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Washington State University

HEP grads helped change WSU

It’s bad news that WSU’s High School Equivalency Program lost its federal funding after 42 years of continuous operation. But what a run HEP had, helping some 3,700 students over the years.  And what good news it is that the College of Education plans to re-apply for a grant next year, in hopes of bringing more Hispanic and Native American students to Pullman to earn their GEDs and gain exposure to big city campus life.

Ready to take on the world: 2008 HEP grads

From the beginning, some of the students whose lives were changed by HEP have helped change the university.  In the program’s pilot year, 1967, five of the nine migrant farm workers who enrolled stayed at the university after graduation to earn a degree. The following year, most of WSU’s 32 Hispanic students were also HEP graduates. As the Web site of the student group MEChA explains:

“Former student Moises Terrescano described the climate these students faced:  ‘Academic assistance was minimal, and homesickness occurred quite often … no one could deny the fact that they were seen quite “differently” by teachers and students. Their presence seemed not welcomed.’ To overcome isolation and build a sense of community in a predominantly white college town, students organized the first student organization, Mexican American Student Association (MASA) in October 1969. Soon thereafter MASA changed their name to MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) to become part of the national Chicano Movement. Margarita Mendoza de Sugiyama and Rudy Cruz were two MEChA leaders that brought stability to the organization and made connections to the Mexican communities in the Yakima Valley.  When the United Farmworkers Movement arrived in the Yakima Valley, MEChA brought the UFW’s Grape Boycott Campaign to Pullman forcing Safeway and WSU Dining Services to stop selling non-union grapes. This MEChA victory was possible because of the alliances they forged with the Black Student Union, Native American student group and progressive white students.”

Who’s the mystery woman?
The last EduCoug post featured a photo of a teacher in the ’89 Snohomish High yearbook.  If you haven’t guessed, that was none other than Associate Professor Tamara Nelson of WSU Vancouver.

Reading matter
The Storyteller Begat the Teacher Who Begat the Writer Frank McCourt’s students learned from him that literature was nothing more – and nothing less – than the telling of stories.
Study: Teachers, students learned from WASL It may be the most hated test in Washington history. But the Washington Assessment of Student Learning also has contributed to student achievement and has helped teachers focus on state education goals, according to a study.
Report Urges Halt to Extra Pay for Master’s Degrees States and districts could free up money for teacher-compensation reforms that might promote student achievement, the authors say.

Pix-to-make-us-smile edition

Noelle Ren Sameshima, daughter of Assistant Professor Pauline Sameshima and husband, Mike. DOB: July 20, 2009. "Ren" means water lily in Japanese, and lily in Chinese, reflecting her heritage
Guess who? This bright-eyed lady is featured in the 1989 Snohomish High yearbook belonging to Heidi Ritter, program coordinator of field services for Teaching & Learning in Pullman. (Use the comment mode to answer.)

Spelling isn't everything ... a happy sign spotted this summer in Metaline Falls, Washington
Attitude trumps spelling: A sign spotted in Metaline Falls

Field trip lesson No. 1: Have fun

Sian Ritchie of the Palouse Discovery Science Center demonstrates how a comet is created
Sian Ritchie of the Palouse Discovery Science Center demonstrates for visiting teachers how a comet is made

Our expert on place-based education, Associate Professor David Greenwood, contends that students learn more on a so-so field trip than they learn during a day in the classroom.   And a really great field trip?  Nothing beats it.  Certainly teachers who participated in this summer’s two  science institutes in Pullman will remember their outings to the Snake River Canyon.  You can see some of what they saw in the photos posted on the college Shutterfly site.  Commentary on the canyon’s  dramatic history was provided by writer-geologist Kirsten Peters, who reports that never once did the teachers ask a question common to college freshmen who take the tour:  “Is that going to be on the test?”

Institute participants also visited the Palouse Discovery Science Center, where among other fun stuff, they tilted their heads toward the “night sky” in a tiny inflatable planetarium before going to WSU’s Jewett Observatory to gaze at the real thing.

Helping keep the institutes’ packed programs on track was 2008 Ferrucci Distinguished Educator Alice Boerner, a Hoquaim Central Elementary teacher and adjunct WSU faculty member. Not for nothing is Alice known as the Field Trip Queen.

Happy landing
Sarah Penney, our former director of recruitment, has reported to her new job as diversity, outreach and communications coordinator for a five-year program called Idaho EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research).  She’s at the University of Idaho, working to give underrepresented populations, including low-income and first-generation students, more access to the STEM professions — aka science, technology, engineering and math.  Sarah’s position at the College of Education was due to end because of budget cuts, and we’re delighted that she landed in a nearby position so fitting to her talents and interests.

Judy and Len in cap and gown

Dean Judy Mitchell and Associate Dean Len Foster

Thanks to Paul Goldman of our Vancouver faculty for sharing this photo of Judy Mitchell and Len Foster, which Paul snapped in a happy commencement moment.  Len’s friends and colleagues from around the country are, like us, awaiting news of his funeral services.  As soon as the information is available, we’ll alert everyone via the college listserv, campus announcements, the college Facebook group and our “Len page.”

Among the many who have called this week was Terry Bergeson, former state superintendent of public instruction.  Terry was traveling at the time of Judy’s death, and heard about it belatedly. She said she was devastated by both rounds of bad news, and wants Len’s and Judy’s colleagues to know she is thinking of them.

