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Dr. Mike Trevisan

Dean's Perspectives

A recap of state budget cut impacts on our college


WSU’s final budget for 2009-10, released this week, contains good news about our Sport Management Program:

“WSU will maintain and continue the program and major. The department will remain in the College of Education while a review is conducted regarding its permanent academic home.”

As I mentioned in recent college e-mail, sport management faculty will be discussing with the College of Business whether the program would be a good fit there. Meanwhile, the College of Education will certify new sport management undergraduate majors in June and will also offer the 200-level prerequisite courses for that major in the fall 2009.  Current graduate and undergraduate students, as well as the newly certified undergraduate students, will complete their degrees in the College of Education.

We appreciate all of the emails and other communications that we  received regarding the possible discontinuation of the program, as well as your ongoing support of the sport management faculty, program and students.

Our final budget cut will be $808,091, or approximately 11 percent of our 2009 budget. Other program reductions remain as I explained in my earlier column, posted below.

May 1, 2009

Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education

As many of you know, Washington State University has released its preliminary budget plan in response to a $54.2 million reduction in state funding for 2009-2011, or $27 million per year. I’m writing to let you know how our college is affected.

Before I get to the figures, I should remind you that the budget will not be finalized until June 1. The university will take feedback on the plan throughout May. For more information, or to submit a comment or suggestion, please click here.

For College of Education programs, there will be a reduction of $1 million in state funding. That figure represents a 13.8 percent decrease in our annual budget. Such a deep cut means some painful decisions had to be made, in part because our college is more reliant on state funding than many other WSU units.

Given our desire to protect academic opportunities and quality, our first cutbacks were in the administrative area. The annual budget for the dean’s office will be cut $205,000, which impacts communications, recruitment, community collaboration and other services.

Unfortunately, we could not avoid program cuts. I’m sorry to report that we will discontinue the Sport Management Program, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students already enrolled will be allowed to complete their course of studies, but no new students will be admitted. This decision was based on our belief that other programs are more central to the mission of the college. It is in no way a criticism of the high-quality Sport Management faculty and their enthusiastic students.

We will also reduce the number of students we accept in the secondary and elementary teacher preparation programs. From a former high of 150 students annually, enrollment will drop to 80 in each of the two programs. We also will reduce the number of graduate assistantships we offer, cut back on travel, reduce the number of courses we offer each semester in all our programs, and consolidate our secondary certification and masters in teaching programs. Additionally, the equivalent of 16 full-time faculty and staff positions will be discontinued, affecting 20 employees.

Yes, our fiscal belt is uncomfortably tight. But with your encouragement and support, we will continue our progress, and we will thrive. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the budget, or our work.

Diversity: A priority in our teaching, research, outreach

Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education

In the Washington town where she grew up, no one expects Hispanics to earn college degrees, Anna Ochoa Rivas says. Those who plan to attend college are met with skepticism, especially if they are female. But Anna beat the odds. In May, she received a double degree in accounting and Spanish from WSU. This month, she will enter our masters in teaching (M.I.T.) program.

Our state and nation urgently need more teachers of color. Building their ranks with determined people such as Anna is one of our dreams here at the College of Education, where diversity is a top priority. That’s why we are enthusiastic partners with the Martinez Foundation, which just initiated its M.I.T. fellowships for minority students who want to teach. Anna is one of WSU’s five Martinez fellowship winners; others are Shannon Gleason, Elida Guevara, Kevin Takasaki and Jenna Visoria. There will also be five Martinez fellows each at the University of Washington and Seattle University.

Edgar and Holli Martinez take a personal interest in the students they help, and plan to offer support and encouragement far beyond the generous $15,000 fellowships. We look forward to collaborating with their foundation, and the other universities.

