This will be my last coE-News column until the fall semester when the e-newsletter resumes distribution. We have had an exciting past year, especially during the spring semester when our year-long Centennial activities began in January, 2006. This semester ended with another excellent commencement ceremony organized by Assistant Dean Theresa Vernetson, highlighted by the commencement address delivered by nationally syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker (editorial page editor of the Atlanta Constitution). Her remarks were both deeply personal and thoughtful as she acknowledged the key role many educators played in her family life, and emphasized the need to have high quality teachers in our most challenged schools.
One of the hottest issues in education today is the press for students to have an international experience, and for universities to develop partnerships with other institutions around the world. We are adding an international component to some of our degree programs, most notably the International Leadership in Educational Technology (ILET) doctoral program housed in the School of Teaching and Learning. Two of our faculty—Tom Oakland (School Psychology) and Rick Ferdig (School of Teaching and Learning)—were recently named UF International Educators of the Year and several Counselor Education faculty have shaped their research agendas with international partners in Australia and Singapore. Theresa Vernetson is working with several departments to create an international education minor where our students would have an opportunity to observe in schools abroad.
This past March, I participated in a People to People delegation to China. This program, which has been operating since 1957, was created under President Eisenhower to facilitate cultural contacts with other countries, primarily those with a Communist government. Given the political changes that have occurred since then, the range of countries has shrunk considerably, although the program also includes visits to places that have begun expanding their international outreach such as South Africa. We visited three cities – Beijing, Guilin, and Shanghai – and the experience was memorable. During the visit, I was able to observe elementary, middle, and high school classes, and to meet with university peers at Beijing University, Guilin Teachers College, and Shanghai Normal University. During the fall semester, I will share my observations at a brown bag lunch since I found both some fascinating contrasts with our system, along with surprisingly similar professional development components at the K-12 level. China is clearly becoming a dominant force in global education, and we need to understand their educational system better if we are to work successfully with our counterparts.
While the summer is still a very busy time for many faculty and students, it does provide a brief opportunity for the college administration to catch our breath on scheduling events, and get ready for the fall. The main event in the fall will be our Centennial Conference, which will be held at the St. Petersburg Hilton, November 2-4, with four very dynamic national speakers: Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Richard Rothstein, Etta Hollins, and Heather Weiss. Each of the departments will also be featuring a lecture with an invited speaker on a specific topic. And of course we will have our college faculty reception to welcome new and returning faculty. Enjoy the summer and relax if possible, because it will be another active fall season. We just have to hope that the weather does not take its cue from us; more action on the storm front is on no one’s wish list!