Update on the Implementation of the College of Education’s Strategic Plan
As the University releases its strategic plan, which was informed by all of the strategic plans that were prepared by the various colleges, campuses, and administrative units at Penn State, it seems timely to provide an update on where we are with the implementation of the College of Education’s plan. At the time we submitted our plan back on July 1, no one could foresee the economic turmoil that would characterize the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. There is no denying that the budget rescissions and cuts we are experiencing are affecting our ability to put parts of our plan into operation. I see this primarily as an impact on timing rather than an impact on the priorities that we set. We worked hard last spring to identify our priorities, and these seem even more appropriate and important today as they did a year ago. But timing is another matter, and the various shortfalls we are experiencing have required us to slow down the implementation. Nevertheless, we are making some progress, and I am pleased to provide this brief update on a number of the key initiatives.
Center for Educational and Developmental Sciences (CEDS)—Karen Murphy and Tom Farmer have agreed to serve as the co-directors of the new Center. You may recall that the purpose of CEDS is to provide support for faculty members in their efforts to develop interdisciplinary funded projects. We have received financial support from the Children, Youth, and Families Consortium and we are in the process of identifying space for CEDS in Rackley Building. Karen and Tom are developing a Web site for the Center, and they will soon be appointing some staff to provide support for proposal development. CEDS promises to be a quite visible and active part of the College as we move into the 2009–10 academic year (and beyond).
Innovation Studio—Carla Zembal-Saul and Scott McDonald have been taking the lead for the design of the Studio and have been working closely with Kyle Peck. We have identified space for the Studio in the ETC area of Chambers Building and there are some big ideas in play that would involve a significant renovation of space on the second floor in the gallery area of Chambers Building. We are working hard to identify donors who can help us realize the full potential of the Innovation Studio, particularly with respect to the brick and mortar aspirations. Scott has agreed to serve as the initial director of the Studio, and we are planning to provide some staffing support, beginning next year. This is a case where we have not moved as quickly as we had hoped, but it is also a case where the idea continues to have great merit and where we will make more tangible progress during 2009–10.
Intervention Studies Graduate Assistantships—I had hoped to begin this program with the cohort of graduate students we are admitting for next year, but the budget cuts simply made this impossible. The revised plan now is to launch the initiative next year for the graduate students who will be starting their programs in the fall of 2010. Earlier in the year, there was some discussion about dropping the “intervention studies” language and creating a more generic program, but there is a significant advantage to having a focus to this initiative, and the intervention theme has considerable appeal and is relevant for all of our academic programs. We are also working hard to identify donors to help support this initiative. You may notice that I’m using the term “assistantship” here rather than the term “fellowship”, which we used in our plan. There are some internal accounting rules at Penn State that make the assistantship designation more appropriate, and the revised plan is to move in this direction. I am also seeing the creation of this program as an important part of our effort to shift funding in the direction of support for graduate students.
Upgrading Teaching Laboratories—This initiative is largely on hold because of the budget challenges. We continue to make technology upgrades but have had to slow down larger renovations. We hope to get back on schedule during the coming year.
Creation of a College-wide Assessment Committee—Jackie Edmondson has been leading this effort, and there is an active committee that includes faculty representatives from each of the undergraduate programs, faculty with interest in program and student assessment, and staff from our advising center and Alumni Relations office. Over the past year the committee has reviewed data that is part of the regular cycle of information coming into the College of Education (for example, pass rates on Praxis exams) and the committee has determined some areas where further information from students would be useful. A key accomplishment this year was the creation of a final semester survey to learn more about undergraduate students’ perceptions of their experiences as they complete their program of study. This information and other assessment data will be shared with faculty on a regular basis.
Survey of Recent Graduates—We are working collaboratively with our Alumni Society and our associate deans for undergraduate and graduate studies to develop strategies for reaching out to current students as well as recent graduates. I have already noted the efforts of the Assessment Committee to survey undergraduates, and this initiative is part of our preparation for our next NCATE review. NCATE also expects us to follow up on our graduates, and this fits well with our Alumni Society’s interests in strengthening ties with graduates.
There is no denying the challenges we face, but I remain confident that we will continue to make progress as a college, and I am heartened by what we have already accomplished in the first year of our plan. Thank you for your ongoing interest, and please let me hear from you if you have concerns or questions.