Dean’s Message: On rankings, faculty productivity and optimism

Posted April 24, 2009 While we wait for the University of Florida’s final budget to emerge from the state Legislature, we should keep in mind the fact that we have […]


April 24, 2009



Posted April 24, 2009

While we wait for the University of Florida’s final budget to emerge from the state Legislature, we should keep in mind the fact that we have a strong and vibrant College of Education, where outstanding work continues even during these hard times. The latest U.S. News & World Report rankings for America’s Best Graduate Schools has just been released, and we were enormously pleased to see that two programs, Counselor Education and Special Education, were ranked No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, and that for the first time, our program in Educational Administration made the rankings list, at No. 26. The College overall held the 54th slot in the national rankings, which tied us with several research universities around the country. To maintain a top 10 ranking for two of our programs, while adding a third nationally ranked program, is no small accomplishment given all the dramatic changes that have taken place during this year. I commend the faculty in all these highly regarded programs for their impressive work, and I am optimistic the college will strengthen its national profile as we continue to build on the foundation we are now establishing as we refocus our strategic goals.

I recently completed my dean’s report to the faculty highlighting the many special initiatives that were launched or reached major milestones this year, faculty honors and awards, and the success of our fundraising efforts. Reading over this impressive report, I realized it’s far too easy to focus on the negative and overlook the positives of the impressive array of research and engaged scholarship activities underway across the entire college. Whether the focus is on STEM-related activities (22 initiatives in this area alone!), early childhood readiness, teachers’ professional development, teacher inquiry, campuswide assessment and evaluation, English language learners, or improving access to higher education, we have a significant presence of faculty and students who are providing innovative solutions to a broad range of school and community concerns. We will be celebrating all of these accomplishments and many more in our second annual Faculty Research and Engaged Scholarship Showcase on Oct. 15, so mark your calendars for this important event.

A dismal economic picture has not dampened our fundraising success, either. To date, we have raised $18.7 million in our capital campaign, which is 94 percent of our $20 million goal. This year alone, we raised over $8.3 million to support research and scholarships in the College, projects tied to the Lastinger Center for Learning, UFTeach, and PKY. I was especially pleased to learn that because of a gift from a generous donor who believes in our College, we will be to recruit, in the future, our second endowed chair in the area of school improvement research.

Further cause for optimism is President Obama’s national education priorities:

  • “Investing in early childhood initiatives” like Early Head Start and Head Start;
  • “Encouraging better standards and assessments” by using testing itineraries that better fit students and the world they live in;
  • “Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers” with incentives for a new generation of teachers and for new levels of excellence among all teachers;
  • “Promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools” by modernizing the school calendar and the structure of the school day and supporting effective charter schools;
  • “Providing every American with a quality higher education — whether it’s college or technical training.”

The good news is that many of the initiatives we already have underway map extremely well onto these priorities, and I believe we have a great opportunity to capitalize on our strengths as we seek new revenue sources to help us cope with the reductions we face. I am generally an optimistic person, and as Colin Powell has said, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” May the Force be with our college as we forge ahead in the coming year.

— Catherine Emihovich, Dean