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College of Education > News and Publications > News: July - September 2013 > Dean's Message: Some Thoughts About 2012-2013 and Future Directions

Dean's Message: Some Thoughts About 2012-2013 and Future Directions


David H. MonkWe just completed a remarkable 90th year in the history of the College, and I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the accomplishments and offer some thoughts about the year to come. It’s very gratifying for me to see the Penn State Network on Child Protection and Well-Being begin to function and to move forward with searches for what will be 12 new tenure-line faculty hires (University-wide). Our EPCSE Department developed a proposal for one of these co-funded positions, and I am hopeful about its funding prospects. We have also made a large number of impressive hires this year across the College, and it is very clear that highly talented individuals are interested in becoming faculty members at Penn State.

Our fund-raising efforts have also been highly successful, and within the last few months we exceeded the (several times) revised Campaign goal we have been pursuing. Our commitments for the campaign are now greater than $30,000,000. Moreover, there are several new gifts in the pipeline that will begin to have tangible impact in the year to come, including the $1,000,000 commitment from the King Family Foundation to develop anti-bullying initiatives. This is an excellent example of where some pioneering work by members of our faculty, Richard Hazler and JoLynn Carney, inspired donors who responded by making a significant gift. We are always looking for opportunities to showcase the talents of our faculty members and plan to give even more visibility to the work of the faculty as the Campaign reaches its final stages.

Michelle Houser and Heather Winfield spend an incredible amount of time in the field identifying alumni and friends who are interested in our work. We have a very strong institutional advancement team, and the various efforts in both the development and the alumni relations areas are paying handsome dividends. We continue to find that people get excited about the College as they learn more about what we are doing. These impressive fund-raising results are a credit to Michelle and our advancement team, just as they are a credit to the great work that goes on within the College. I also want to express my appreciation for all that our staff members do to keep the College running smoothly throughout the year. Without the hard work of our staff, we simply wouldn’t be able to function as a College.

The past year also saw us make significant progress toward implementing a new model of curriculum coordination. I was very pleased when four highly regarded senior members of the faculty agreed to serve in the Department-based Director of Graduate Studies positions. These individuals worked closely with Jackie Edmondson and with the Department Heads of the Departments and made real progress toward increasing the coherence of our graduate curriculum. We made similar progress at the individual graduate program level and also with our undergraduate offerings. I hope to see this progress continue as we welcome Stephanie Knight to her new role as Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Studies.

Given the progress we have made at strengthening faculty leadership at the department level for curricular development and coordination, it is time to think more seriously about complementary progress that needs to be made in terms of staff support. Several ideas have surfaced, and these ideas are being discussed with the relevant parties.

Greg Kelly has worked with his Research Advisory Committee to re-design the model for Research Incentive Funding. This effort has included a re-design for the Research Initiation Grant (RIG) program, including a significant boost in funding, along with the creation of a new research methodologist position to support PI’s as they seek external funding for major projects.

A major redesign of the College’s website is in progress, and we should have demonstrable results to see before the end of the coming academic year. Suzanne Wayne has been leading this effort, and I have been impressed with the expertise of the outside vendor (FosterMilo Web Architects) we contracted with to help us with the design. Web design work is much more complex than many people realize, particularly when you are dealing with a large and complex web site like ours. Many balances need to be struck, and it is inherently difficult—if not impossible—to please all of those with interest in the site. This said, I think you will be impressed with the results and that we can look forward to having a more robust, aesthetically pleasing, and functional web presence for the College in the near future.

Our Waterbury Summit took place in August and brought together national and international leaders in the area of STEM education. Rick Duschl, our Waterbury Chaired Professor, led this effort which we hope will become a regularly occurring event symbolizing Penn State’s continued leadership in STEM education.

We are also planning to complement the Waterbury Summit with a special conference in June 2014 that will be focused on Civil Rights and Education. We have assembled a strong group of faculty members with interests in educational aspects of civil rights, and Erica Frankenberg is working with Greg Kelly to organize a major conference at Penn State on this topic. Next year marks the anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision as well as the Civil Rights Act, so the timing is good, and this will be a great opportunity for us to provide leadership in a vitally important area of public policy.

As many of you already know, we will be actively engaged in strategic planning during the 2013-2014 academic year. We can take pride in what we accomplished with our previous strategic plan, and it is imperative for us to develop a strong plan for the next five years. We accomplished many of our strategic goals over the past five years, and we want to continue our momentum as the College begins a new strategic planning cycle.

Based on our conversations to date, I anticipate pursuing a hybrid approach to planning that will involve asking individual units to take a careful look at where it has been, where it is currently, and where it should be going in the future. We will complement this unit-by-unit planning with a more thematic effort that will be intended to help make connections across the College. We began to identify the cross-cutting themes at our initial “planning-to-plan” meeting on May 8th, and the following themes are among those on the list:

Learning Sciences

What can we do to build links between Educational Psychology; Learning, Design, and Technology; Science Education; and other parts of the University around a meaningful Learning Sciences theme?

Engineering Education

What can we do to find ways to take advantage of the engineering emphasis in the Next Generation Science Standards that were recently released?

Child Protection and Well-Being

What can we do to contribute meaningfully to the work of the Penn State network?

Language Acquisition and Literacy Education

What can we do to build upon the momentum we have established in the many different faces of language acquisition and literacy education?


What can we do to build upon the success of the Krause Innovation Studio, the new technology in the CEDAR clinic, the soon-to-open Mathematics Education Laboratory, and the new Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL)?

This is just the beginning of the process, and I want to invite members of the College community to share any other possible themes with me. All ideas are welcome.

On a personal level, I have a number of special assignments that will require attention over the coming year. In particular, I am chairing Penn State’s Middle States Accreditation subcommittee on Planning, Governance, and Budget. This group is responsible for one of the chapters in the self-study report Penn State is preparing for its regularly scheduled Middle States Accreditation review. I am also chairing AERA’s Governmental Relations Committee. The focus of this committee is primarily on Federal research oversight and policy, but there are numerous connections to broader areas of Federal policy both within and outside of education as a field. Karen Murphy is also a member of this committee as part of her role as Vice President of Division C (Learning and Instruction) for AERA.

Speaking of AERA, next year’s annual conference is in Philadelphia, and we are planning to have a very significant Penn State presence. Plans include a reception for alumni and friends at the National Constitution Center. Our presence at this amazing facility will provide a great opportunity to promote the Civil Rights and Education conference that will be happening at Penn State in the following June.

It’s clear to me that 2012-2013 was a remarkable and highly productive year for the College. Please join me in looking forward to building on these successes as 2013-2014 gets underway.