Here are links to yesterday’s television reports about changes at the college:  KLEW-TV and KREM-TV.

West Siders alert: Coug night in Tacoma
Saturday, July 11, is Coug Night at the Tacoma Rainiers. The $9.50 ticket price includes a hot dog, chips, and a soda. The game starts at 7 p.m. Ticket price includes health food: hot dog, chips and a soda.

Reading matter
Top-Scoring Nations Share Strategies on Teachers.
One common feature of the Singaporean and Finnish education systems—like those of some other high-achieving nations—is the respect that their societies have for educators, and the general view of teaching as a top-tier profession.  In Finland, “people dream to be teachers.”
WSU Vancouver Offers New Online Deaf Education Program. The program consists of six classes plus 13 practicum credits, covering topics such as the psychological and educational aspects of hearing loss and instructional strategies.

A landscape transformed by loss

Len Foster

This weekend, as I processed the fact that the College of Education’s two top administrators died within a week of each other, I remembered standing in an old-growth forest.  In front of me was an empty spot where a giant pine had been cut, then lifted out by helicopter.  It was eerie. There was no road, little debris. Just a shaft of light falling on a flat spot where something used to be. That’s how I feel about the absence of Judy Mitchell and Len Foster from Cleveland Hall.  They were such good people, people of substance, part of my professional and personal landscape. How can it be that they are just plain gone?

The mind goes strange places at times of stress. That was one of the messages that two campus counselors, Scott Case and Cassie Nichols, shared with staff and faculty members who gathered this morning to talk about our double loss.  They reminded us that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to grieving, and certainly “no professional training that prepares you for this sort of thing.”

Our colleagues are finding personal ways to offer help and condolences this week. Among them is campus photographer Bob Hubner, who sent me the portrait posted above. He took it in the spring, when Len was attending a lecture by Anita Hill.  I also take comfort in my remembered delight at the prospect of working more closely with Len, whose tall, straight frame would fill my office doorway when he stopped by.  One recent day he wanted to share some surprising news. “Can you believe it!,” he said, grinning and shaking his head in wonderment. “Can you just believe it?!”

Well, no, Len. We can’t believe you and Judy are gone. But there are two shafts of light shining on the College of Education, and we look forward to seeing what new life takes hold there. — Julie Titone

Summing up Dean Mitchell: Professionalism, candor, mischief

As Dean Judy Mitchell’s family and the college prepare for Friday’s memorial service, condolences are flowing in from around the country.    George Murdock echoed the feelings of many in the following  eloquent remembrance:

Judy Mitchell was already past the point at which most professionals bid farewell to their careers and fade off into the sunset of retirement.

As the senior dean at Washington State University, Mitchell was instead more interested in continuing her crusade of forging a new identity and mission for the College of Education than she was in surrendering to the lure of a less hectic existence. And because of her tireless efforts, she was making dramatic headway. During a meeting of her Advocacy Board last Spring, she proudly led the group to the area of Cleveland Hall where a new generation of major donors are being acknowledged for their contributions.  Mitchell was a strong believer that discretionary contributions were a vital part of advancing the future of her college. Driven by that belief, she devoted a quarter of her time to traveling wherever necessary to advance the visibility, the credibility, and the potential of the College of Education.

As individuals make career choices, they contemplate such options as power, influence, and wealth. Most of those who choose education, also choose the opportunity for influence. Therefore, by its very nature, the College of Education is not a breeding ground for graduates who are likely to amass fortunes in the economic sense of the term. But Mitchell understood clearly that regardless of where WSU graduates might direct themselves, education was a universal asset and a fundamental part of the bigger picture.  While some would choose to use their education for success in the world of business, without teachers, the equation simply won’t work.

Academic types are often chided for being distant from the public school classrooms where American education finds its roots.  Mitchell understood that challenge and sought to create a college which was in tune with its fundamental constituents.  She constantly encouraged her staff to reach out to local school districts and she actively promoted research that would improve the delivery of instruction.

Land Grant colleges, by nature, are designed to play a vital role in advancing the welfare and quality of life of those they serve. Judy Mitchell was a perfect choice to carry out that mission on behalf of public education and on behalf of the university she served with distinction. The news of her sudden and unexpected death shocked both the education community and the university family.

For my own part, according to Judy, I was the second Washington school administrator she met after accepting the position as dean of the College of Education.  We’ve laughed about that first meeting over the years because she found me a bit irreverent regarding our profession. In return, while she was always considerably more professional and dignified in her deportment, she had a certain gleam in her eye and a guarded penchant for candor and even mischief that those who knew her best admired most about her leadership.

Change is never about preserving the status quo nor about a reverence toward the way things have always been done.  Judy knew that and that understanding permeated her approach to her job. Washington State University is richer because she was willing to spend eleven years reshaping the College of Education. Her friends are richer because our paths crossed and she touched our lives.

George has many perspectives
on the college. A WSU alumnus, he met Dean Mitchell when he was superintendent of schools in Pasco.  He later became a trustee of the WSU Foundation, a member of the Education Advocacy Board, and an ardent promoter of the the Dean’s Excellence Fund. This spring, he was hired as superintendent of the Douglas Educational Service District in Roseburg, Oregon.  He has also worked as a journalist, most recently as editor of the East Oregonian.