Watson Chronicle



Message from Watson College Dean Van Dempsey

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dean Van Dempsey

Ask anyone who works in the Watson College and they can tell you that we are defining, redefining and re-conceptualizing our space. We have to. We are growing and pushing our boundaries, and being asked to stretch into spaces where our presence can be instrumental to collaborative success.

Our work in the preparation of educators includes not only providing high-quality programs, but a wide range of real-world applied learning experiences that prepare Watson students - NC’s future teachers and educational leaders - to succeed and thrive in a diverse, rapidly changing world. Our commitment to enhancing education in our region means retaining dedicated and engaged faculty, expanding the work of PDS and our centers, building on partnerships and collaborations, and broadening our reach so we can meet the changing needs of educational leaders, teachers, students and society. We see the boundaries of our spaces expand and the map of our work redefined in the presence of the College across the globe. International programming for students, faculty and collaborative partners now takes place in Belize, Ethiopia, Finland, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, London, Malawi and South Africa, and in the near future, Panama.

We have quite literally stretched beyond the capacity of the beautiful Education Building here on campus and the confines that house our Youth Programs, CESTEM and Assistive Technology Centers. We are experiencing growth in the number of people who are part of the College community and in the programs they support. We have recently welcomed four new faculty to the College (and will search for at least five more this academic year). We have expanded our ability to partner and collaborate with our PDS colleagues by adding an assistant director of PDS to strengthen the great work going on through our school-university partnership. We will add an additional team member to support our Teacher Education candidates who are enrolled in our distance education programming. We have re-conceptualized and expanded the work of our advising center, and now engage in efforts to recruit, retain and graduate our students though the newly reorganized office of Student Advising and Integrated Leadership. We are continuing to enhance and expand our efforts in STEM learning, and in ways that we can maximize our resources to impact learning experiences for children and support for educators who lead and facilitate those learning experiences.

Along with the day-to-day work faculty and staff do to enhance our academic programming, our College is engaged in efforts to expand enrollment and program growth, particularly in the area of Teacher Education. We have seen growth in our hybrid and online courses and programs (an area where we continue to see success and help provide leadership to the university). You may have seen the College and our partners engaged in a public conversation over the last few months focused on the importance of the teaching profession and the need to celebrate its profound place in our democratic society. The “Teaching Matters” and “It Begins with Teachers” campaigns have amplified the unique place of teachers in all of our lives and communities, and the importance of encouraging, supporting and embracing the teaching profession as an opportunity for traditional college students and career-changers.

We’re working to raise awareness of the graduate programs we offer, especially in specialty and lesser-known areas. New videos have been developed to showcase our Masters in School Administration, Academically and Intellectually Gifted programs, our Master of Science in Instructional Technology and a new internship in Maynooth, Ireland, offered to students enrolled in M.Ed. and Ed.D. programs in higher education.

Over the last year we have also worked diligently to promote all of our academic programs with new printed materials and summary information about the Watson College. In addition, we are constantly fine-tuning our website to offer the most current and helpful information we can provide to prospective students.

Our faculty and collaborative partners have continued to create and collaborate in innovative initiatives through grants that have a direct impact on our academic work and our engagement in community spaces. We have seen success across an array of academic program areas, with a range of community partners, and in ways that impact work within the College, the Wilmington community and across the southeastern region of the state.

We have begun to intensify our work to engage in broader conversations about the work of the College, how to strengthen it, and how to incorporate feedback and perspective from the community. We spent the last year examining and discussing the work of our advisory board, and begin the new year with a Community Advisory Council that will help us to inform the community and region about the mission and work of the College, and to provide advice and perspective on ways we can enhance our work and impact in the world. We have also had a great year working with our Alumni Council to strategize about ways to build our alumni connections, and embrace their unique role and contribution to the success and identity of the Watson College. We are regularly impressed with the success our alumni achieve and share, and are proud to see the impact that they have in their own professional and career spaces and in their communities.

One of our greatest challenges – and opportunities – has been to be intentional in our work in policy spaces. Over the last year we have intensified efforts to engage the region and state to showcase our impact by inviting key stakeholders and policy makers to visit the College and engage them in critical conversations with our faculty, staff and students about our academic and engagement programming. We have situated ourselves in key stakeholder venues and deliberations that can impact our work, and impact the institutional contexts where we partner and where our graduates work. This past year we:

  • Hosted a meeting of the NC State Board of Education;
  • Co-hosted (with the campus) a visit by Margaret Spellings (President of the UNC System);
  • Hosted the 2015 GradNation Summit (with 250 attendees);
  • Sponsored the NC Public School Forum 30th Anniversary Gala in Raleigh; and,
  • Hosted a Watson College program showcase for a current and a former member of the UNC Board of Governors.

Their understanding of our impact and our methods is crucial in helping to frame policy decisions that can enhance our ability to make a positive impact.

As noted above, sometimes we are pulled into arenas where we as a College community are asked to lead, and are called upon to create new spaces that enable the state to address challenges in education. Those challenges and calls come in many forms: the education of more teachers through alternative programs; the need for more school leaders; the professional development provided to educators who serve non-English speaking children; the need to create innovative spaces to pilot and study best practices in schools and classrooms. Changing policy contexts, unexpected diversions in how we as a state alter the contexts of professional identities and practices, and flux in professional supports and reward systems all create situations in which the College must be agile enough to redefine the academic, professional and practice-based contexts in which we do what we do, and to do so in a way that does not compromise our commitment to integrity and fidelity.

Sometimes we celebrate and highlight the remarkable work of people in our midst that amplify the fact that hope, opportunity and pathways to success are alive and well in spaces and places where it might not be so easy to see, find or expect. That is nowhere more evident than in the Razor Walker honors and celebration dinner. The 2016 event was a highlight of the year for our College. More than 225 people attended and were audience to an impressive array of community and state leaders whose work embodies what we value as a College. Their work on display that night reminds us that to be truly great, we have to be great in ways that matter in the world.  

As you enjoy the Watson Chronicle stories included in this issue, and those to come in subsequent issues over the next academic year, you will see persistent evidence of the vibrant, dynamic and collaborative culture of the Watson College. You will see numerous examples of the strength of our commitment to partnership and the leadership that our students, faculty, staff, partners and alumni provide on a daily basis. Please enjoy, and if you have the chance, please come visit the College and see this outstanding educator community firsthand. 

Van O. Dempsey

Van. O. Dempsey III