We support diversity in our teaching, research and outreach in many other ways. Among them:

The Clearinghouse on Native Teaching & Learning. Faculty associated with the Clearinghouse made a stellar effort in the past year that resulted in the state-funded study From Where the Sun Rises: Addressing the Educational Achievement
of Native Americans in Washington State
. The report’s key recommendations include improving relationships between public school districts and tribes, and creating courses in college education programs that stress culturally appropriate methods.

Associate Professor Michael Pavel was primary investigator for the report. Working with him were Associate Professor SusanRae Banks-Joseph, Assistant Professor Lali McCubbin, Assistant Professor Ella Inglebret, and postdoctoral Research Associate Jason Sievers. When the team presents its findings to the WSU President’s Native American Advisory Board this month, they will be honored for their efforts by the Governor’s Office on Indian Affairs. Not that they’re resting on their laurels. The report will be continually refined. Says Dr. Pavel: “It is a living document.”

The Globalization, Diversity, and Education Conference. The 2009 conference, our fifth, was a resounding success. I add my voice to the participant who wrote: “My thanks to the entire conference team for a great job … Bravo!” This year’s conference drew 150 representatives from 16 states as well as Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Its size, we are told, is one of its joys. In addition to providing a mix of presentations that would be hard to find elsewhere—such as cultural pedagogies, contemporary identity shaping, media literacy and sustainability, to name a few—the organizers provide time for the networking and socializing not always possible at other, larger conferences.

The 2009 Globalization Conference was the first to be organized by our cultural studies faculty, who are already making plans for the 2010 conference. It will still take place beside the Spokane River, but will move upstream from the Red Lion Hotel to WSU Spokane’s Riverfront campus.

The Cultural Studies and Social Thought Ph.D. Program. One hallmark of this program is the way doctoral candidates are mentored by faculty into the world of research, teaching and action. Another is its emphasis on turning theory into practice. Thirteen of the current cultural studies 22 students are members of ethnic minorities and/or international students. Among them is joan.o’sa oviawe, who was named WSU’s 2009 Woman of the Year. Joan was an established policy specialist and social activist before arriving in Pullman, and will return to her native Nigeria eager to apply what she has learned here.

Brandon Sternod, one of the program’s first graduates, is an assistant professor at California State University, Stanislaus. Brandon recently sent us the kind of feedback that makes our efforts worthwhile. He described the cultural studies program as “a unique and enriching experience for any educator and/or aspiring scholar. The subjects it addresses are timely, challenging, and provocative. The faculty and collegiality are second to none. And the opportunities for personal and professional growth and development are limitless.”

We have other projects and programs, both ongoing and developing, that focus on issues of diversity and culture. I look forward to sharing details of those with you in the future.

Early learning: One investment that’s sure to grow

Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes educators from many academic disciplines to develop a child’s potential for success in life. That’s why, in addition to the College of Education’s own teacher preparation and research in early learning, our School & Community Collaboration Center is proud to take a facilitating and coordinating role in the Washington State University Early Learning Coalition.

The coalition is a network of faculty, staff and community partners whose teaching, research or service involves young children. Members include experts from the Department of Human Development, WSU Extension, the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, the WSU Foundation, the College of Education, community child care advocates and others (the roster is 70 names long and growing).

This WSU initiative coincides with intense statewide interest in learning opportunities for children from birth to age 8.

For seven years, the Foundation for Early Learning, started with a $10 million grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has invested nearly $7 million in programs and networks in Washington. The foundation is dedicated to advancing early learning through community collaboration, innovative grant making, resource sharing and technical assistance.

Two years ago, Gov. Christine Gregoire created the Washington Department of Early Learning, the first Cabinet-level agency of its kind in the nation. In doing so, she called early learning “the new frontier in education.” Also in 2006, public and private funding partners joined to create Thrive by Five Washington, an organization designed to serve as a catalyst for improvements to parenting education and support, child care, preschool, and other early learning environments throughout the state.

