DEAN’S MESSAGE: New year sparks optimism–and call for action

Posted Jan. 25, 2011 Happy New Year! Despite all the problems and challenges facing our state and nation, it’s difficult not to feel a burst of optimism at the beginning […]


January 25, 2011



Posted Jan. 25, 2011

Catherine EmihovichHappy New Year! Despite all the problems and challenges facing our state and nation, it’s difficult not to feel a burst of optimism at the beginning of a new year. It’s hard to believe that the first decade of the 21st century is already over. Just yesterday, it seems we were worrying about worldwide computer crashes (remember the Y2K issue in 2000?) and now we worry about the worldwide economy crashing.

While few of us can do much about the latter scenario, we can resolve to take action on both professional and personal fronts to improve the quality of public education so that all children can benefit from equal opportunities to learn. The evidence mounts every day that increased levels of education will be the only buffer against being left behind in the new global economy. As a college heavily focused on the application of our research results for outreach and intervention work, our faculty and students play a unique role in helping to close the painfully long and continuing achievement gap among different student groups.

Despite all the challenges of declining state support, the College of Education posted an exceptional record last year in addressing family, school and community needs through research, teaching and service. Without a doubt, the COE annual report for 2009-10 was the best one I’ve read since becoming the dean in 2002. In virtually every category, the results were striking in terms of faculty, student and alumni accomplishments. . .

— External grant funding has reached a record high level of almost $38 million; private funding exceeded $3 million; faculty have received five highly competitive IES grants, and, over 2,800 students are now enrolled in online programs.

— As the UF Capital Campaign approaches the end (in 2012), the College has already exceeded its two previous targets of $9 million, and $20 million respectively, and is well on track to exceed the $25 million target, which is an unprecedented record.

— This past fall, a long cherished dream of our early childhood faculty was realized with the approval of a new, interdisciplinary Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. This new center will support faculty collaboration on research projects in education, law, medicine, nursing, and public health centered on issues related to children’s well-being from birth to age 5.

— The Lastinger Center continued its stellar track record in obtaining external funds, and the highly successful and widely acclaimed Florida Master Teacher Initiative now has over 230 teachers enrolled in the program.

— Lastly, the College is a partner with the Miami-Dade School District on an i3 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for developing a job-embedded master’s degree program for early childhood educators.

What’s ahead for the College? We have a new governor who took office in January and has presented some very ambitious–and rather unsettling—education proposals, although they are more likely to impact K-12 education than higher education. We also know the state faces a daunting $3.5 billion deficit which needs to be resolved by June. Yet, I still return to my earlier optimism.

We have talented and energetic faculty engaged in research that speaks to the concerns of families, schools, and communities; we have outstanding students and we have loyal and active alumni who continue to support the college in multiple ways. The Faculty Policy Council has mobilized faculty in a strategic planning process to chart a course for the college for the next five years.

The fact that the College has been so successful , given all the challenging issues and budget reductions we have faced over the last four years, should encourage all faculty, staff, students and alumni to believe that we will weather these economic upheavals just as well as, if not better than, those encountered in  previous years.