From the Desk of the Dean - November 2019

How do you measure impact? As the (still) relatively new dean of the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD), almost everywhere I go I say that our school seeks greater impact. We want to ensure that education can transform lives. This is a central premise of a democratic country, that citizens have opportunity for social mobility through education. Yet we know that in the past two decades social mobility despite educational attainment has stagnated. If we are to help kickstart mobility through education, how would we know we are successful? My wonderful predecessor Dean Prilleltensky asked me early on to think about ‘educational transformation’ in terms of transformation to what? And how do we know we are engaging in the kinds of processes that will allow our school to have significant impact?

One way to assess impact is by talking with alumni as I’ve had the pleasure to do earlier this month during homecoming activities. I met former students who are now making a difference in a variety of ways, both individually whereby a recent graduate excitedly told be about the purchase of her first new home (yay Ebony!) and broadly in terms of the kinds of work our alumni are doing. I had the wonderful pleasure of sitting with significant alumni of our school at an Alumni Weekend/Homecoming event – the Audrey Finkelstein UM Experience Endowed Lecture Series. My table mates included Mr. Michael and Mrs. Norma Orovitz, Dr. Jeffrey Orloff, and Mr. Derrick Negron – an SEHD graduate who currently serves as Principal at Carol City Middle School and was recognized as Assistant Principal of the year for Miami Dade County Public Schools in 2018. At the event we had the wonderful opportunity to hear from our own SEHD faculty member Dr. Kysha Harriell who delivered a featured lecture. Dr. Harriell talked about childhood experiences that inspired her educational goals and her success as one of the few Black female PhDs in Athletic Training. She has had a remarkable impact on students as the director of our Athletic Training program.

In terms of role models for impact, I have had the benefit of the wise counsel of Dr. Robert Moore. Dr. Moore is a now retired SEHD faculty member, whose positive influence on hundreds and hundreds of students is legendary through his many years as a faculty member in the Department of Teaching and Learning, and in his role as Senior Resident Faculty in Mahoney Residential College. He continues to positively influence alumni and faculty colleagues like myself – by utilizing his expertise and experience to guide and nurture.

It is difficult to know when you have made a difference and even more difficult to know how to best measure impact. But this is something we will grapple with as the SEHD enters the second phase of strategic planning now that we’ve outlined four areas of relevance for school. These include:

  • 1) A focus on interdisciplinary inquiry
  • 2) Advances in the science of learning
  • 3) Influential community engagement
  • 4) Promotion of educational equity that allows individuals, families, schools and communities to have the opportunity to advance

To understand our impact on students, we have for the first time asked our alumni to write to us – their updates, events, accomplishments and/or interesting tidbits. As part of our 90th anniversary we hope to have 90 “Alumni Class Notes” to share. We will publish all our class notes in the next issue of our Perspective Magazine. Whether you are a current student or alumnus, faculty or staff, friend or admirer of the School of Education and Human Development, everyone can share in the wonderful ways we have fostered success and in turn, learn from the ways our alumni have left UM ready to help transform the world.

All my best,
Laura