Fall 2020

Greetings from the Chair

Tom Shields headshot I want to start with a hope that everyone is well in your family. This has been a very difficult and challenging time for all of us — one that requires grace, patience, and an appreciation for each other and the importance of community. On behalf of everyone in Education, we hope that you and your loved ones are physically and mentally healthy.

In my opening to the spring e-newsletter, I provided updates about how we responded to COVID-19 by moving courses online and creating modifications to our internships and field experiences. For the summer Education courses, we worked with colleagues in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies to put all courses online and to provide instructional support to our faculty. As soon as the spring semester concluded, planning groups at the University and the School level began meeting and crafting contingency plans for the start of the fall semester. You will see in this e-newsletter how the necessary safety and instructional measures were put in place at multiple levels and how we continue to enact an ongoing response to the COVID-19 situation.

In Education, we adapted and communicated University and School policies for our fall Education courses as well as our internships and field experiences. Our Education faculty have done a remarkable job of moving classes and internships online or altering in-person courses relative to physical distancing guidelines. Our students have responded with patience, helpful ideas, and a commitment to the learning process and to the various modalities. We are truly fortunate to be part of a University and School that cares deeply about continuity of learning and supporting the needs of our students.

Since we know this time can be stressful on students, faculty, and staff, we are intent on providing emotional and relational support. We decided to offer an online series on how stress can impact our lives and how mindfulness and meditation can be employed and utilized. We have partnered with an on-campus expert, Dr. Monti Datta, Associate Professor of Political Science, who will offer two sessions this fall – “Introduction to Meditation” on October 2nd and “Developing a Meditation Practice” on November 6th. These will be open to all, but will require a registration. We encourage you to take part in these sessions or to engage in other wellness opportunities offered by the University.

The other critical issue that we are thinking about in Education is the racial injustice occurring in our society. The marches and protests this summer brought the subject of racial inequality to the forefront. However, these issues are not new, nor should we treat them as such. Our American institutions have had a long and storied history of instituting racial discriminatory policies. Systems of education are one of the main institutions that have historically promulgated unjust and unfair racial practices and policies. Today, the impact of systemic racism in education is evident in gaps in achievement and opportunity, in resource allocation and quality instruction, and in disparities in the application of disciplinary rules.

The Education staff and faculty are committed to understanding these issues and others. We are dedicated to educating and training the next generation of teachers and leaders who will address these inequities while considering the needs of communities of color in the Richmond area and beyond.

We know that you are each juggling multiple challenges in your professional and personal lives. The faculty and staff in Education and the entire Spider community is here for you and want to ensure that you have a successful and productive semester.

Be safe and be well!

Tom Shields signature
Tom J. Shields, Ph.D.
Graduate Education Chair