Yearly Archives: 2013

From the Dean

The College of Education has long been known for the quality of our teacher education programs. As shown on the first page of our printed magazine (which you can tear out and display), our graduate programs in elementary and secondary education have been ranked No. 1 in the nation for 19 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report. We are the only educator preparation program in the state of Michigan, and one of few around the country, that offers a full-year teaching internship program—an intensity of training that principals and superintendents say results in a distinctive level of qualification for our graduates. Preparing the next generation of teachers and conducting research about K-12 schools will always be central to our mission.

But the College of Education does more than prepare teachers. Almost half of our undergraduate enrollment today is in our Department of Kinesiology, where the number of undergraduate majors has increased by 50 percent in just the last five years. Over two-thirds of our graduate students are outside of teacher education. In addition to our national rankings in elementary and secondary education, we have six other graduate programs ranked in the top 10 nationally (including kinesiology, where programs are ranked by the National Academy of Kinesiology). We have more programs ranked first or second than any other education school in the country.

In our cover story in this issue of the New Educator, we highlight some of the work being conducted outside the area of teacher education. We have faculty members across the college who conduct research and train students in the areas of autism and intellectual disabilities.

Assistant Professor Jodene Fine, of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education (CEPSE), uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine anatomical differences in the brains of children with different types of disabilities. Functional MRI is a non-invasive diagnostic technique at the forefront of neuroscience that allows researchers to monitor the blood flow and oxygenation of the blood in the brain in response to different stimuli. This research may ultimately help professionals better distinguish between—and treat—children with nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) and those with Asperger’s syndrome.

The College of Education is a lead partner in the DOCTRID International Research Institute, a collaboration between Michigan State, University of Massachusetts Medical School, eight Irish universities and the Daughters of Charity Service in Ireland. Scholars affiliated with the DOCTRID (Daughters of Charity Technology and Research in Intellectual Disabilities) Institute are focusing on empirical research to help inform policy and practice in the area of intellectual disability, with a special focus on technology. The institute, just formally created last summer, has already received an $11.3 million grant from the European Union to hire post-doctoral scholars to advance its research agenda, with up to seven of the scholars to be located in the College of Education for the next five years.

In other stories, we profile Elaine Tripi, a graduate of our former counseling program, who works with military victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. And we continue our Faculty Viewpoint series with a column on the topic of teacher evaluation by University Distinguished Professor Mark Reckase of CEPSE, who writes in relation to his work with the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness, a gubernatorial- and legislative-appointed panel charged with creating a new system for evaluating teachers and administrators in the state.

And finally, we have a Faculty Perspective column by Professor John Carlson, who discusses the impact of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. Dr. Carlson provides very useful advice for parents and educators from a personal perspective on the tragedy.

I hope you enjoy the variety of stories about the College of Education and our people, and I look forward to hearing your comments.

MSU K-12 Outreach: Helping Priority and Focus Schools Improve Learning

By Angela Son and
Kathleen Snyder

Cheryl Irving, assistant superintendent of Lincoln Park Public Schools, presented challenges faced by her district during the Summer Institutes coordinated by the MSU Office of K-12 Outreach.

Cheryl Irving, assistant superintendent of Lincoln Park Public Schools, presented challenges faced by her district during the Summer Institutes coordinated by the MSU Office of K-12 Outreach.

For more than a decade, the Michigan State University Office of K-12 Outreach has been playing a critical role in supporting Michigan schools as they strive to improve. Since 2007, K-12 Outreach has been an integral part of Michigan’s MI Excel Statewide System of Support. Then, last year, the State of Michigan was granted flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The waiver initiated new accountability and improvement structures for K-12 schools, namely the inception of Priority and Focus schools. The Office of K-12 Outreach became one of the key partners in the effort to assist schools identified within these categories.

Barbara Markle, assistant dean of K-12 outreach, said the office designed, developed and implemented new interventions at the district level in order to further assist Priority and Focus schools.

“As the outreach arm of Michigan State University’s top-rated College of Education, we were well-prepared to draw upon the university’s deep capabilities, active network of top education experts and decades of work in the field to promote lasting performance at all levels of schooling,” Markle said.

The Office of K-12 Outreach just completed its first year of assisting Priority and Focus schools. Some of the highlights of the year included:

  • Specialists and facilitators at districts/schools: Intervention specialists and district improvement facilitators from MSU provided technical assistance to schools using customized data tools.
  • Summer Institutes: Superintendents, principals and teachers identified and strategized one of the four gap areas for their schools, such as English language learners, socioeconomic status, special education and African-American males.
  • National Coaching Conference: Teachers gained ideas to minimize the student achievement gap, especially for specific ethnic groups or content areas.

The work that K-12 Outreach has been doing in conjunction with its primary partners, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA), has been well-received by schools and districts. Even more importantly, many schools and districts have made huge steps toward raising student achievement.

Raupp Elementary School in Lincoln Park Public Schools is one of the 146 schools identified as Priority schools in fall 2012. According to JoAnn Andrees, an intervention specialist for K-12 Outreach, the principal at Raupp elementary encouraged staff to create a data dialogue in the form of data walls and binders, which elicited 100 percent participation among teachers.

“‘We’re all in this together’ was the idea,” Andrees said. “Unless you have the support of the central office, decisions cannot be made on the spot. Having decisionmakers with us at the table saves time and ambiguity.”

While strides have been made over the past year, there is more to be done, and MSU K-12 Outreach is in the thick of it, planning and implementing new tools, training and projects to help schools improve. The office recently launched MI Toolkit, a new website designed to provide tools, information and resources for both Priority and Focus schools.

“While oriented toward our Priority and Focus schools, any school or district will find the information on the website useful, particularly those who are seeking to address achievement gaps,” Markle said.

Another online tool, the Michigan Coaches Registry, also is up and running for fall 2013. This tool will help connect districts with potential educational coaches. Districts will be able to search the registry by location/region, school type, content area or coach’s name to find the coach who has the qualifications and experience for their needs. Coaches will also be able to utilize the site as a job board.

“The Michigan Coaches Registry is an innovative approach that will ensure that districts can find individuals who have the training and qualifications to be effective educational coaches throughout the school improvement process,” explained Markle.

Capitalizing and building upon a successful first year working with Priority and Focus schools, the Office of K-12 Outreach plans to continue its mission of increasing schools’ capacity to improve student learning. They will continue a multifaceted approach, engaging the school and district leaders in data dialogues and assisting them in creating a customized approach to improving student achievement. Help will be available online, in training and face-to-face.

Says Markle: “Really, it’s about offering the support and resources schools and districts need, that’s what we do.”

The Future for Science Education

Helping Michigan educators understand the Next Generation Science Standards


Lately, the Common Core State Standards have been the subject of great attention as a potential guide for U.S. schools to ensure all students learn the mathematics and language arts skills needed to be successful.

Away from the spotlight, however, there is a growing movement arguing that new standards are equally critical in another subject area: science.

If the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are adopted in Michigan, and other states across the country, nearly every teacher and every child will be preparing for a fundamentally different approach to learning about science—and therefore about the world around them.

Science education experts at Michigan State University, including many who helped develop the standards, say the time is now for schools to focus on teaching core scientific concepts and, just as importantly, to connect those ideas to phenomena students see in their everyday lives.

The NGSS were built on that premise, and based on research knowledge about how students best learn science. The kinds of changes that will be needed to implement the standards—as with Common Core—are immense but within our reach and capacity, many education leaders say.

MSU is already playing a lead role in Michigan to begin tackling the issues, from changing teacher preparation and creating new assessments to providing professional development for working teachers. In fact, the university held an introductory conference focused on NGSS that drew more than 800 educators to the Kellogg Center in May 2013.

The standards do not prescribe specific curricula or lesson plans, Professor Joseph Krajcik told attendees. Rather, NGSS outlines expectations for what all students should understand and be able to demonstrate at the end of instruction.