Within our college, early learning is a research area with tremendous potential for growth.  That is why we are so excited about a new fellowship funded by Marleen and Ken Alhadeff.  This $10,000 annual fellowship will support College of Education faculty research projects of two to three years duration that seek practical solutions to problems associated with early childhood education.     

Early learners have already benefited from the work of College of Education faculty members with overlapping specialties, such as Associate Professor SusanRae Banks-Joseph, an expert in Native American education; and Associate Professor Paulie Mills, whose research focuses on special education.   Both researchers have expertise in early learning, in addition to their primary areas of study.

Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman has shown that, for every dollar society spends on a child from birth to age 5, it saves $17 later on. Money spent today means less spent in the future on social services and remedial education. However, according to a state report, fewer than half of Washington’s children begin kindergarten with the skills necessary to succeed in school, and just 25 percent of the lowest-income students are considered ready. Our commitment to early learning includes ensuring that future teachers can adapt their teaching styles to help all students succeed.

No one is a bigger supporter of early childhood education than WSU President Elson S. Floyd.  As he reminded a gathering of Early Learning Coalition members this fall, “the issues affecting the quality of a young child’s life are myriad and complex, and solutions are beyond the scope of any single institution, program or government agency.”

The Early Learning Coalition at WSU provides a great opportunity to coordinate faculty expertise and many other resources across departments and colleges of WSU to collaborate on issues related to early learning.  By working together, faculty in the College of Education, along with other members of the coalition, will help our children get off to a good start.

How our college helps English language learners

Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education


For the sake of children like Octavio, the College of Education is working hard.

Associate Professor Joy Egbert, head of our English as a second language (ESL) program, met Octavio after officials at a local school asked for her advice. They didn’t know what to do with this boy who spoke only Spanish. When Dr. Egbert arrived in the classroom, she was heartened to see the students gathered around a table, working on a project. At least, she thought, the teacher had figured out how to engage Octavio with his classmates. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Octavio was in an adjoining room, head down, doing nothing.

Octavio sat by himself that day, but he’s hardly alone when it comes to needing help. In Washington, 77,000 English language learners are enrolled in schools. That is 7 percent of our students. Spanish is the language most commonly spoken by these children, followed by Russian, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Korean, Somali, and Tagalog.

One obvious way that the college helps these children is through our teacher preparation programs. We offer teaching endorsements in bilingual education and English as a second language at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We were among the first colleges to require that everyone earning a teaching certificate take a course in the teaching of English language learners. We have very popular graduate degrees—M.A. and Ed.M.—that focus on ESL. At the Ph.D. level, we offer a specialization in language and literacy education.

One of the first things our students find out about English language learners is that a lot of what they think they know just isn’t true. For example, children do not learn second languages more quickly and easily than adults. Nor is “immersion” the best way for children to learn a language. How do we know that these are myths? Research tells us so.

Our own faculty ESL researchers are hard at work in Pullman, Tri-Cities and Vancouver. They include:

  • Dr. Egbert, who works both in the U.S. and abroad to explore how both teachers and students can become engaged in English language learning.
  • Assistant Professor Tom Salsbury, who studies second language acquisition. He also is working with Assistant Professor Jo Olson to perfect mathematics teaching strategies for English language learners.
  • Professor Gisela Ernst-Slavit, who has secured more than $3 million in federal funds to improve the effectiveness of teachers and administrators with English language learners
  • Assistant Professor Tonda Liggett, who is researching the transformation that takes place as pre-service teachers encounter course material on diversity and have experiences working with students who are different from themselves.

In addition, we have just welcomed two assistant professors, David Johnson and Eric Johnson, who have researched English language learning at urban schools.

Our college is committed not only to preparing new teachers, but to helping those already in the classroom. Five years ago, we started an increasingly popular on-line program through which teachers all over the state can earn an ESL endorsement.

Starting this year, our ESL and literacy faculty and students will team up with classroom teachers to analyze and improve the English language instruction being provided in selected Eastern Washington schools. That effort, called the Language and Literacy Education Collaborative, is just the kind of help that the Octavios of the world need to reach their potential.

