In 2017, the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development continues to be a world leader in educational equity, learning technology, child development, health and wellness and many other areas that impact families and children across the globe.
As I look back at 2016, I’m proud of the professors, teachers, researchers, staff and students of the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). Together, we have conducted research, outreach and educational programs that have touched the lives of people in Minnesota and around the world. Most importantly, we have empowered a new generation of teachers to take their passion for education to new heights. In the years to come, I know they will go forth and make a real difference in the lives of their students. Here are a few of the things we’ll be doing in the next year to help make that happen.
Creating a More Diverse Teaching Corps
CEHD believes that we need to create new and innovative pathways to teaching careers to ensure that our future teaching corps is more diverse and reflective of the students they teach. We recently graduated our first cohort (comprised of 74% persons of color) of our Minneapolis Residency Program, which gives classroom assistants in our schools an accelerated path to earning a teaching license. A second cohort of 24 candidates is currently enrolled in the program. We’re proud of their success and know they will accomplish great things in the Minneapolis school system.
In January, we are launching another innovative teacher education program designed to help meet the high demand for multilingual teachers. The program is completely online and focuses on dual language and elementary language immersion programs. Our first cohort is made up of 30 aspiring teachers, 80% of whom are persons of color. While there is disagreement as to how to improve America’s educational system, everyone agrees that we need more experienced, committed teachers in our schools. Programs like this are just a few of the ways that CEHD is committed to making that happen.
Empowering First-Year Student Success
CEHD is not only interested in recruiting a more diverse student body – we want to make sure that our students have the tools and support structures they need to succeed. We do this by putting CEHD’s educational research into practice. Even though we have a high percentage of first-generation college students, we maintain a 91% freshman retention rate. That’s because we base our first-year program on what works. It’s just another way that we’re using the knowledge being created in our college to impact the lives of our students.
This commitment to a research-based curriculum is present throughout our students’ first-year experience. As a leader in the field of educational technology, we distribute iPads to our first-year students and engage them in learning experiences that leverage passion for digital storytelling, online discussion and social media – often using applications like Flipgrid, which was developed by CEHD’s LT Media Lab.
Additionally, we’re implementing co-teaching initiatives, where teachers from two different disciplines team up to teach the same classroom. We find that these classes are more engaging to our students – and reinforce our philosophy that education is closely tied with each learner’s overall mental, social and physical health.
We’ve also addressed one of the most common problems colleges face when dealing with their first-year students: access to and engagement with student advisors. A good student advisor can make a big difference for a college student who is learning to navigate the waters of higher education, but too often they forget to attend their advisor appointments or avoid advising services altogether. To solve that problem, we’ve embedded advisors in our first-year classes, and schedule sessions with students as part of the coursework. This ensures that all our students receive the benefits of student advising services.
Research that Makes a Difference in Our Communities and Schools
At CEHD, “Improving Lives” is more than a tag line – it’s a philosophy that is the foundation of everything we do. One of the advantages we have here is that – unlike many other colleges of education – CEHD is an incredibly diverse, multidisciplinary institution that includes everything from child psychology to kinesiology.
Being multidisciplinary gives us the ability to look at the complex factors that impact a student’s education. For example, a traditional college of education might look at dropout rates and how that affects achievement. We take a broader view of the role society and family plays in each student’s education. From a child welfare perspective, we need to ask questions like “Is there abuse or neglect in the family?” What kind of support can we offer families who are struggling financially or are unable to meet basic needs like housing, clothing and transportation for their kids? Placing a child’s education in the proper context is crucial, and that’s something we are uniquely positioned to do at CEHD.
Another way our college is different is that nearly all our faculty who are actively doing research have some connection to a school, social service agency or nonprofit organization. Our research is grounded in and engaged with the community; they get to see firsthand both what the community’s needs are and the effects of their research in practice.
CEHD’s Ann Masten could do her research about executive function exclusively in the traditional lab, but chooses the agency People Serving People as her primary workplace. When Patricia Shannon conducts research on immigrant populations, she spends much of her time at the Center for Victims of Torture. When we study the best methods for using social media to engage students, we do it at Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis. I believe that this commitment to doing our research in our communities both improves the quality of our work and ensures that our efforts are making an impact.
Using Technology and Entrepreneurship to Spread Knowledge
As a land-grant University, sharing our knowledge and research with our state and the world is one of our core missions. That’s something we do every day in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. However, in recent years we realized that technology and the marketplace can be tools to help spread CEHD research even further. While we share the research and interventions we create with local agencies and schools, commercializing some of what we do has the potential to cast a wider net and make a much bigger impact.
It’s been a significant shift in culture for our faculty to think about the broader applications of their work. Technology also allows for new ways they can offer advice and content to practitioners, teachers, school administrators, social workers, counselors and coaches. We use technology to present information quickly and on-demand in ways that are accessible and easy to use. If they need a refresher, they can always go back and review the content again. We’ve seen the power technology has to distribute research-based educational tools, pedagogy and classroom interventions with CEHD-developed products like Flipgrid, Check & Connect and PRESS (Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites). It’s an area in which we will continue to be innovative.
Innovation and a Global Perspective in 2017
As the world around us grows more uncertain, our mission to educate, uplift and support the next generation is more important than ever. We will continue to be an international leader in education, learning technology, child development and educational equity.
In addition to continuing our successful Improving Lives capital campaign, which has raised more than $61 million dollars to date, we’re excited to announce several new programs and centers at CEHD. As part of our continuing goal to put innovative education technology in the hands of teachers, our Educational Technology Innovation Center will be moving into an impressive new facility housed in the McNamara Center.
We’ll also serve the needs of our state’s children and students with a new Center for Resilient Families in the Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health. To aid CEHD’s increasingly diverse student body, CEHD researcher Bic Ngo has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create a support center for Asian American students.
Finally, we are placing a big focus on CEHD’s global learning experiences and programs. In a world that feels increasingly divided, we believe it’s critical that all students – regardless of financial resources – have access to the life-changing benefits of safe and enriching learning opportunities both here and abroad.
At CEHD, we will continue to teach our students that they are world citizens, that their diversity is valued and that we can work together to create a better future. In 2017, that message will be more important than ever. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.
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