“Every one of our children needs to have this depth of understanding to be able to live successful and fulfilled lives in this world. That’s what NGSS is all about,” said Krajcik, director of the CREATE for STEM Institute at MSU, which coordinated the conference in partnership with the university’s Office of K-12 Outreach and the Michigan Department of Education.

Krajcik was lead writer for the physical science segment of NGSS and on the leadership team for NGSS.

“The core ideas in science are thinking tools,” he said. “When kids have those ideas inside their head, they can actually use them to solve problems, to make decisions and, even more importantly, to learn more.”

Michigan has not yet adopted the standards but it is one of the 26 states that led the process funded by the Carnegie Corporation under the management of Achieve, Inc., an independent, bipartisan and nonprofit education reform organization. The standards are based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education that was developed by a team of scholars working with the National Research Council.

The first common science education standards were developed in the 1990s as a guide to the states and educators, but no single set of science standards has yet been broadly adopted by multiple states.

“Historically, we have not gotten past simply learning facts,” said Stephen Pruitt, a senior vice president at Achieve, Inc. who oversaw the development of NGSS. “What’s cool about science is those facts change. If we do a good job helping kids understand the dynamics behind science, then they can adapt when facts change.”

What’s next?

The changes outlined by NGSS are so fundamental that it will take time to make adequate changes to the preparation and professional development of teachers. In fact, teacher education expert and University Distinguished Professor Suzanne Wilson wrote in a recent Science magazine article that the teacher training landscape is woefully inadequate to handle NGSS.

“Science has been marginalized by the No Child Left Behind Act, so less science has been taught in schools, not more,” said Wilson, also a member of the National Academies’ Board on Science Education. “And now these standards are coming out that not only call for a renewed focus on science teaching, but the kind of science that many teachers haven’t taught and many teachers haven’t experienced.”

For its part, faculty and staff in the CREATE for STEM Institute at MSU plan to continue collaborating with the state Department of Education, the Michigan Science Teachers Association, the Michigan Mathematics and Science Centers Network and teacher education faculty at MSU to develop resources for secondary science teachers as well as elementary teachers, such as workshops, instructional materials and online forums.

CREATE for STEM is a joint initiative of the College of Education and the College of Natural Science. Science education research at MSU ranges from studying the best teaching practices within disciplines to the best sequences for teaching concepts across time, or learning progressions—a key component in NGSS.

“MSU has really been a hotbed for science education research,” said Pruitt. “There is a tremendous amount of brainpower here.”

Faculty Viewpoint: Can You Identify a Good Teacher When You See One?

Thoughts on teacher evaluation from an assessment expert and member of Michigan’s governor-appointed task force

MarkReckaseA number of years ago, I was working on a project that focused on using portfolios high school students produced in their classes as a way of evaluating their level of achievement. This was exciting work because our team was able to see the types of assignments teachers were using to generate the student work, and the types of products students produced in response to those assignments. Although it wasn’t the direct goal of the project, we realized that students could not show high levels of achievement unless their class assignments gave them the opportunity to show that high level of work.

After we thought about this for a while, the result seemed obvious. When using portfolios of work to assess students’ achievement, the quality of their classroom activities is very important. There was another anecdotal finding that came out of this development project. The students of one teacher did not get very high evaluations for their level of achievement, possibly because the assignments in their portfolios did not call for that level of work.

When we reported the results, we received a number of negative comments from parents and school staff. The teacher was one of the most popular in the school. There must be something wrong with the way we evaluated the portfolios because this was one of their “best” teachers. We reviewed the results and it was still clear that the contents of the students’ portfolios were not up to the level of students from other classes and schools.

For years after, I have been puzzled by the result. Was that really a great teacher and our portfolio procedure was not very good? I believe the answer is “no.” Or, was that a really popular, entertaining teacher who did not demand a lot from the students, and who used fairly formulaic assignments? Of course, I had a vested interest in this project, so I think the answer is “yes.” But this leads me to the challenge that has been presented to educational groups in many states: How can we identify the “good” or “great” teachers and distinguish them from those who are “poor” or worse?

Start with definitions

The answer has to begin with a few definitions. What is the definition of a teacher? What is the definition of a good teacher? Defining who is a teacher is more difficult than it would first appear. Should a school administrator be classified as a teacher for the purposes of evaluation? How about a school librarian? What about a teacher’s aide? There are also counselors, temporary teachers, specialty teachers, etc. There are tutors and others working outside the school to help students learn. Are the parents of home-schooled students teachers for the purposes of evaluation? From the perspective of state educational systems, the following definition of a teacher is proposed:

A teacher is a person who is responsible for assisting a group of students to learn the content defined by a well-structured curriculum during a specified unit of instruction.

There are a number of important concepts in this definition. First, the teacher is responsible for helping the students learn. Those who are assistants to the teacher, such as teacher aides, do not have that formal responsibility. The person who is assigned as the teacher for a group of students is the person who formally assigns grades, and grade-giving is one way of showing the level of responsibility.

Second, the teacher works with a group of students. This eliminates the case of one-on-one tutoring, but teachers may work individually with members of their assigned group.

Third, there is a structured curriculum. This means there are specific types of knowledge and skills that are the targets of instruction and it is the expectation that students will reach an acceptable level of competence in these areas.

Finally, the definition specified a unit of instruction. This means that the teacher works with the students for an extended period of time. It might be the full academic year, or a semester or quarter, depending on how the school is organized.

If this definition of a teacher is accepted, then it leads to a definition of a “good” teacher. A good teacher creates an environment and develops or selects a series of activities that will facilitate and encourage students to achieve the goals specified in the curriculum. There is an expectation that there is a well-defined domain of knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire by the end of the unit of instruction. If they acquire them, the educational system has succeeded, and the teacher is usually considered at least “good”—and we would hope that all teachers are at least “good.”

Student differences make a difference

The components of these definitions provide a framework that is often used for evaluating the educational systems of states. Curriculum documents are developed that describe the desired level of achievement for each school subject and each grade level. Tests are produced for estimating students’ levels of achievement on the defined curriculum, and standards of performance are set on the score scales for the tests. If students exceed the desired standard, the educational system is judged to be good.

Kindergarten teacher reading to children in libraryHowever, there is one very important point that is typically left out of this framework. It neglects to include the student as an active participant. Without the students’ cooperation, we cannot know how much they have achieved. They have to be willing to show us their skills and knowledge on tests and classroom activities. The students also have to be willing to learn the material in the curriculum. Unfortunately, there is an implicit assumption that students start at approximately the same place when they begin the work on a unit of instruction.

Once we bring the student characteristics into the discussion of what makes a good teacher, the concept of a “great” teacher can be considered. I propose that a great teacher is one who can help a student who faces challenges when entering the educational system to reach the desired level of achievement.

The challenge might be that the student enters the unit of instruction with less previous knowledge and skills than other students. Or the student might have a native language that is different than the language of instruction. He or she may come from an environment that does not encourage education, etc. Teachers who demonstrate the capability to help these students reach the desired level of achievement deserve the label “great.”

Observation and student growth = Only a rough estimate

Given this framework for teachers and teaching, can you identify a good teacher by looking at one? On a more personal note, was the popular teacher I described earlier a good teacher? Is it sufficient for students, parents and administrators to like the teacher, or is it more important that estimates of student achievement exceed expectations?

Many of the commonly used teacher evaluation systems now use a combination of performance measures from the students assigned to the teacher and observational tools that try to capture what is going on in the classroom. In some cases, the results of the two approaches are averaged using weights related to the judged importance of the two types of information. There is strong logic behind this approach because there is research showing that time on task in a classroom is related to the amount learned, and that the way learning activities are structured makes a difference. Based on other research, I am convinced that the ability of the teacher to observe students and determine how to adapt instruction to the needs of the group is very important. Teachers who are flexible in their approach get better results than those who rigidly follow a lesson plan.

Of course, classroom observational procedures used for evaluation need to focus on important features of the classroom activities and be conducted a sufficient number of times to get a sense of what is typical for the teacher. It seems unlikely that a five-minute peek into the classroom will yield a description that represents everything that happens in the classroom.

