Watson Chronicle

WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

Features

Message from the Dean

Friday, September 01, 2017

Greetings and best wishes to the Watson College community. For those of us here in the College, we are well into the fall semester and the academic year, and the days have cooled off and the air has become a little crisp. People are quite busy with our academic programs across Watson to say the least, and our engagement with the community, region, state and world is as active and energized as ever. As you will see below and in the Watson Chronicle stories, the college has a strong wind at its back, and important work and challenges ahead.

In August, we got the academic year off with a cosmic bang with our solar eclipse celebration. Approximately 1,200 people came through the Watson College as part of the activities. Chris Gordon and his team in CESTEM led a great set of activities and provided multiple high- and low-tech ways to view the eclipse. In addition, in recognition of the lunar-solar event, we handed out 500 cans of Sun Drop and 600 Moon Pies to the masses that gathered. It was a great day!

At the end of the spring 2017 term and through the summer we brought on board new colleagues around the Watson College, and said goodbye to senior faculty members and former deans who have been promoted to retirement. Bob Tyndall and Cathy Barlow, who both served as deans, officially retired from the university over the summer. In May, James Applefield and Barbara Honchell retired after distinguished careers in the Watson College. We also have recently celebrated numerous accolades, awards and recognitions for our faculty and staff. I hope you will take a few minutes to read about these accomplishments in the stories included in this edition of the Watson Chronicle.

In the spring we kicked off our “Watson Wednesdays” campaign. An effort inspired by our students, the ongoing campaign connects efforts to promote the College’s identity with student leadership initiatives and with alumni engagement efforts. Since March the college has distributed nearly 2,000 t-shirts bearing the “Watson” logo to alumni, students, staff, faculty and friends of the College. (We distributed 500 in the first 72 hours!) We ask recipients to wear the t-shirt proudly to claim our space in the world, and to use social media and digital tools to promote who we are, what we do, and the impact we and our partners have. The t-shirt campaign is part of a broader effort that has included our “It begins with Teachers” effort to promote the effect that great educators have in our lives. The campaigns have been such a hit that in a recent digital billboard promotion in Wilmington, a Seahawk sat in on a photo.

We have begun in earnest to collaborate with the New Hanover County school system to design a “lab school” at DC Virgo Preparatory Academy in Wilmington. An initiative created by the North Carolina General Assembly, the lab school presents an opportunity for the school district, Watson College, and DC Virgo and its community to envision and build unique educational settings that can grow out of the good work going on now at Virgo. The lab school is a major and complex challenge, and highlights the importance of our collaborative relationships with schools, districts and community leaders. Learn more about that effort in the Chronicle story, and keep an eye and ear out for more information and updates being shared as we move forward.

In our t-shirt initiative, our campaign to support the teaching profession, and in our framing language, we as a College community embrace our responsibility to learn, lead, create and inspire, and to support educational settings where those acts happen. We embed those constructs in our academic programs and in our teaching. We use them as underpinnings to guide our engagement efforts and to be responsible and supportive partners in our collaborative efforts across and beyond the campus. As a college whose work crosses the continuum of learning from birth and early childhood to the structures and contexts of higher education, our reach is broad and our webs of significance are and can be uniquely impactful.

Events of recent months have called on us as a college to raise our own consciousness around issues of diversity, and to learn, lead, create and inspire in ways more profound than we have before. For some, the violence that occurred in a singular event in Charlottesville a few weeks ago startled us into forms of awareness of how hate is manifested in the world in destructive, dangerous and violent ways. For others – including many of our friends and colleagues in the Watson College community – the destructive forces exhibited that day were louder and more blatantly aggressive forms of threats that happen every day. The events in Charlottesville are a threat to democracy and to the identities and safety of many of our colleagues, friends, and people we love and cherish. Our challenge is to see how that threat is presented every day (not just in the alarming nature of a singular event) and to lead. We have to move beyond the mode of responding to the alarming nature of singular events. Our challenge is to recognize these threats for what they are and to engage in intentional, righteous and constructive ways as educators and community members to create a different narrative and sense of public engagement.

As John Goodlad, one of my mentors, said often in his work in public education and learning in general, “People are born free, but they are not born wise. The purpose of education in a democracy is to make free people wise.” That call to us has never been more important than now. Understanding the linkages between education, democracy, being truly free, having tranquility (as peace, not as suppressed critique and the false comfort of “civility”) and living with a sense of authentic justice are essential elements of our work as educators. That is true for learners from early childhood to higher education, and in settings from public schools to colleges and universities to corporate and business sector professional learning. We as a college of education have a unique responsibility to, with clear intention, engage in work to create a place where all of our colleagues and friends feel safe in their identities, in their narratives in the world, in the work they do. We also have responsibility to be a model for how those places and spaces are created in a vibrant and creative economy, and most importantly in democratic communities.

We have an opportunity and are challenged to learn, lead, create and inspire as a college community in ways we never have before. We are beholden to that work because the U.S. Constitution requires it and only works if we do. We are beholden to that work because to learn in contexts that respect and engage diversity in all its forms is part of the essence of learning to live in a democracy. We are beholden to that work because economic success is grounded in embracing the broadest array of talent and creativity we can generate in diverse work places. We are beholden to that work because to respect the ability and opportunity to learn, to cultivate one’s talents and to pursue one’s aspirations is an act of respecting and embracing the dignity of all people and the stories we are creating in our lives.

I hope you will enjoy this edition of the Watson Chronicle, and see the great work that is going on in the college, with our partners, and in the many successes of our alumni and friends. As always, if you have the chance, please come visit the College and see our outstanding educator community firsthand.