and learning activities still take place in a defined building and not in alternative spaces within homes, community settings, or public areas. We are more cognizant of, and attentive to, the needs of children with varying disabilities, but sadly, despite the increasing diversity of U.S. public schools in terms of ethnicity and language, the schools are more segregated now in 2006 than they were in the past 100 years.

As I imagine education in the future, I picture learning taking place without regard to the boundaries of time and space. Perhaps by now virtual learning environments will have been created, and students move in and out of them as needed to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to function in a global society. They may have access to devices that allow them to translate any language seamlessly, capture their thoughts instantly on a form without transcribing them, or share information across widely distributed networks that replicate the neural patterns of the human brain. By now, the physical characteristics of students and teachers will truly be irrelevant as barriers to learning, bringing new meaning to the phrase created by a great leader in our time – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – who said he longed for the day when “people will be judged more on the content of their character than on the color of their skin.”

But one aspect I sincerely hope will not have changed is that there will still be a learner and a wise teacher who together walk through the door to greater knowledge and understanding of a world without limits except for those imposed by a lack of imagination. That fundamental human connection is the glue that has held this world together so far, and it would be a pity if the technological advances I envision in your future society left individuals bereft of social contact in learning environments except through artificial means. I hope your next century fulfills the promise of education to create a more just and equitable society, and we send you our best wishes from 2006.