The use of student performance measures to evaluate teachers is somewhat more complex. The intent is to determine how much the teacher contributes to student growth after other factors are taken into account. The other factors typically include a student’s previous capabilities to learn the academic material, environmental components related to their home environment and peer groups, and school facilities that help a teacher accomplish educational goals. The intent of the statistical methods used to estimate the teacher contribution is to level the playing field so that all teachers are fairly evaluated. As part of a research team (with Jeffrey Wooldridge of MSU and Cassandra Guarino of Indiana University) that has been testing the trustworthiness of these methods, often called value-added models or VAMs, I know there are many features that cannot be brought into the statistical analysis because information is not available or it is too difficult to quantify.

Student growth measures, questions to consider:

  • How are students assigned to teachers?
  • Do teachers work as a team or have an intact classroom?
  • What professional development is supplied?
  • How much parental involvement is there at the school?
  • What is attendance like at the school?
  • How many contact hours does the teacher have with the students?

All of these things have an influence on the way instruction is carried out.

A consequence of all this complexity is that observations and student growth estimates only give us a rough idea of the capabilities of the teacher. Most procedures are good at identifying the top and bottom 1-2 percent, but they are not very good at accurately classifying a teacher as above average or below average (see figure below).


Our own research shows an above-average teacher has a noteworthy probability of being classified in the bottom 20 percent because of the limitations in sampling and uncertainties in all of the variables used to assess growth. For this reason, it seems better to give a probability that the teacher is in each of the possible evaluation categories (such as poor, average or above average) rather than make a fixed classification.

If the probabilities are about the same for all the categories, the information about that teacher is very imprecise. If one category has a high probability, then the results can be trusted as being accurate. We have found the level of accuracy has a lot to do with the number of students assigned to the teacher, the amount of contact hours and the accuracy of all of the other information collected about the students as well as the educational setting. Low accuracy is not the fault of the teacher, but of the environment within which the teacher works.

So, can we identify a good teacher when we see one? Maybe, if we watch them for a long time and we agree on the characteristics of a good teacher. But if the goal is an efficient and fair system of teacher evaluation, a quick look or a subjective judgment is not good enough. Carefully collected information and accurate analyses are needed, and even then, fixed classifications will have uncertainty. We need to embrace the uncertainty as diagnostic information that shows how much we can trust the results. High levels of trust are needed before we begin using teacher evaluations to make high-stakes decisions about the careers and livelihoods of our nation’s teachers.

About the author

University Distinguished Professor Mark D. Reckase was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness (MCEE), a group tasked with defining the system for educator evaluation for the State of Michigan. In addition, Reckase is co-principal investigator on a research project evaluating value-added models funded by the U.S. Department of Education. He teaches courses on psychometric theory and applied educational measurement in the Measurement and Quantitative Methods area of the College of Education.

For more about the MCEE, including its recommendations for educator evaluation in Michigan, go to


  1. Guarino, C. M., Reckase, M. D., & Wooldridge, J. M. (2012). Can value-added measures of teacher performance be trusted? Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) Discussion Paper No. 6602.
  2. Harris, D. N. (2011). Value-added measures in education: What every educator needs to know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
  3. McCaffrey, D. F. (2012). Do value-added methods level the playing field for teachers? Stanford, CA:  Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Unfamiliar Places

Jack Schwille leads College of Education’s international exploration over three decades


by Nicole Geary

John (Jack) Schwille has always been fascinated by unfamiliar places.

“As a kid in a very small, rural and not at all cosmopolitan community, I had an unlikely passion for learning about other countries,” he wrote. And now, he says, that desire “has proved insatiable.”

In the 50 years since starting as a doctoral student, Schwille’s obsession with understanding the world has taken him to 45 countries, earned him a place among the most well-known scholars in comparative education and—luckily for the College of Education—it landed him at Michigan State University early in his career.

He came to MSU in 1977 to join the pioneering team of researchers in the Institute for Research on Teaching. Seven years later, as a faculty member already known for introducing new ways of thinking, he was picked to be assistant dean in charge of the College of Education’s Office of International Studies.

At the time, it was a new position saddled with an ambitious list of expectations for elevating how the college engages in global work. But it was the type of job Schwille was passionate about—and prepared to do.

Since then, he has been generously leading the College of Education’s multifaceted approach to promoting international engagement among students, faculty, teachers and K-12 students.

Ask other university leaders about the college’s international achievements of the last three decades and, every step of the way, the answer is “ahead of the game.” Ask some of the hundreds of international students who have come through Schwille’s office and the answers become stories about packed community gatherings, about finding their academic footing and about becoming influential educational leaders on almost every continent.

This spring, Schwille received Special Recognition for Promoting International Understanding from the university’s central office of International Studies and Programs (ISP). He retired in May 2013—yet again venturing into unfamiliar territory—and turned his responsibilities over to Reitumetse Mabokela, a professor of higher education with extensive experience in international research and development.

“The College of Education has been a trailblazer in the international arena under the masterful leadership of Professor Schwille,” Mabokela said in a message to the college community. “We are strategically poised to train world-class graduates who can engage diverse students, domestically and internationally.”

Strength by infusion

Some people have argued that if MSU had graduate programs granting degrees in international and comparative education, they could be the nation’s—or even the world’s—best. However, Schwille says it’s actually the absence of such programs that has made the College of Education unusually strong in international studies.

Without pressure to recruit faculty and students into a particular program, he argues, virtually every job and degree program across the college can be considered open to international or internationally-minded candidates. The model Schwille adopted, an “infusion approach,” has led to a substantial increase in the number of international faculty and students. The goal has been to integrate global perspectives across all aspects of the College of Education’s mission: research, teaching and service.

“International work was not at all new when I started, but the approach was very new,” Schwille said. “No other university I know of has carried it to the extremes that we have.”

In his humble way, Schwille made a point to attract and encourage international scholars (such as Lynn Paine, Mun Tsang, Chris Wheeler and Maria Teresa Tatto) whose research could grow the college’s reputation and, more importantly, create new opportunities for student learning.

Whether it was a massive cross-national research project, a scholarship program, a study abroad experience or any other initiative that he believed would expand social and educational understanding, Schwille went for it wholeheartedly—and encouraged his colleagues to do the same. International work, he says, requires a “combination of vision and just crass opportunism.”

And so a long series of experiments and breakthroughs commenced.

Global research leadership

International research in education has been a top priority for Schwille. In the 1980s with colleagues at Harvard University and MSU, Schwille led the MSU BRIDGES team to research the quality of primary education in developing countries. It focused on Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burundi and Pakistan, and was funded by USAID.

With alumnus Martial Dembélé (PhD ’95), Schwille led a small team of consultants working with national leaders to introduce teacher-led professional learning in the West African nation of Guinea against the grain of a highly centralized education system. Funded initially by the World Bank, the model was developed with extraordinary success over a period of 10 years.

Doctoral graduate Martial Dembélé (center) and Jack Schwille pose while on a project trip to the African nation of Guinea, where they developed a model for teacher-led professional learning. Originally from Burkina Faso, Dembélé is now a tenured faculty member at the University of Montreal.

Doctoral graduate Martial Dembélé (center) and Jack Schwille pose while on a project trip to the African nation of Guinea, where they developed a model for teacher-led professional learning. Originally from Burkina Faso, Dembélé is now a tenured faculty member at the University of Montreal.

He traversed the globe conducting comparative achievement studies for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), and he laid the groundwork for peers to follow their own international research ambitions. One of the most notable is William Schmidt’s role in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the famous finding that, compared to high-achieving nations, math instruction in the United States is “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Also in mathematics, Schwille recently co-led the world’s first international assessment of student learning in higher education based on national samples. The 17-nation Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M), showed vast differences in what teacher education students know about mathematics and how they are prepared throughout the world. As Schwille says, the study has helped prove that teacher education matters.

