A message from Dean Laurie Elish-Piper

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you had a chance to read the important message that our Academic Equity Committee shared last Thursday. I want to take this opportunity to amplify a pledge from that letter – “the College of Education’s commitment to fostering an empowering and equitable environment for our entire college community.”

What does this type of environment look like, and how can we build it together?

I think that our first steps are to listen and learn so that we can then plan and act.

Almost exactly a year ago, I attended the Deans for Impact Convening at American University in Washington, D.C. We spent an afternoon with Ibram X. Kendi (author of “Stamped from the Beginning” and “How to Be an Antiracist”) and Christopher Petrella from the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.

The purpose of our conversations was to discuss how we can create antiracist teacher education programs.

When I came back from this convening, I shared key learnings with our team that was recently assembled for the Illinois Ed Prep Impact Network project in partnership with DeKalb School District 428. The goal of the network was to prepare teachers for the diverse classrooms in which they will teach. As we defined our specific project, we chose to focus on how we can prepare teacher candidates in the areas of social justice and restorative practices.

Laurie Elish-Piper
Laurie Elish-Piper

We spent the better part of the last school year learning, talking, planning and piloting, but we stopped short of taking action.

We thought we had the luxury to take our time and to start where we were comfortable, but the killing of George Floyd and the wave of protests across DeKalb, Illinois and the nation have made me realize we don’t have time.

We need to act NOW to look at our policies, practices and curriculum to ensure that we create an empowering and equitable environment for our entire college – students, faculty and staff.

I look forward to working with the College of Education Academic Equity Committee to plan next steps to move us forward toward our commitment to equity.

Planning is only the start, however. Our true task – our critical task – is to hold ourselves accountable by acting on our promises.

To that end, an event scheduled later this month will allow us to make our commitment public – and, more importantly, viable.

We will host an online town hall meeting from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, to share thoughts on revising our Strategic Action Planning Framework. While we have always valued our principles of inclusion and the cultivation of a diverse learning community, it’s critical now to better illuminate our commitment to creating an empowering and equitable environment.

We will also share our plans for fall and propose some ways that we can put a particular emphasis on our “Culture” strategic priority: How will we create a productive and caring culture this fall for our faculty, staff and students when we know that we will deliver the vast majority of our classes in an online or hybrid format? What will an empowering and equitable culture in a primarily online and hybrid format look like?

After this brief presentation, we’ll open the majority of the meeting to engage in dialogue and address your questions.

If you cannot participate but have questions, or if you feel more comfortable sharing your questions in advance, we are providing that opportunity via a Qualtrics survey.

You will receive an invitation soon to participate in the town hall via Zoom. In the meantime, I encourage all of you to continue to learn and listen so we can collectively plan and act.

My best,

Laurie

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