By DONOVAN HARRELL
The School of Education has reorganized more than just the fifth floor of Posvar Hall.
The school has restructured its six former academic units into three academic departments, allowing for more engagement and cross-disciplinary cooperation for faculty, staff and students, said Dean Valerie Kinloch.
The six former academic units — Administrative and Policy Studies, the Center for Urban Education, Health and Physical Activity, Instruction and Learning, Learning Sciences and Policy, and Psychology in Education — have been changed to:
Educational Foundations, Organizations and Policy
Health and Human Development
Teaching, Learning, and Leading
New training divisions, separate from the departments, also have been developed to foster additional professional development, according to the school’s website. These include:
Research Training: The Ph.D. program and research-oriented master’s degree programs
Innovative Leadership: The Ed.D. program; superintendent’s, districts and community-based leadership
Undergraduate and Graduate Professional Training: Teacher education and professional learning; practice-based master’s degree programs; certificate, intervention, and continuing education programs
The roles of the school’s various centers also have been clarified and slightly altered. The Center for Urban Education, Healthy Lifestyle Institute and the Office of Child Development are now required to offer their services schoolwide, no matter the discipline.
Kinloch said the restructuring will benefit faculty, staff and students in several different ways. Faculty have more opportunities to be able to create and design unique courses with their colleagues.
The reorganization also will allow for more faculty collaboration overall and lets faculty connect their research with their teaching better. Promotion, tenure and faculty evaluations are being strengthened and streamlined, she added.
School staff have had their roles and responsibilities refined and clarified, which “provides them with more of a sense of ownership” of the school and opportunities to enhance their skills.
Kinloch she’s been working on the reorganization since she became dean in 2017. Provost Ann Cudd and Chancellor Patrick Gallagher approved the strategic plan bylaws and governance structure in December 2019.
The $8 million renovations of the school’s home on the fifth floor of Posvar Hall, about 65,000 square feet, also was underway during that time along with a series of other campus renovation projects.
Construction wrapped up in February 2020, but by March, just as the school was set to unveil its newly completed facilities, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the University to close its doors.
Kinloch said the decision to have both projects take place at the same time wasn’t well-received at first. Some of her colleagues wanted renovations to occur over a different, more staggered timeline. But the decision to do both worked out well because the pandemic could have thrown off both the reorganization and renovation timelines, she said.
“When I reflect back on the decisions that were made, it felt like we were moving quickly and doing a lot because we were,” Kinloch said. “But if we hadn’t, then we would have half of a reorganized school and half of the renovated school. And we probably would never have gotten the funds to continue renovations.”
Additions to the physical space include new workspaces for faculty and staff, larger study areas for students and expanded meeting rooms.
Kinloch said one of the most important additions to the school is a 553-square-foot health and wellness space. The vision, Kinloch said, is to raise more money to outfit the space so faculty, staff and students can take a mental break through meditation, exercise and yoga.
“Sometimes it’s like we’re doing all this work, but we’re not attending to it for the people who are doing the work,” Kinloch said. “Being able to provide that for people in the school, I think that’s just something that I needed to do.”
She said she was disappointed that the pandemic has delayed the grand opening of the new space and has made it more difficult for people to collaborate in some ways. However, it may be difficult, but it’s not impossible to foster collaboration virtually.
The space was redesigned to foster more cross-disciplinary collaboration, she said, adding that many walls in the school were torn down to help get faculty, staff and students out of their silos. This helps contribute to the school’s overall vision.
“The (school’s) vision is all about equity, innovation and justice,” Kinloch said. “The vision is about disrupting what needs to be transformed and creating a new self. We got a vision that talks about that. That means we’ve got to have spaces and opportunities for collaboration and partnership.”
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
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