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Dean Eizabeth Moje over webcam during Festifall
Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje

Dean's Letter

The theme of this issue of Michigan Education is ensuring resilient communities in times of stress and change. In the face of the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and enduring race-based discrimination, educators and systems of education play particularly critical roles in building resilience in the communities they serve. We explore the work of educators responding flexibly to emerging needs, creating new paths to opportunity, healing the damage of systemic racism, promoting restorative practice, and establishing just and equitable policies and practices. With great pride in and gratitude for the incredible research, teaching, and service of our staff, students, and faculty, I highlight below the stories you’ll read about in this issue.

This July, Dr. Shari Saunders and Dr. Carla Shalaby launched the U-M Trauma Collaboratory with a virtual event for educators. The day-long offering, Summoning Our Strength for Justice: A Virtual Offering for Educators on Trauma, Wellness, and Collective Care, featured brilliant practitioners and scholars who generously shared their work. This event created a space for healing, self-care, reflection, and empowerment. In addition to caring for educators, the presenters provided K-12 teachers and administrators resources for approaching their classes (virtually and in-person) with an intentional focus on just and equitable practices and systems.

Each year, the Summer ESL Academy grows to serve more multi-lingual children in grades four through eight than the previous summer. The Summer ESL Academy is a program of our Mitchell Scarlett Huron Teaching and Learning Collaborative, coordinated by Dr. Cathy Reischl. For the first time, this three-week program had to be delivered virtually. Though the curriculum designers had originally planned to engage students in lessons about climate change, they changed their plan quickly to support students with a curriculum focused on anti-racism. This year, the program included a particularly large group of teaching interns because of an expansion of the ESL Teaching Endorsement program. The interns received excellent mentorship from expert teachers and had positive experiences teaching online.

Private learning pods are among the many disparities in educational opportunities this year. Parents with resources and networks have organized small groups of children who learn together, often with the instruction of a private teacher. Graduate student Paula Manrique Gomez Pfeffer quickly identified the unmet need of local, low-income, immigrant families to have a safe, supportive, and educational space for their children. In partnership with a group of volunteers and a local church, she organized a thriving learning center that operates completely on donations and serves 24 children daily.

Kaelyn Walker, a student in the inaugural class of The School at Marygrove, published an opinion piece in the Detroit Free Press that we’ve reprinted for our readers around the world to enjoy. Ms. Walker chose to attend the school—which represents a partnership effort among Detroit Public Schools Community District, the Marygrove Conservancy, Starfish Family Services, and our Marsal School—because of the curricular focus on social justice and the school’s orientation toward community wellness. Her voice speaks powerfully to the way that the Detroit P-20 Partnership empowers youth and models the collective care we want to see in all schools.

Dr. Camille Wilson is collaborating with Detroit community organizers and youth to dismantle systems that create and reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline. With the support of a research-practice partnership grant from the Spencer Foundation, community action research teams work to develop resources that improve schools, nurture the well-being of youth, and establish equitable policies. Not only does this work combat a devastating injustice, it engages and empowers youth researchers.

Dr. Lucretia Murphy, an alumna of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, shares her work as a senior director at Jobs for the Future. Dr. Murphy’s work focuses on the assets and needs of communities. Unjust policies, harmful processes, and inequitable investments lead to limited economic opportunities in many communities—particularly for the formerly incarcerated population with whom she works. Using her expertise in education and employment, she and her colleagues at Jobs for the Future confront structural racism in order to provide access to education and work opportunities.

Higher education doctoral candidate Fernando Furquim is the director of institutional effectiveness at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. He shares how he and his team analyzed and responded to their students’ changing needs this year. The college’s students already faced barriers to educational access before the onset of the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd just miles from the campus. Mr. Furquim and his colleagues are expertly working to support their students by expanding services, increasing flexibility, and reaching out to their community regularly.

Our two diversity, inclusion, justice, and equity (dije) co-leads, Dr. David Humphrey and Dr. Maren Oberman, discuss the work they do here in the Marsal Family School of Education to prioritize anti-racist education. As dije co-leads, they skillfully enact and support elements of the Year Four DEI Plan that was developed by the Education Diversity Advisory Committee. They also lead the new Antiracism Task Force, which was formed this summer. I am ecstatic to introduce three new faculty members in this issue with a brief Q&A. Professors Charles Davis, Jamaal Matthews, and Rosemary Perez joined the Marsal School this fall. Our new colleagues expand our capacity to do research in critically important areas and provide our students with exciting new opportunities through their teaching and mentorship.

Dr. Davis and Dr. Perez joined the faculty of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. Dr. Davis came most recently from USC where he served as Chief Strategy Officer for the Race and Equity Center. Dr. Davis studies social movement activism and political engagement in higher education. Dr. Perez’s work focuses on college student development. She explores dynamic interactions between people and their environments; tensions between structure and agenda; and how power, privilege, and oppression affect individuals and groups within higher education.

Dr. Matthews joined the faculty of the Combined Program in Education and Psychology and Educational Studies. Dr. Matthews examines the role of teacher practices in the socioemotional development of Black and Latinx youth, with a special emphasis on the racialized facets of mathematics and on belonging-centered instruction for inclusive mathematics classrooms.

The Champions for Education section highlights the impact of giving and introduces new scholarships and programs made possible through generous contributions. In this issue, we are unveiling a new initiative called Teach Blue, which is designed to address the recruitment, preparation, and retention of teachers. This approach leverages our resources and strengths in order to support teachers at all points in their careers. The work advances our efforts to prepare new teachers who are ready for the responsibility of leading a classroom, develop novice teachers with the proper support, and celebrate the contributions and knowledge of expert teachers. This summer, the initiative was boosted by a leadership gift from the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation in honor of Lynn Towsley White for her years as an educator and her service to the Marsal School.

I hope you find inspiration in the stories we share of people and communities affiliated with the Marsal Family School of Education. It has given me hope to hear from alumni, students, faculty, and partners about how they help to build, and feel uplifted by, the resilience of their communities. Building resilience is a never-ending process, and I believe that communities can grow even during crises when all people’s needs, voices, and assets are addressed. To that end, please take care of yourself and your community, today and always, and remember that you always have a supportive community in our Marsal Family School of Education.
A virtual offering for educators on trauma, wellness, and collective care
Dr. Charles H.F. Davis III joined the SOE as an Assistant Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE)
Master’s student Paula Manrique Gomez Pfeffer provides an educational sanctuary for undocumented youth during COVID-19
Diversity and inclusion officer David Humphrey reflects on his role in creating an anti-racist praxis at the SOE
Maren Oberman is helping rethink our community
Camille Wilson co-leads a joint effort with the support of a research-practice partnership grant from the Spencer Foundation
Dr. Jamaal Sharif Matthews joined the SOE as an Associate Professor in Educational Studies and the Combined Program in Education and Psychology
Dr. Rosemary (Rosie) Perez joined the SOE as an Associate Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education
Kaelyn Walker is a rising 10th grade student at The School at Marygrove
Anti-racist curriculum engages ESL students in Ann Arbor and prepares new educators to teach online
Palincsar was appointed in recognition of her exceptional scholarly achievements, teaching contributions, reputation for academic excellence, and superior record of mentoring and service
Combining data and student experiences, CSHPE student Fernando Furquim helps Minneapolis Community and Technical College navigate familiar and unfamiliar challenges toward greater health
CSHPE alumna Cre Murphy works in and with communities to promote economic opportunities for all
Jonathan and Kelly Opdyke honor family and support Detroit through two new gifts at their alma mater
Providing opportunities for all who seek to enter the greatest profession