Welcome to the October/November edition of Engage, which represents our opportunity to share with you some news about the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami. I would like to first ACKNOWLEDGE the fraught nature of the current times. As we struggle through the seventh and eighth months of a pandemic and the 401st year of racial inequality, many of us – students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and friends – are EXHAUSTED. Whether zoom fatigue, election fatigue, protest fatigue or vicarious trauma related to illness and death due to the Corona virus or the virus of racism, we are tired. Fatigue is evident across the nation, across our community, our campus and within our School. National survey findings show 55% of all adults and 74% of young adults report experiencing mental health issues since the start of the pandemic (2020, Cleveland Clinic). Anguish is particularly acute in marginalized communities. Led by Dr. Guerda Nicolas, professor, Educational and Psychological Studies, graduate students in our Counseling Master’s program created educative videos that aired during Black mental health awareness week in October. In the current context I believe it is important to point to examples of hope, and to also engage in the care of self – despite the cliché that “self-care” may have become. For self-care, the entire SEHD faculty, staff and graduate students took a pause on October 16th, the day of the UM Fall Break. We scheduled a day of self-care activities, ranging from Zoom yoga to meditation to stress management. While most of us defined self-care on that day as “No Zoom’ing” (!!) it was important for we as a community to make space for people to rest and recharge in whatever way works for them. I hope that everyone reading this has taken the opportunity to engage in activities that allow you to release stress and/or renew enthusiasm. In terms of examples of hope – many exist in the SEHD, ranging from faculty awards, student activism, relevant research, and the ways in which the SEHD expertise is helping to improve education at UM.
Our faculty continue to be recognized in their respective fields. I am pleased to report that Dr. Windy Dees, Associate Professor in our Department of Kinesiology and Sport Science, was just named the 2020 Sutton Awardee from the Sports Marketing Association, which is one of most prestigious honors in the field. The Sutton award recognizes excellence in publishing and teaching, prominence in terms of connecting students to the industry, and excellence in service. Dr. Dees is the first woman to ever receive the Sutton award. The SEHD is extraordinarily proud of Dr. Dees as a member of the faculty of our outstanding Sports Administration program.
Our students are engaged in the democratic process. To highlight just one example of the ways our students have responded to societal concerns by getting active, involved and engaged: Ms. Paige Evans, first year student in our Community & Social Change Master’s program, worked with our school’s strategic communications and marketing department, UM’s Canes Vote Initiative, graduate students and faculty in the School of Communication, and the local chapter of Vote the Future – to develop a livestream event that encouraged early voting on Oct 31st.
One of the most notable aspects of the research in the SEHD is relevance of faculty work in addressing critical issues in education and human development. Dr. Mary Avalos’ SEEDS grant led to the development of a groundbreaking film that examines STEM education and the need for systemic changes in schools. Her work indicates the need to be able to engage youth, particularly marginalized youth, so that we will have a generation better prepared for the workforce of the future. The film presentation, introduced by university president Julio Frenk, featured commentary from multiple stakeholders including UM Provost Jeff Duerk, who is an engineer by training, and most perhaps most importantly, the voices of children. We were extraordinarily pleased to premiere the film with a panel of luminaries including Abby Vicencio of the SEHD Dean’s Advisory Committee, State Representative Vance Aloupis who is the CEO of the Children’s Movement, Dean Derin Ural of the College of Engineering, Dean Henri Ford of the Miller School of Medicine, and STEM industry pioneer Ms. Mabilin Rego. The panel was moderated by Ms. Colleen Wright, education reporter for the Miami Herald. If you are interested in viewing the recorded webinar of the film and panel, please let us know. I invite you to read further about this project in this issue of ENGAGE!
The SEHD continues to lead the UM Roadmap (strategic plan) initiative related to education, specifically PETAL – the Platform for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. In addition to offering for the second year in a row, the Institutional Academy for Teaching Excellence – which provides a series of teaching workshops to all new UM faculty, we have kicked off a new program called “Course Mentors.” This program consists of small groups of current faculty, led by a UM exemplar faculty member who has demonstrated classroom excellence and an Instructional Designer from the UM Academic Technologies unit. Each faculty group meets regularly throughout the semester, with mentorship, instruction and exchange focused on specific teaching topics. As an academic unit that focuses on education – we are pleased to be engaged in the efforts to improve teaching across our institution.
Higher education faces critical challenges related to costs, enrollment, and the changing landscape brought on by COVID related crises. We know that universities will remain relevant and viable to the extent they can not only meet the existing challenges, but also improve student experiences, innovate the dissemination of knowledge, build relevance in course content and offerings, and engage a generation of students who are increasingly receiving much of their information in curated formats online. In the SEHD, we are intensely engaged in solving these and other education-related problems. We invite you to join us in our efforts!