IEA studies like TEDS-M figure among the most influential educational research of the last half century. Starting in 1972 with a research fellowship at IEA Headquarters at the University of Stockholm, Schwille went on, over 40 years, to work on international leadership teams for four major IEA multicountry studies, mostly in civic education and mathematics. In 2010 he was elected an honorary member of IEA, an honor bestowed on only 22 researchers since the organization was founded in the 1960s.

Internationalization at home

His projects based closer to campus were similarly bold.

With founder Sally McClintock (a College of Education alumna, now deceased), Schwille helped launch a long-standing program in 1995 that helps K-12 teachers add international perspectives to their thinking and practice through monthly interactions with international students at MSU. LATTICE, Linking All Types of Teachers to International Cross-cultural Education, still continues its work of K-12 internationalization.

“It was a concept that put the College of Education on the map nationally, and in the lives of a lot of international students,” said David Horner, former director of the MSU Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS).

An emphasis on integrating international elements into the K-12 curriculum and into teacher preparation began to permeate the college culture, leading to the development of new undergraduate course sections and powerful study abroad experiences for students. The Cross-Cultural Teaching Abroad programs were considered particularly unique for giving teacher candidates opportunities to actually teach in South African or Australian classrooms.

By 2006, MSU had received two major awards for the College of Education’s international initiatives: the Goldman Sachs Higher Education Prize for Excellence in International Education and the AACTE Best Practice Award in Global and International Education.

For Schwille, those honors proved that the infusion approach was working. But, ever ambitious, he also knew the college was just getting started. Since then, among other things, his colleagues were able to establish:

  • The Confucius Institute, which provides resources for K-12 students and other Americans to learn Chinese language and culture.
  • The Global Educators Cohort Program, which prepares students to teach abroad or in multicultural classrooms, starting with specialized experiences during freshman and sophomore years.
  • The Fellowship for Global Understanding, which provides college-sponsored international study trips available to doctoral students throughout the college.

A global family

Throughout his career, Schwille always made international students a priority. Finding strong prospects during his travels, he not only encouraged them to come to MSU but also helped them obtain assistantships and set up networks of support.

“That really has been his profound contribution to the college, his nurturing of international students, to integrate them into our college and be successful academically,” said Cassandra Book, professor and associate dean emeritus.

He always had time for them, and then some.

Jack and Sharon Schwille have generously supported international students in many  ways. Here they help celebrate a new baby with parents Mamadou Baldé and his wife  Aminatou, who brought the warmth and culture of Guinea to campus.

Jack and Sharon Schwille have generously supported international students in many
ways. Here they help celebrate a new baby with parents Mamadou Baldé and his wife
Aminatou, who brought the warmth and culture of Guinea to campus.

Schwille invited international students to mingle with faculty and peers during monthly breakfasts in Erickson Hall, to gather for an annual college-wide breakfast at his home and even to join his family for Thanksgiving dinners. So many were welcomed to the Schwille’s house that the holidays often became standing-room-only occasions.

“Nobody was a stranger, no matter what their ethnicity was,” said Marlene Green, who was Schwille’s administrative assistant for 11 years. “He would talk to anyone and try to get to know them.”
And he made sure other faculty members got to know the international students, whom he regularly challenged and put in the spotlight.

“The experience that international scholars bring to the college is taken very seriously and used to enrich the experiences of others,” said Martial Dembélé, one of Schwille’s main collaborators who is originally from Burkina Faso in Africa and now an associate professor at the University of Montreal. “I felt that I gained an understanding not just of issues in the U.S. but in many parts of the world.”

The Schwilles are Snyder Society donors to MSU, having begun a legacy of giving to multiple areas across campus three decades ago. Jack and Sharon believe so much in supporting international students that they established a fellowship primarily for non-U.S. citizens attending the College of Education. Since 2001, their gift has provided tuition dollars to more than a dozen students selected based on academic potential and, not surprisingly, willingness to work with persons from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds.

International students outside the College of Education also have been influenced by Schwille. Juma Mmongoyo of Tanzania, for example, was a star secondary school student of Schwille’s son and daughter-in-law during their Peace Corp teaching days. When Schwille learned that Mmongoyo had gone on from his village school to receive a master’s degree in chemistry, he met with him in Tanzania and helped him compete successfully for a U.S. scholarship program in agricultural studies.

When Mmongoyo arrived in East Lansing last summer, he stayed with the Schwilles until he settled into his new surroundings and an apartment with international students in the College of Education—an Indonesian, a Mexican and a Palestinian from Israel. He is now studying food chemistry and toxicology as a PhD student in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

“You can have good qualifications, but it’s not always possible to get to an American university like this,” Mmongoyo said. “You need people to support you, and Jack is one of the reasons I am here.”

Grounded at MSU

Jack Schwille (far right) with fellow College of Education researchers who worked together over three decades ago, (from far left): Andrew Porter, William Schmidt, Lucy Bates-Byers and Robert Floden.

Jack Schwille (far right) with fellow College of Education researchers who worked together over three decades ago, (from far left): Andrew Porter, William Schmidt, Lucy Bates-Byers and Robert Floden.

Along the way, Schwille’s big heart and critical mind have helped make MSU and the College of Education a place where everyone is free and willing to explore the unfamiliar—whether you are talking about a different culture, another nation’s approach to education or a new theory about teaching and learning.

As Dean Donald Heller said, Schwille has shown “the kind of impact that one person can make is immense.”

Schwille has started writing a book about the college’s approach to fostering international engagement to be published by MSU Press. He also remains working on his latest development project, MSU’s cross-disciplinary effort to find new ways to improve well-being and sustainable living in two Tanzanian villages.

His thirst for exploration could have sent him sling-shotting around the globe to different jobs—and he certainly had opportunities. But he believes he has learned more about the world by staying grounded at MSU, taking journeys surrounded by the diverse, world-changing spirit of fellow Spartans.

“When push comes to shove, what matters most to me are people,” Schwille said at his retirement reception. “And here at MSU I have worked with the most stimulating, productive people I could ever hope for.”

Serving All Learners

Expanding research on autism and intellectual disabilities across the lifespan


The commitment to serve all learners runs deep in the Michigan State University College of Education.

Every day, our faculty members are searching for new ways to help individuals with various disabilities, from brain injuries and physical impairments to emotional issues and academic challenges.

In recent years, this mission has shifted to focus more resources on a particularly fast-growing problem: autism. One in 88 children now have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to a rate of 1 in 125 less than a decade ago.

College of Education researchers Summer Ferreri and Sara (Bolt) Witmer made waves when they conducted the first statewide study of autism-related services in Michigan schools two years ago and found that more than 40 percent of educators weren’t using some of the most effective known teaching methods.

Since then, MSU Special Education leaders have hired more faculty members specializing in autism and launched new programs (see page 29 for the latest) designed to prepare educators serving children with ASDs. Autism-related research has been on the rise among Special Education, School Psychology, Rehabilitation Counseling and even Kinesiology faculty members within the college.

And now, the entire university is ramping up its capacity to conduct cross-disciplinary research on autism and other impairments. This year, MSU launched the Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (RAIND) initiative to connect researchers doing related work in medicine, social science, education and other areas across campus, and to provide centrally funded research grants that could support powerful breakthroughs in the future.

Not surprisingly, RAIND was sparked in part by the leadership of a College of Education professor, Michael Leahy. For the past three years, Leahy has been building a massive international research venture focused on finding new solutions for people with intellectual disabilities, which typically refers to what was formerly known as mental retardation and some forms of autism.

The DOCTRID Institute involves partners at the Daughters of Charity Service in Ireland, eight Irish universities and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Through a large network of scholars in multiple disciplines, the institute will be driven by many of the same goals and principles as the new coalition at MSU.

The bottom line? Improve more lives by working together.

CoverStory_1“There is a very clear call, not only in this university, for research to be more interdisciplinary,” said Leahy, who serves as co-director of RAIND with the College of Human Medicine’s Nigel Paneth. “We plan to bring all the contributors together to address a very complex issue.”

