Spring 2022

Greetings from the Chair

Tom Shields headshot With the end of the semester and commencement quickly approaching, it is only natural to look back and to take stock and reflect. One of the things that I continue to think about is where we were two years ago at the onset of the pandemic and where are we are now that we are hopefully in the endemic phase.

Looking back over the past two years, it has been challenging for all educational institutions, particularly at the K-12 level. The pandemic has caused education to be disrupted in terms of student attendance, mental health and well-being of students and staff, pedagogical and curriculum implications, teacher recruitment and retention, and of course so many leadership questions. However, as we emerge and begin to return to normalcy, not all the news is dour. With any disruption there are always strategic opportunities. In Graduate Education, we continue to think about and develop new approaches to our teaching and learning, engagement with students, and partnerships with local school districts and educational nonprofits.

As we remove the required barriers of physical and social distance, we are also seeing a return of the value of relationships and human-to-human connections that are integral to education. Our use of technology (and Zoom!) in our meetings and learning approaches and platforms will remain, but we are finding it a thrill to be back in the close proximity of others — to walk into a classroom full of chattering students, to sit next to colleagues at a seminar or conference, or just catch up with someone over a cup of coffee at Passport Café or another location on our beautiful campus. That bond of human connectivity is returning and like an old sweatshirt, well-fitting ball cap or worn pair of jeans, it is feels so nice and comforting to be back.

In this edition of the Graduate Education e-newsletter, you will see how we are adapting and capitalizing on these opportunities. There is information about the awarding of a $386,322 grant from the R.E.B. Foundation for the Provisional License Support (PLuS) Program, which includes two initiatives: The School-Based Teacher Education Program (STEP) and the Teacher Licensure Completion (TLC) program. These programs in Teacher Education will support low-income schools across the Richmond area in coaching support, academic advising, professional learning, and mentorship for inexperienced and provisionally-licensed teachers. This past year, Partners in the Arts (PIA), concluded a successful multi-year $1.3 million grant with Richmond Public Schools to transform instruction in schools through arts integration. In this newsletter, you will read about how PIA also received a $15,000 grant from the R.E.B. Foundation to support its work in schools and the local community.

In addition, you will see stories about how our Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) faculty continue to expand their reach in the metro-Richmond area and in Virginia. The Next Generation Leadership Academy, which is in its 17th year, has broadened its appeal and now trains participants from eight local school divisions! The ELPS curriculum has also seen an update with new classes and a reduced number of credit hours required in the M.Ed. These changes are in response to the needs of local schools and divisions. There are also many other stories on the successes of the faculty, alumni and students in ELPS. As always, please be sure to check out (and follow) @URleaders on Twitter.

This time of year is full of milestones and celebratory events - it is what makes being in the field of education so special. As we reclaim some form of normalcy, please take time to reflect about what we have been through, but also appreciate that good feeling of slipping into the comfortable fit of connecting with others.

Have a great spring and summer everyone!

Be safe and be well!

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