Last week my wife Fran and I visited Shanghai Normal University. I provided a keynote address for the Family, Society, and Education Summit on the role of evaluation in preschool programs. The summit was sponsored by the university’s Early Childhood Education Department. My contact there is Washington State University alumna Dr. Huihua He (Ph.D. ’07). Some of you will remember Huihua from her time as an educational psychology doctoral student. She was a graduate research assistant and postdoctoral research associate for me.
In addition to the presentation, I had several meetings with students, faculty, and administrators to discuss the possibility of partnerships and research collaborations. Shanghai Normal is eager to collaborate with universities from the West as its leaders further develop its university system. International collaboration is a WSU priority, so a connection to Shanghai could play well for the College of Education.
According to our hosts, Shanghai has a population of 27 million people. Half of the people, referred to as immigrants, are from rural China and other provinces who have come to Shanghai to find work. Given the expense of living in the city, many have come without their children. These children are referred to as “left behinds.” they are raised by anyone in their previous community who is willing to provide care, a situation that poses a significant social challenge for China. China sees education as a key factor in addressing that challenge.
Our hosts were gracious, the food delicious, and the city of Shanghai interesting. Should anyone be interested in establishing collaborative work with Shanghai Normal University or any other international university, particularly from a developing country, please contact me. I will try to find ways to support your work.
Growing diversity at Washington State University spurred the creation of a new Mestizo and Indigenous Center at the College of Education.
“We’re located in an area where there are a number of local tribes and at the same time there’s an increasing Latino population in Washington state,” said Brian McNeill, co-director of the new center.
McNeill said he saw a regional need to address the common issues many indigenous populations face and started working to establish the center about two years ago.
“In places like Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Franklin County the Mexican American population in schools is getting close to 70 percent,” McNeill said. “In communities like Pasco at least 50 percent are Latino. We need to start paying attention to what those demographics are.”
WSU has a responsibility to serve these populations, McNeill said, because it is a land grant university.
The center focuses on not only Native American populations but any indigenous groups, which refers to populations whose ancestors were the original inhabitants of a designated land or nation, McNeill said. The center also focuses on Latino populations, which are often part of the Mestizo experience, meaning they are forged from several different ethnic backgrounds. The center is one-of-a-kind in the Northwest region and possibly unique to the entire nation.
One of a kind
“There’s no question this is a unique center. There’s no other center we can identify in the U.S. that’s focused on Mestizo and indigenous populations,” said Mike Trevisan, associate dean for research and external funding at WSU’s College of Education. “There’s a variety of Mestizo populations in Washington who go unnoticed and unsupported. Hopefully this center will shed light on that and find ways to encourage support for these people.”
McNeill said the center is different from any others because it brings several groups together and addresses their common needs. He said many native populations do not consider Mexican American populations to be indigenous even though they have many of the same social concerns.
“From an educational standpoint it’s important to know what those commonalities are and break down some barriers, even amongst our own people,” he said.
An example of those common concerns is academic success and access to higher education, which center researchers are looking into now.
A 2008 study by WSU’s Clearinghouse on Native Teaching and Learning looked at the educational achievement gap among Native Americans. The study was commissioned by the Washington state Legislature and researchers are now following up on the Legislature’s progress.
Another study at the center reaches out to leaders in local Native American tribes and Latino communities, something that was not receiving enough attention prior to the creation of this center, McNeill said.
Finding solutions, together
“We want to ask them what they think our research agenda should be and what they see as the priorities,” he said. “That way we have the communities we serve setting the agenda for what they think is important.”
From the interviews conducted so far, McNeill has noticed that many groups want to be partners in research and help come to solutions as opposed to being the subject of research just for the sake of finding out something new about them.
Trevisan said the new center is a good fit, since diversity is a priority area for the college’s research profile.
“We are about educating people and doing community work,” he said. “As a consequence we are in a position of responsibility to promote these ideas and make known the needs within the region in particular.”
In a 1984 interview, near the end of his long career at Washington State University, Professor Lloyd Urdal discussed changes in special education, minority education, adult education, education funding, and the need for better preparation of math and science teachers—all of which are major issues in 2012.
Presaging today’s demands for science, technology, engineering and math experts, he said: “We do have a tremendous pressure now in terms of the computer science age, and the development of computer specialists and the exploration of outer space and you name it.”
Urdal, who died in 1996, often thought in terms of shaping the future. Now, his family has continued his legacy. The couple’s son and daughter-in-law, David and Shirley Urdal, have created the Grace and Lloyd Urdal Endowed Scholarship in Education with an initial gift of $25,000.
“Dad was always working hard, always believing strongly in what he did,” said David. “He valued teaching educators. He had a wonderful sense of humor.”
Encouragement and education
The scholarship will be available starting next year to WSU College of Education students who plan to teach mathematics or science. Math was a favorite subject of Lloyd’s. He was an expert in academic assessment and evaluation. And science is his son’s calling. David Urdal is the recently retired executive vice president and chief scientist at Dendreon Corp., a Seattle biotech firm known for innovative cancer research.
“And my son is a science teacher,” David said of John, who teaches at Madison Middle School in Seattle.
Lloyd and Grace encouraged their children—including daughters Joan Kingrey, Christy Urdal and Valerie Kalhovde—to pursue whatever interested them. Joan was the only one to follow in her father’s footsteps. A longtime public school administrator, she taught educational leadership at WSU Spokane before her recent retirement.
“I resisted the idea of going into education for a long while, but eventually figured out it was in my DNA,” said Joan. “I’m pretty sure my father hoped I would be a college professor.”
A WSU alumna, Joan remembers how students appreciated his humor “and his ability to bring even the most fearful through advanced statistics.” She remembers him smoking his pipe in Cleveland Hall—home of the College of Education and a building of which he was very proud. It was a state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1963.
Lloyd served nine years as the first chair of the college’s Department of Education. The predecessor to today’s Department of Teaching and Learning was created within the college in 1964.
Lloyd was the first in his large Canadian family to go to college, but not until he’d studied engineering and served as a mechanic and pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. He and Grace met as students at Camrose Lutheran College near Edmonton, and he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Alberta. From there, it was off to the University of Chicago for a Ph.D. in social sciences. He returned to the Alberta plains each summer, earning tuition money by working the family farm.
For three years, Lloyd was director of research and then principal at UC’s Laboratory School—an experimental school founded by famed education philosopher John Dewey. In 1955, he accepted a job teaching at the WSU College of Education.
After living in Edmonton and Chicago, the isolated four-hill college town of Pullman “was a shock,” Grace Urdal recalled. The shock wore off, affection followed and the rolling hills of the Palouse have been her home ever since.
The Urdals became U.S. citizens soon after their arrival. At first, Lloyd focused on teaching—mostly undergraduates, as there were few WSU education graduate students at the time.
Lloyd was a popular man on College Hill, his widow remembers.
“They all loved him. He was just an excellent teacher,” said Grace, who worked for a while as a secretary in the veterinary college and later in the university human resources office.
After his retirement in 1986, Lloyd chose not to maintain a campus office as some emeritus professors do. With family and travels, the couple had plenty to keep them busy in the decade before he died.
David said the scholarship is a good way to honor the memory of his much-missed father and his still-active mom. Joan agrees.
“My parents were a wonderful team, and I know they are both proud of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said. “They’re a tough act to follow.”