Technology will play an increasingly large role, providing opportunities for researchers in engineering, computer science and gaming to contribute expertise.

RAIND and DOCTRID are both set up to investigate the full range of function, from the very mild to most severe disabilities, as well as the entire age spectrum.

Leaders believe that MSU is laying the groundwork, backed by international connections, to become a go-to center for autism and intellectual disability research. And the College of Education will play a critical role.

Current projects, for example, include modifying an online reading curriculum for young children with autism, using video-modeling to teach social skills to teens with autism and developing interventions to help high-functioning young adults get and keep good jobs. One scholar is looking inside the brain for clues about the underlying causes of neurodevelopmental disabilities. And kinesiology researchers are exploring how exercise can enhance academic performance for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“Research and teaching about a variety of disabilities has long been an important mission of the College of Education,” said Dean Donald Heller. “As the impact of disabilities across the lifespan becomes better understood, we have been increasing our efforts to identify strategies to help people with disabilities—and train the next generation of teachers, counselors and researchers.”

On the web

Research on Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities:

Faculty member Jodene Fine’s recent anatomical research findings:

Office of Rehabilitation and Disability Studies (Rehabilitation Counseling programs):

Special Education programs:

School Psychology programs:

Making a Global Impact: The DOCTRID Institute

DOCTORID researchers work with Professor Michael Leahy to build what is expected to become a trusted international source for evidence-based practices.

DOCTORID researchers work with Professor Michael Leahy to build what is expected to become a trusted international source for evidence-based practices.

Michigan State University is leading an international effort to create life-changing solutions for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The DOCTRID Research Institute was launched three years ago by the rehabilitation counseling faculty in the MSU College of Education and the large-scale Daughters of Charity Service in Ireland. The interdisciplinary venture has since expanded to include eight universities in Ireland and one other U.S. institution, the University of Massachusetts Medical School—all with teams of experts ready to collaborate in fields varying from special education and engineering to medicine and genetics.

DOCTRID (Daughters of Charity Technology and Research in Intellectual Disabilities) will be one of the world’s largest connected efforts to improve life for individuals with intellectual disabilities such as autism and what was formerly referred to as mental retardation through innovative research.

As research priorities and shared resources were being finalized earlier this year, the institute received a major boost: $11.3 million from the European Union’s Marie Curie COFUND to fund 40 post-doctoral positions. The scholars selected for those positions will begin working at one of DOCTRID’s partnering universities starting in fall 2014.

“This gives us extraordinary capacity to address important questions at each university,” said DOCTRID Director and MSU Professor Michael Leahy, who has been establishing connections with European partners in the rehabilitation and disability field for many years.

MSU will get up to seven of the post-docs funded by the EU. In addition, three Hegarty Fellows joined the DOCTRID research team this summer, with funding from MSU. The fellowship is named after the late Sister Martha Hegarty of the Daughters of Charity, a visionary leader in developing DOCTRID.

More international grant funding is in the works.

Tackling the big issues

“This was my dream post-doc,” said Carolyn Shivers, who accepted the Hegarty Fellowship on the heels of completing her doctorate in developmental psychology at Vanderbilt University. “Everything I’ve learned has just amazed me—the number of people who are working together and devoted to improving lives for people with disabilities.”

DOCTORIDPartnersShivers and the other Hegarty Fellows, Stacy Clifford and June Chen, are mapping out the contributions they will make to DOCTRID. They are working closely with faculty mentors from the MSU College of Education and will be co-located at MSU and one of the Irish universities, rotating every six months over two years.

Like all scholars associated with DOCTRID, the goal is for the fellows to conduct some of their own research while also collaborating and sharing information with other researchers on the big issues facing individuals with intellectual disability, across the entire lifespan and range of function.

For example, Shivers is interested in a particular piece of the support network needed by children with autism: their siblings. She plans to create and test a program that would train brothers and sisters to provide interventions focused on teaching social skills to their siblings with autism. This is particularly important as individuals with severe autism live longer and outlive their parents.

What’s next?

DOCTRID held a conference in Dublin during October 2013, with participants including researchers and service providers plus leaders such as MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, Acting Provost June Youatt and College of Education Dean Donald Heller. The EU post-doc program will be officially launched, along with a series of meetings and research presentations.

Like all aspects of MSU, the institute will remain focused on making an impact on real people, and the homes and communities they live in.

“Our hope is that DOCTRID will become an internationally trusted source of information about evidence-based practices,” said Shivers. “The work we do should translate into laws and programs, and most importantly, new and improved services for those with intellectual disabilities.”

Faculty from across MSU, not just the College of Education, will be involved in DOCTRID-related work. Many projects will also tie into the Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (RAIND) initiative on campus, an effort to increase and connect existing research in those areas (see graphic).

“Disability clearly is part of MSU’s mission, and not just a program here or there,” said Leahy.

Anatomical Evidence

Research unlocks understanding of structural differences

A Michigan State University researcher has discovered the first anatomical evidence that the brains of children with a nonverbal learning disability (NVLD)—long considered a “pseudo” diagnosis—may develop differently than the brains of other children.

The finding could ultimately help educators and clinicians better distinguish between—and treat—children with NLVD and those with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. While NVLD and Asperger’s share certain characteristics, researchers and clinicians have been confounded as to the relation of these two groups of children.

“The reason why it’s important to understand the biological differences in children with learning and behavioral challenges is that it’s important to know where to intervene,” said Jodene Fine, lead investigator on the project and assistant professor of school psychology. “Children with nonverbal learning disabilities and Asperger’s can look very similar but they can have very different reasons for why they behave the way they do.”

Children with NVLD tend to have normal language skills but below average math skills and difficulty with solving visual puzzles. Because many of these children also show difficulty understanding social cues, some have argued that NVLD is related to Asperger’s—which this latest study suggests may not be so.

Fine and Kayla Musielak, a doctoral student in school psychology, studied about 150 children ages 8 to 18. Using MRI scans of the participants’ brains, the researchers found that the children diagnosed with NVLD had smaller spleniums than the children who had other learning disorders such as Asperger’s and ADHD and children who had no learning disorders.

The splenium is part of the corpus callosum, a thick band of fibers in the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres and facilitates communication between the two sides. Interestingly, this posterior part of the corpus callosum serves the areas of the brain related to visual and spatial functioning.

In a second part of the study, the participants’ brain activity was analyzed after they were shown videos in an MRI that portrayed both positive and negative examples of social interaction. (A typical example of a positive event was a child opening a desired birthday present with friend; a negative event included a child being teased by other children.)

The researchers found that the brains of children with NLVD responded differently to the social interactions than the brains of children with Asperger’s, suggesting the neural pathways that underlie those behaviors may be different.
“So what we have is evidence of a structural difference in the brains of children with NLVD and Asperger’s, as well as evidence of a functional difference in the way their brains behave when they are presented with stimuli,” Fine said.

While more research is needed to better understand how NVLD fits into the family of learning disorders, Fine said her findings present “an interesting piece of the puzzle.”

“I would say at this point we still don’t have enough evidence to say NVLD is a distinct diagnosis, but I do think our research supports the idea that it might be,” she said.

Preparation. Growth. Integrity.

Lakeya Omogun feels prepared to teach—finally

by Nicole Geary


Knowing what to teach is not the same thing as knowing how to teach.

Teachers must know how to manage a classroom and how to use data, yes, but most importantly, they must know how to help all their students achieve their goals as learners.

That takes time, strategy, reflection. It takes dedication, and for new teachers certified through Michigan State University, it starts with the internship.

The eight-month signature experience of the university’s Teacher Preparation Program can be hard to stomach, with its intense expectations and financial sacrifices following graduation. But the comparative success of Spartans in the classroom shows it’s worth the investment.

For Lakeya Omogun, it was worth coming back for.

A different path

When Omogun graduated from the MSU College of Education with her degree in elementary education, she initially decided to take a different path to teacher certification: Teach for America (TFA).