Education research makes us better teachers

Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education


Washington State is a research university, a place where all faculty members are working to expand knowledge within their fields of expertise.  Most people understand why it’s important for university faculty to do research in science or engineering, but many seem puzzled that we in the College of Education also engage in research. We do so for the same three reasons that science and engineering professors do. They are:

Research makes us better teachers of our university classes.  Faculty members who conduct research in the subject matter they are teaching have a deep understanding of their topics.  As a result, they are better able to convey the fine points and provide the most up-to-date information to their students.  Plus, active researchers display an infectious enthusiasm. They make a topic—for example, the influence of technology on learning in schools—come alive for their students.  It’s always more interesting to learn from someone who has done a study, rather than a person who has simply read about a study.

As researchers, we model an inquiry learning process for future teachers and other education professionals. Let’s say a researcher is striving to understand how children comprehend what they read. By continually asking questions and working to find the answers, the professor shows by example how to approach inquiry-based learning. That is the method that classroom teachers use to guide students in asking and answering their own questions. Actively involving children in their own learning is a hallmark of good teaching.

Research advances the knowledge base of the profession of education.   Every year, more knowledge is accumulated through research by professors and their graduate students.  As a result, we understand more today about leadership styles, counseling strategies, and physical education than we did in the past. We may never fully understand everything about cultural differences as they relate to learning, but we know much more than we did 10 years ago because of the research that has been published on that topic.  It is one of the obligations of a research university to create knowledge on which future generations can build.

Some of the stories in this newsletter are about research under way at the College of Education.  This is important work and we’re proud of our professors and our student researchers, both graduate and undergraduate.  

Next time friends talk about the exciting discoveries of our scientists and engineers, tell them that important educational research is also improving lives.   At the WSU College of Education, we know there is always more to learn.

Science, math and more: Our initiatives really add up


Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education

Ross Hunter is a direct fellow. The Bellevue legislator and chair of the House Finance Committee is very concerned about education and didn’t mince words when we met recently in his Olympia office.

 “So,” he asked, “what are you doing for math and science?”

We’ve heard from many policy makers and business people who are concerned about the shortage of math and science teachers.  We worry about that, too. The situation is likely to become dire if proposals to increase high school math requirements become reality. So we have stepped up our efforts to recruit students whose goal is to teach secondary-level math and science, and to encourage elementary-certified teachers to consider teaching those subjects in middle school. This year, we offer a new math endorsement for middle school. Our faculty members are involved in the development of a middle school science endorsement, and a K-12 environmental education endorsement.

We also work hard to increase the math and science expertise of teachers who are already on the job. I’m especially pleased about the Ferrucci Award, which brings a distinguished math, science or technology teacher to Pullman each summer for a sabbatical and provides university resources for projects of his or her own choosing.

When we created a poster listing our initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math, even I was surprised by how many there are.  As you can tell by looking at the poster, these initiatives take place on all four WSU campuses. Sometimes we work with school districts, sometimes with other institutions of higher education, and sometimes with other academic units within our own university.

Best education practices and the research of our faculty are integral to our math and science efforts.  Our roster of faculty researchers includes 16 whose projects focus on math, science, environmental education and educational technology. Their work is often funded by gifts and grants.

Examples of our grant-funded efforts to help all children reach their potential and to create a dynamic future workforce include:

In Pullman, the College of Education’s partnership with the College of Engineering and Architecture through the Engineering Education Research Center is designed to stimulate interest in engineering professions and to reform mathematics education. In one project, we place engineering graduate students in high schools, where they pass along their knowledge of engineering professions and mathematics instruction. Called CREAM, for Culturally Relevant Engineering Applications in Mathematics, this project energizes graduate students, K-12 teachers and students, and university faculty. 

