Colleagues and friends,
Welcome back to another calendar year and the symbolism that the marking of a New Year brings. Typically, it’s a time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past and move forward with bold resolutions.
The January 23 Community Celebration at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts marked the culmination of a week of campus events surrounding the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While enjoying vibrant presentations by Soul Premier and the Independent Media Center and a step show by Alpha Phi Alpha, the program concluded with an event put on by the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities in which winners of the King Creative Expressions Competition were announced. I invite you to read selected quotes from children from a past Martin Luther King Jr. contest, view the winners of this year’s Creative Expressions Competition, and ponder a letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. from prison that was read at this year’s Community Celebration. This letter resonates as much today as it did when it was written. Including the demand that ‘waiting’ for justice is untenable in a wealthy land that values freedom and democracy. What must we do Martin Luther King Jr asks us all when,
‘…..‘you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people;…’
In all that we do and strive for as educators, we must remain committed to creating conditions that allow Martin Luther King Jr.’s quest for justice and inclusive sociality to be truly realized—that people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” As we pause throughout this month to reflect on and celebrate progress toward a just and harmonious human condition, there are of course many achievements in which we can take pride. Equally, there are still as many areas in which continued courage and collaboration are needed in order to redress the wrongs of the past and the injustices of the present.
In this spirit, I’m pleased to say that individuals in the Education family are working to positively enhance the lives of minorities and the underrepresented. Luz Murillo and Patrick Smith, associate professors in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, for instance, are promoting linguistic awareness in local schools and doing important research in the realm of family literacies among Spanish-speaking immigrants and migrants in central Illinois. In a similar vein, two of our dedicated alumni—one a current doctoral student—have led the effort for improved Hispanic retention at our local community college.
We produce outstanding students who are in high demand. They go on to populate schools, community colleges, and universities, as well as impact the world within numerous other educational sites and in administrative roles. Student research is an important, unique element of the College, and we were pleased to see Lisa Skultety, a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, recently selected as a recipient of the highly competitive CADRE Fellowship.
In an effort to remain relevant innovators, the College has formed a new, non-certification program that looks to be a promising alternative to teacher licensure. We’ve continued to invest in our highly ranked online programs and experiential programming, and we have created new courses in the new Digital Environment for Learning, Teaching and Agency program, which focuses on the creation and research of digital environments such as technology-enhanced classrooms, mobile devices, and immersive simulations.
Everywhere I travel, I observe how our faculty members are regarded as scholarly leaders—nationally and internationally—in areas such as special education, cultural understanding, technology, and public policy. Their research and teaching is truly transformative, as you will see in our most recent newsletter. To further discover the impact of Education at Illinois, I encourage you to visit and join our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. Many of the College’s exciting developments are shared through these vibrant platforms nearly every day.
Wishing you a happy and productive New Year …
Dean and Professor