While the majority of her peers from MSU prepared to spend a full academic year teaching alongside mentor teachers in Michigan or Chicago schools, Omogun spent six weeks of the summer in an intensive training program.

She wanted to be placed in a TFA corps on the East Coast because she has family there. The first step was to complete the TFA training based in a New York City summer school classroom. There was a heavy emphasis on student data, she says, and using achievement information to plan lessons, develop curricula and assess progress.

It was a whirlwind experience that ended in celebration as she and her fellow novice teachers recognized the growth they had helped their students achieve. Omogun also felt a high level of support when she started teaching sixth-grade literacy that fall in Newark, N.J.

But along the way, she noticed something. Or something missing.

“I know that for me personally, there was a disconnect from what I had learned previously,” she said.

Her first year was successful. However, the second year in TFA started with her feeling less supported by leaders and fellow teachers in her school building (considering that there was so much support her first year). She felt less confident. She remembers calling former MSU classmates.

“I found myself looking back a lot, to say the least,” she says.

Omogun, who grew up in Detroit, returned to Michigan somewhat suddenly because of personal challenges unrelated to teaching. But the roadblock meant she likely would have to change paths again.

“It’s about taking control of your life”

At that point, the options for achieving state-regulated teacher certification became complicated. Go through TFA in Detroit? Return to New Jersey? Resume a traditional training program?

Meanwhile, there was an even more challenging problem to address.

“I realized I wasn’t really prepared as an educator, and that was huge for me,” said Omogun. “I was good at classroom management and data analysis but the core piece I was missing was HOW do I get my students there.

“And that’s why I came back to MSU.”

She put aside concerns about paying more tuition dollars, about postponing a paid position again and, well, feeling like she was years behind.

She was reinstated at MSU and completed the full-year teaching internship in a third-grade class at Gompers Elementary School in Detroit Public Schools.

During the past year, she says, she got what she was missing:

  • The ability to work on teaching each content area—mathematics, science, language arts and social studies—using research-based teaching strategies specific to each area
  • The skills needed to differentiate instruction for each student
  • A different understanding about developing meaningful assessments—to find out what students need but also to learn about herself as a teacher

To her surprise, the other Detroit-area interns embraced Omogun without judgment.

“The lesson that is most valuable is that you recognized, as they say, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ and I need to do something about this,” Sylvia Hollifield, MSU’s teaching internship coordinator in Detroit, told Omogun. “You sacrificed what people may have thought about you because it was about your preparation, your growth and your integrity.”

Time to grow

Omogun became immersed in advanced study and the camaraderie of her fellow MSU interns through weekly courses at the MSU Detroit Center near downtown Detroit. At Gompers, she had received the opportunity to work at a highly reputed urban school not far from her childhood home with an excellent mentor, LaDawn Peterson.

“She was always asking, ‘What are you going to do next and how are you going to do it?’” Omogun said.

Like all MSU interns, she assumed the full role of teaching in Peterson’s classroom over an extended time period. Along the way, Peterson and veteran field instructor Susan Florio-Ruane pushed Omogun to expand her teaching skills.

Teaching students the writing process and augmenting district-provided materials to better meet their needs were just a few of the things Omogun began to master. All of her students started the year behind grade level.

“But you wouldn’t know that seeing them now,” said Florio-Ruane. “She took the time working with them and getting them to a place they couldn’t get to on their own, or within the pace of the mandated curriculum.”

Florio-Ruane says teacher candidates must spend enough time in the classroom with a strong mentor to grow and work through their own challenges.

“With Lakeya, in terms of her ability to teach for understanding, the person who walked in the door in August and the person who left in April are just … night and day,” she said.

Meanwhile, Omogun left an impression on her fellow MSU students as well. Telling them her story helped many of them think about taking risks that could ultimately enrich their own careers, such as teaching out-of-state or in different types of schools.

Since then, Omogun has been accepted into the Literacy Specialist program at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. She also received a job at a school in Harlem, where she is teaching seventh-grade literacy while working on her graduate degree. Eventually, she would like to become a professor of teacher education.

She feels fully prepared for the next step—finally.

“I think it speaks volumes about MSU teacher education, that you can take what you are learning and apply it to any teaching context,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine going forward in my teaching career without having this foundation.”

Faculty Perspective: Tragedy at Sandy Hook

The unending need to improve school-based mental health services

By John Carlson


Less than a year ago, the school shooting tragedy unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. A series of unfortunate circumstances and missed clues aligned in ways unimaginable. The result was a horrific event that was difficult to predict—despite important knowledge that had been gleaned from a number of recent school shootings.

It is a part of human nature to believe that such rare and tragic events won’t happen to us, that they won’t happen to our own children and families, and that they won’t impact those we care for in our classrooms and buildings. Only recently have schools begun to do drills in preparation for an active shooter scenario. Fire, tornado and now intruder drills are commonplace within our school systems. These drills clearly helped to save lives in Connecticut.

As a mental health professional who works closely with school-aged children, their families, schools and communities, gun violence and trauma in schools is an all-too-familiar and sad reality permeating many facets of my occupation. Yet, this incident was different from any that I have read about or experienced in over 20 years of providing psychological services to school-aged populations. Not only did the details and circumstances differ in many ways from prior school shootings, this one was personal for me. Members of my extended family were in the building that fateful morning. They were physically unharmed, yet they and those close to them will forever be changed.

Coping with reality

I am confident that the changes my family members experience will be primarily positive and that some type of greater good will come out of being intertwined in this tragedy. Yet, the battle between the positive and negative effects on the human condition is a tough one to fight after such a cruel event, as history clearly demonstrates. We know that important biological changes occur in those who have been traumatized, and even more so in those who have experienced repeated trauma. The balance between psychology and biology can be a struggle for many but especially for those who are coping with this type of horrific and random event. Fortunately, we also know that humans are extremely adaptive, and that biology can be altered or reversed with appropriate treatment and care.

We also wish for good outcomes for the hundreds of others in that building who are victims of this tragedy—they were family members, friends and schoolmates of those killed. As it has been widely reported in the media, many were directly victimized, despite being a good distance from the active shooter. Having to listen to the broadcasted sounds of what was transpiring via the public address system during those minutes in and near the main entrance to their learning environment must have been both confusing and terrifying.

Coping with the reality of what they heard, on top of the fate of those around them, may pose a long journey toward healing for some of these victims. Some are likely to be currently struggling with daily functioning. Some may show little symptoms or signs of challenge for months and maybe years. Others may never reveal discomfort or typical signs of victimization. It is important to remember that response to trauma is as individualized as one’s own development and upbringing.

Addressing mental health

Carlson_RedFlagsWe must remember there are thousands of others who are indirect victims of tragedies like this one. Sadly, the events of 9/11 demonstrate there will be many more “delayed” trauma victims in the years ahead. Parents, siblings and relatives of victims will be challenged to find meaning and purpose from this unfortunate event that so intrusively impacted their loved ones.

First responders and investigators who possess direct knowledge of the details and images of the scene are likely to experience their own emotional and cognitive reactions. Mental health professionals working in and around Newtown too will need to find ways to cope with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression that are likely to emerge as a result of secondary exposure to the trauma histories of their clients. The far-reaching mental health effects of this tragic December morning in 2012 will not be fully realized for many years to come.

What school or community is next to experience the unthinkable? Mass killings within schools are rare but history clearly shows they happen. The Bath, Mich. school disaster in 1927 demonstrated how an adult associated with the district could seek and get revenge on many innocent children and adults, all in the name of perceived injustice. The University of Texas massacre in 1966 and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 showed how a distraught and vengeful college student can act out aggression and anger on people across campus. The Columbine High School massacre in 1999 showed the unthinkable can be carried out by two teenage classmates who brought premeditated horror to their school building, peers and community.

And the massacre in Newtown, Conn. revealed that a young adult who was described to be relatively isolated can exert violent, vile behavior on his own mother, young schoolchildren and their caretaking adults—all within his own community.