In Spokane, the College of Education facilitates the Riverpoint Partnership for Math and Science. Other partners are the Spokane Public Schools, Eastern Washington University, Community Colleges of Spokane, Mead School District, Central Valley School District and Educational Service District 101. Goals include developing a shared community understanding of high quality math and science education, and developing a certification or endorsement program for K-12 instructional coaches.  Education faculty members also are working with high school math teachers, community college math instructors, and mathematics faculty to implement the College Readiness Standards in Mathematics.

In the Tri-Cities, College of Education faculty members are deeply involved in planning for Delta High School, a new school that will serve the communities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick. Delta High will recruit students who are especially interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Its planned curriculum integrates all traditional high school courses and aims to develop creative thinking.  The school, which will open its doors in fall 2009, is the result of intense collaboration among three school districts, Battelle (its major corporate sponsor), and WSU.

At WSU Vancouver, the Southwest Washington Transitions in Mathematics Education program is developing a regional plan to ensure that Clark County high school students are prepared for entry level mathematics courses at WSU Vancouver and Clark College. The program has, among other accomplishments, established relationships with local and state public and private partners, led algebra workshops for K-9 teachers, and recruited four high school teachers to teach a “Senior Bridge Course” that will help students span the high-school-to-college math gap.

In answer to Rep. Hunter’s question, we’re doing a lot about math and science.
With the help of both public and private support, we hope to do even more.

Thinking globally, teaching globally

Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education


When our college launched the International Globalization, Diversity and Education conference four years ago, we hoped for a good turnout of Washington educators who were interested in the work of our researchers. Our hopes were realized, and the annual conference has grown each year. That is not surprising, given the quality of the presentations and importance of the subject matter. But what has surprised me is the number of participants who come not only from outside Washington, but also outside of the United States.

In 2007, the 250 conference attendees included visitors from 27 states and 13 other countries. So scholars from Denmark, Nepal and Liberia were hearing, or delivering, presentations on such topics as “Social Movements, Diaspora, and Education” and “Indigenous Education in the Northwest and Beyond.”

Planning for the 2008 conference caused me to reflect on the various ways that the Washington State University College of Education takes its mission way beyond the Northwest. There is no better example than our unusual and dynamic partnership with Japan’s Nishinomiya School District, which started 17 years ago. Every year, we recommend a Washington educator to teach English in Nishinomiya, and we host a Japanese teacher for 10 weeks of intensive English studies at WSU. In alternating years, delegations from the college and from Nishinomiya exchange visits.

This fall, after spending a week with WSU colleagues in Japan, I headed for Thailand’s Khon Kaen University, where for eight years WSU has sent faculty to teach doctoral-level short courses, in a program spearheaded by Professor Forrest Parkay.  In turn, KKU sends 15-18 doctoral students to Pullman each year for a research symposium and mentoring. In the past, we have also sponsored summer programs for administrators from KKU and other Thai universities.

Given Washington’s location on the Pacific Rim, it makes sense that our Asian connections are strong. We don’t limit ourselves to one region, though.  For more than ten years, we have placed students in international schools in Japan, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan; but also in U.S. Department of Defense schools in England, Germany, Italy and Hungary. Those student teaching experiences include a visit overseas from a WSU supervisor, as well as regular online contact.

In summer of 2008, we will offer our first study abroad course in Nigeria for college students and teachers. It will focus on social foundations and multicultural education. We’re investigating other study abroad opportunities in Mexico and India.
Among other ways we are involved internationally:

  • College of Education faculty members are involved in planning WSU’s distance-learning courses, many of which are available to students nationally and internationally.
  • The college is re-activating its International School Leadership program, which provides opportunities for educators in Southeast Asia to earn administrative certificates and advanced degrees.
  • Every year, we bring three or four international faculty members to Pullman for visiting professorships.
  • We recruit international students in key doctoral programs such as cultural studies and educational leadership.

In short, the college recognized global opportunities before “globalization” was a catchword. It’s important for the future of our students that we continue to expand our international reach.