Dean’s Message — Fall 2020

This fall has looked very different from previous years in the Faculty of Education. To protect the health and safety of students and faculty, the vast majority of our courses are being delivered remotely this semester, while most staff provide support from their home offices. Additionally, a great deal of collaborative effort spanning the campus community has gone into U of A for Tomorrow, an initiative led by President Bill Flanagan and Provost Steven Dew to position the University for continued global leadership in higher education and research in the face of significant challenges, fiscal and otherwise.

The Faculty of Education is undertaking a parallel process; as noted in our strategic plan, Education for the Public Good, we have identified the need to review our academic and administrative structures to determine how we might transcend divisions, enhance synergies between and across programs and specializations, and strengthen our collective work to maintain our position as one of the top Faculties of Education in Canada.

Looking ahead with gratitude and hope

Just as I’m grateful to our faculty and staff for supporting students through the ongoing pandemic, I want to express my appreciation to the wonderful educators, school staff and administrators everywhere who are persevering through complex and ever-evolving conditions to provide enriching learning opportunities both in-person and online. My fellow Deans of Education at Campus St-Jean, Concordia University Edmonton and The King’s University and I have written a letter expressing our thanks to teachers, principals, superintendents and support staff for their incredible commitment to public education, and for welcoming our pre-service teachers into their schools to benefit from their mentorship. We thank the Alberta Teachers’ Association for sharing this message with their members.

While it’s essential that we continue to adhere to public health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, recent news about the rapid development of highly effective coronavirus vaccines is cause for optimism about restoring the structures and functions impacted by the pandemic. The Association of Canadian Deans of Education has released a position paper asserting that education and teachers are key to a post-pandemic Canada that flourishes. The purpose of this statement is to signal education priorities and where investment is needed in teacher education, teachers and research as a pandemic recovery strategy.

Teaching, research and finding joy

This issue of illuminate contains stories of the ways the Faculty of Education continues to uplift the wider community in challenging times, whether it’s through providing accessible mental health supports through Clinical Services; through financial opportunities for students in advancing their academic careers, as in the case of the scholarship recently established by SLIS alumna and former faculty member Dr. Heidi Julien (‘83 BEd, ‘94 MLIS); or through research into enhancing online learning, developing a national computing science curriculum, providing Indigenous post-secondary students opportunities to explore career possibilities in environmental research, and other endeavours aimed at preparing learners for engaged, meaningful futures. The Honour Roll features faculty and students who have gained recognition for contributions to teaching and research, and Class Notes is filled with tips from Education alumni about finding joy in difficult times.

I wish everyone in our community good health as we continue taking the time and precautions necessary to minimize the impact of coronavirus. As always, I’m grateful to faculty members, staff and students, and their integrity and resourcefulness in supporting the Faculty of Education’s commitment to education for the public good.