Warning signs

Each of the perpetrators of these school massacres took their own life or had planned in advance to do so. The act of suicide gives a public window into one’s extreme inner turmoil, and the inability to distance oneself from feelings of hopelessness, despair and/or feelings of helplessness. It is this inner, covert thinking (commonly thought of as mental health functioning) that needs refined attention in schools. Not only can one’s mental health create a barrier to the learning process, it can also wreak havoc on the learning community and classroom itself.

Carlson_2Another common thread that links these five school massacres is irrational thinking, faulty beliefs, deficient empathy and inhumane actions on the part of the killer. Access to guns was a clear variable present in each of these tragedies. Balancing the personal rights of individuals with the need for public safety will continue to require much attention and critical examination. Schools were created in part to socialize children and to reinforce societal norms. Bringing violence to a community of learners is a clear sign of abnormal behavior and a disregard for those societal norms. Such behavior must be prevented and dealt with appropriately.

Like suicidal thoughts, perceived injustice or an obsession with bringing justice onto others may be audible only to the mind of the beholder. Wishing to harm oneself, being fixated on harming another and a general disregard for the well-being of others are mental health issues that all of society needs to be concerned about. An attempt to “hear” these silent thoughts ruminating in the minds of others is a challenge that all school personnel should heed.

Many times there are signs and signals that one’s mind holds these disturbing and intrusive thoughts. In the majority of school shooting incidents, the message had gotten out to others; but some failed to act on those messages or brushed them off as just talk. There are times when the threatening message is shared with others at a distance, such as through posts to websites. Rarely does an individual fail to disclose some type of brewing trouble or pending aggression toward others. The best and most effective preventative action can occur through attentive listening and keen observation of behavior. Such actions of listening, watching, reflecting and acting on concerns can best be taken with those that we know or those we wish to know better. Student-teacher relationships are an essential component to preventing school violence.

Students who have few or strained relationships with peers or adults must be identified. Bullying prevention and mechanisms by which bullying behavior is closely observed, addressed and eliminated is essential to diminish strained peer relationships. To examine student-teacher relationships, a simple review of the enrollment roster to identify those who might not have established relationships with adults in the building can be completed. Such an approach requires little time or money to complete.

Close monitoring of discipline referrals and collaboration with law enforcement in the local community can help to identify students who are behaving outside of the range of normal behavior or societal standards. Working closely with parents, school personnel can identify those students who demonstrate acute changes in behavior. Unexpected declines in grades, withdrawal from peers, increased substance use, unexpected trouble with the law or drastic changes in mood or personality are important red flags that should be attended to and addressed. Showing concern or discreetly expressing one’s concern to another is an important part of the human relationship.

Plentiful resources

Efforts to prevent and treat trauma in school can’t wait on science to uncover definitive truths. Instead, we must do the best that we can with the information we currently have. Refinement of that knowledge will come with time, and we must be courageous to engage in the best course of action today—knowing tomorrow may bring different light to our current well-intentioned actions.

For those impacted by a school shooting, the odds were 100 percent that such a rare and random event would happen to them. School shooting victims and other victims of school- or community-based trauma don’t want to hear about the rarity of these events. Nor do they wish to hear statistics that indicate the rates of school and community violence have actually declined since the early 1990s.

Those working in schools must be prepared and ready for violence to occur within their learning communities. Traumatic events do and will happen to school-aged children and their caregivers. Gun violence does and will happen near or in schools. School personnel should be prepared to act to stop the series of unfortunate events from transpiring—and be ready to deal with the reality when they occur.

Efforts to prevent school shootings and violence must continually adapt to new details that emerge from past and future events. Concurrently, mental health treatment is paramount and resources must be fully brought into action in both the short and long-term treatment for direct and indirect victims of school-based crises.


School trauma resources

National Association of School Psychologists
American Psychological Association
National Education Association Health Information Network
Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress

Read more about specific ways you can help the Newtown community at

Please consider sharing the positive changes that you or your school have made as a result of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy with John Carlson.


About the Author:

John S. Carlson is a professor and director of the School Psychology doctoral program at Michigan State University. He is a Licensed and Nationally Certified School Psychologist, and serves as a member of the American Psychological Association (Division 16) Working Group on Mental Health Issues in Schools.

We are in Detroit

Urban Immersion Fellowship transforms future teachers’ thinking about city schools

by Nicole Geary


Like many aspiring teachers at Michigan State University, Justine Albaugh grew up in suburban Metro Detroit. But home was a good 45 minutes outside the city. And she had never stepped inside a Detroit classroom.

So she applied for the Urban Immersion Fellowship.

For those seven intense summer weeks, she was in—in the community, in the classroom, in a leadership role for children who live and learn in Detroit.

And, like hundreds of MSU students who have participated in the fellowship over the last decade, Albaugh’s assumptions about urban education disappeared.

“It’s a long-term experience where you gain such a personal connection with the kids,” said Albaugh, who most recently worked with fourth-graders attending summer school at Bunche Elementary School.

“Yeah, there is a lot of poverty and there is crime coming out of these communities, but I have never seen such as nice, respectful group of students. I’ve been nothing but impressed.”

Albaugh did the fellowship twice and, hopefully, she will seriously consider working in an urban school once she becomes a certified teacher.

That’s the goal, says College of Education Assistant Dean Sonya Gunnings-Moton, who directs the program in collaboration with partners at Detroit Public Schools (DPS) and the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

More broadly, the fellowship represents an important piece of the pipeline MSU has established to prepare strong teachers truly committed to urban environments. That pipeline starts with programs for high school students and includes specialized learning opportunities up through the doctoral level.

“Our intent all along has been to provide high-quality field experiences for our teacher candidates in preparation for working in urban contexts,” Gunnings-Moton said. “My data continue to show that the Urban Immersion experience increases their willingness to do so.”

An urban lens

Every year, more than 100 teacher candidates in the MSU College of Education apply for the Urban Immersion Fellowship. Up to 50 are selected based on academic performance, a personal essay and teaching majors, with an emphasis on those planning to teach high-demand areas such as mathematics, science and English language learners.

“This is a program I always look forward to,” said DPS special education administrator Toni Clover, who has helped coordinate the fellowship since it started in 2003. “It’s a lot of work but it’s absolutely worth it.”

The summer program begins with a full week of orientation activities, including bus tours to historical and cultural landmarks around the city, an introduction to curriculum and teaching in DPS, and a reflective exploration of the assets available to young people in the city.

The fellows are then placed alongside working teachers in schools, where they help develop and deliver lesson plans for six full weeks. Occasionally, fellows also have been placed in community programs serving youth (see sidebar on Racquet Up). The entire group takes time out one afternoon each week to attend seminars at the MSU Detroit Center on Woodward Avenue.

Fellows receive a stipend. However, “it’s not something you can do just because you want to get some money for the summer,” said William (Eric) Janshego. A resident of South Lyon, Mich., he completed the fellowship first at Renaissance High School and a second time teaching eighth-grade science at Clippert Academy in the city’s largely Hispanic southwest area.

He has recruited several peers to apply. What does he tell them?

“It’s going to change you … It’s going to push you into new social experiences … and you are going to have to learn to act on your feet. But the joy you receive is so much greater than some of the other places you will teach.”

The experience adds a significant amount of classroom teaching time to students’ resúmes within a Teacher Preparation Program already known for requiring a large amount of fieldwork. Members of the Urban Educators Cohort Program can participate in the fellowship the summer before their junior year; all others can do so before their senior year or before the full-year internship.

“During my senior classes, I remember applying everything that I learned through this program,” said Albaugh. “My lens was completely urban all year.”

Now she has taken her urban interests and knowledge into the internship in Chicago Public Schools. Janshego returned to Detroit for his internship.

“There is such a struggle to keep people in these positions, but MSU keeps pushing us and showing us that this is a wonderful job,” Janshego said. “These kids need you just as much as anyone else.”

