Message from the Dean – Fall 2016

With Fall Reading Week and Fall Convocation happening this month and the holidays just around the corner, it is a perfect time to pause and reflect on the significant events and accomplishments of the past few months.

As always, fall term kicked off with a flurry of activity, and it was my pleasure to be part of the annual President’s retreat for the University of Alberta’s senior administrators. This year’s retreat had extra significance for me, as it began with a special pipe ceremony on campus that brought together 60 members of the senior leadership team with Indigenous community members.

Engaging communities in meaningful ways

The ceremony, which marked the unveiling of the Sweetgrass Bear sculpture in Quad on North Campus, was a deeply meaningful way to mark a new academic year in which we have committed to work together to begin implementing UAlberta’s new institutional strategic plan, For the Public Good.

The Sweetgrass Bear, by Stewart Steinhauer, is the first installation in a new initiative to enrich cultural representations on campus and signal the university’s movement toward respectful and mutual reconciliation. I encourage you to read Stewart Steinhauer’s blog post about the meaning and significance of the sculpture, and if you haven’t yet seen the Sweetgrass Bear, consider paying a visit to campus to see it in person!

Randy Wimmer with Sweetgrass Bear
Dr. Wimmer at the unveiling of the Sweetgrass Bear sculpture in Quad, August 2016.

One of the key goals of both the university and the Faculty of Education is to engage communities across our city, province and beyond to create reciprocal, mutually beneficial learning experiences, research initiatives and collaborations. A great example of this work, which I am thrilled to share with you, is Creating Welcoming Learning Communities. This year-long, interactive webinar series for educators was launched in early September by Elementary Education professor Anna Kirova and Educational Psychology professor Sophie Yohani in response to the needs of schools to create welcoming and supportive environments in which all children can learn and form a sense of belonging.

The focus of the webinar is on the needs of educators and administrators working with students who are newcomers to Canada, and the interactive format of this free series allows our audiences to bring up real-world issues that come up in their schools and get practical advice, resources and strategies from researchers, experienced educators and community members. Visit the series website to see the dates and topics of upcoming webinars and watch recordings of webinars that have already aired.

Celebrating “One World. Many Voices.”

The Faculty of Education was an enthusiastic collaborator in the planning of this year’s READ IN Week launch event, which was held on campus in early October. Many partners, including UAlberta, the City of Edmonton, MacEwan University and various school districts, joined together to raise awareness of the importance of reading and lifelong literacy as part of READ IN Week. Trudy Cardinal, a professor in our Department of Elementary Education, played a crucial role in ensuring that the kick-off event captured the theme of “One World. Many Voices.” in a way that was meaningful to the many communities that call Edmonton home. I invite you to learn more about Trudy and what drew her to her work as an educator, in this Q & A.

As educators, we know that literacy is fundamental for learning in school. As we get older, it has an impact on our ability to participate in society and to understand important public issues. Strong literacy skills empower us—to comprehend and critically assess the steady stream of information we encounter daily, to develop our knowledge and potential, to share our stories, and to interpret the world.

In this issue of illuminate magazine, we introduce you to Faculty of Education professors, instructors and alumni who are pursuing innovative, thoughtful work that touches on many aspects of literacy—from a new digital storytelling course in our School of Library and Information Studies delivered entirely online, to Lori Friesen’s work in California with animal-assisted literacy learning, inspired by both her dog and her doctoral work at the U of A.

Looking forward

A few weeks ago, the Faculty of Education was very fortunate to welcome the Honourable Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education, for a meet and greet and Q & A session about the Alberta government's newly announced Future Ready initiative. From a comprehensive K-12 curriculum renewal to new investment in apprenticeship and workforce training, Future Ready will encompass a variety of topics that touch directly on our work, our research and our studies as educators.

The Future Ready initiative kicked off with an online survey to ensure that all Albertans have their say in a comprehensive review of the province’s K-12 curriculum. I suspect many of you will have already completed the survey, which closes November 18 but if you have not, I encourage you to contribute your insights to the conversation.

In anticipation of the Faculty of Education’s 75th anniversary in 2017, we are planning an anniversary-themed issue of illuminate for Spring 2017. I hope you will stay connected with us via Facebook and Twitter and join us for celebratory events, both in person and online, that will recognize our proud past and our exciting present and future.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season,

Randy Wimmer signature

Randy Wimmer
Professor and Interim Dean of Education