Learn about other ways the college is impacting the Detroit community.

Faculty Books

Bieda-BookCoverOver the next decade, the Common Core State Standards will affect nearly every K-12 student and teacher in the United States. A new book co-authored by Kristen Bieda, assistant professor of teacher education, and MSU alumnus Samuel Otten, Connecting the NCTM Process Standards and the CCSSM Practices, takes a detailed look at the Common Core’s Standards of Mathematical Practice and lays out specifics that, for educators, may be easy to overlook. Published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the book’s co-authors also include Courtney Koestler and Mathew Felton, both of University of Arizona.

Jacobsen_BookCoverRebecca Jacobsen and her co-editors lay out a conceptual framework for comprehending large-scale, performance-based accountability systems across the education spectrum in a new book, The Infrastructure of Accountability: Data Use and the Transformation of American Education. By incorporating essays from leading scholars on the subject, the book offers fresh perspectives and explores hidden infrastructures that support the production, flow and use of data in education—which is reshaping American education today. Jacobsen, associate professor of teacher education, edited the volume with Dorothea Anagnostopoulos, a former MSU faculty member now at University of Connecticut, and Stacey A. Rutledge, associate professor at Florida State University. The book is available through Harvard Education Press.

TanyaWrightAssistant professor of teacher education Tanya Wright’s recently published book, All About Words: Increasing Vocabulary in the Common Core Classroom, PreK-2, examines the divide between poor children and their privileged peers through the lens of the Common Core State Standards in literacy. By offering reviews of key research and examples that demonstrate strategies in action, the text provides a strong resource for the professional development of early childhood educators. The book is published by Teachers College Press. Wright’s co-author is Susan B. Neuman, who previously served as U.S. assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education and is now a professor at University of Michigan and New York University.

Halvorson_bookCoverAt its core, social studies seek to enforce a democratized citizenry. It embodies social responsibility, and the subject plays a vital role in U.S. classrooms. But there are challenges for social studies education, including deep divisions among theorists and practitioners, confused goals and cross-purposes. In A History of Elementary Social Studies: Romance and Reality, assistant professor of teacher education Anne-Lise Halvorsen seeks to answer the question: How did elementary social studies reach its troubled, uncertain state? By examining pedagogies beginning in the mid-19th century, Halvorsen identifies sources of various issues, and highlights imaginative, alternative approaches that may offer crucial direction to reformers of social studies education. The book is published by Peter Lang Publishing.

DjangoParis-BookCoverYouth in America are often marginalized by systems of inequality. A new book, co-edited by MSU assistant professor of teacher education Django Paris and Maisha T. Winn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explores approaches to qualitative and ethnographic inquiry with youth and the communities they live in. The book, Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities, is a collection of essays written by renowned scholars who explore conducting research for justice in regards to youth. To illustrate a better understanding for practitioners into how to use research for positive social change, the text examines those who are marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexuality, citizenship status, gender and more—through portraits, narratives, photos and other data examples. It was published by SAGE Publications.

JohnCarlson_BookCoverIn an age when mental and emotional health are critical to a child’s academic success, how can counseling be effective when both counselors and students don’t have enough hours in the day? A new book, co-authored by MSU Professor John Carlson and school psychology doctoral student Jeffrey Shahidullah, explores ways K-12 mental health professionals can provide support to students to achieve real academic success. The book, Counseling Students in Levels 2 and 3: A PBIS/RTI Guide, published by Corwin, offers solutions that allow for data-based decision making and three counseling approaches that are effective and efficient. The authors give clear-cut information so mental health professionals working in schools may deliver responsive counseling to students with the greatest need. Jon M. Shepard, a former doctoral student of Carlson’s, also is a co-author.

Meet our new 2013-2014 faculty

The College of Education welcomes 12 new faculty members this academic year across all four departments. Here is a brief introduction of them including their research interests and the focus of their recent work. 

Cooper-Melanie-webMelanie COOPER, Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education
Department of Teacher Education, Department of Chemistry
PhD, University of Manchester

Melanie Cooper is the first Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education, and is jointly-appointed to the College of Education and the College of Natural Science. Cooper’s research focuses on evidence-based approaches to improving chemistry education. One of the prime outcomes of this research is the development and assessment of evidence-driven, research-validated curricula.

Cowen-Josh-2013Joshua COWEN, Associate Professor
Department of Teacher Education, Education Policy Center
PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Joshua Cowen’s current research focuses on teacher quality, student and teacher mobility, program evaluation and education policy. His work has been published in multiple scholarly journals, and he is a member of the Editorial Board at Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Cowen previously taught public policy at the University of Kentucky.

Fisher-Marisa-2013Marisa FISHER, Assistant Professor
Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education
PhD, Vanderbilt University

Marisa Fisher is an assistant professor of special education in the areas of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis. Her primary research focus is on understanding and decreasing social vulnerability among individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is specifically interested in measuring the various types of victimization experienced by individuals with disabilities and on designing interventions to decrease vulnerability. She has studied victimization in the form of child abuse, bullying, stranger danger and exploitation across the lifespan. She has then used the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and single-subject research methods to design interventions to teach self-protection to individuals with disabilities.

SONY DSCMei-Hua LEE, Assistant Professor
Department of Kinesiology
PhD, Pennsylvania State University

Mei-Hua Lee’s research focus is in the area of motor development throughout the lifespan, specifically in the context of how infants and young children learn to interact with the surrounding environment. She predominantly studies reaching and grasping and how new behaviors and movement patterns emerge out of previous ones. Her research integrates the study of both perception and action by using kinematic analysis, biofeedback and qualitative analysis. Her overall research goal is to understand the acquisition of fundamental motor skills and explore how these findings integrate with theories of motor learning and rehabilitation.

Lin-Chin-Hsi-2013Chin-Hsi LIN, Assistant Professor
Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education
PhD, University of California, Irvine

Chin-Hsi Lin is as assistant professor of technology and second language education. His primary research interest is emerging technologies in language education, especially new forms of social media. His investigates the process and outcome of social learning and authentic communications on a social network site developed for language learning. His secondary research interest is psychology of reading, particularly the reading development of Chinese language learners. He examines how first language and orthographic co-occurrence in second language affects the reading development of Chinese learners.

075007_portraits281Lisa LINNENBRINK-GARCIA, Associate Professor
Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education (CEPSE)
PhD, University of Michigan

Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education (CEPSE). Linnenbrink-Garcia’s research focuses on the development of achievement motivation in school settings and the interplay among motivation, emotions and learning, especially in science and mathematics.

Marin-Patricia-2013Patricia MARIN, Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Administration
PhD, University of Maryland

Patricia Marin is an assistant professor of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education. Her research interests focus on higher education policy and issues of inclusion and equity for underrepresented students. In particular, her work examines issues of diversity, affirmative action and college access. In her current work, she is studying the changing nature of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).

RanganathanRajiv RANGANATHAN, Assistant Professor
Department of Kinesiology
PhD, Pennsylvania State University

Rajiv Ranganathan’s research interests are in the area of motor learning and biomechanics. He is particularly interested in how humans produce skilled and coordinated movement, and how this ability is altered in the context of development, aging and movement disorders. He uses a combination of both experimental techniques—such as motion capture, robotics and virtual reality—as well as biomechanical modeling and computer simulations to understand the mechanisms underlying the control of human movement. The overarching goal of his research is to develop novel training paradigms to facilitate motor skill learning and the rehabilitation of movement disorders.

Stroupe-David-2013David STROUPE, Assistant Professor
Department of Teacher Education
PhD, University of Washington

David Stroupe has three overlapping areas of research interests. First, he studies the teaching profession, teacher preparation and teacher educators through the lens of ambitious practice. Second, he considers how to better support beginning teachers in and across contexts in which they learn from practice. Third, he uses lenses from Science, Technology and Society (STS) and the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) to frame classrooms as epistemic communities, focusing on how teachers and students negotiate power, knowledge and epistemic agency. Stroupe has a background in biology and taught secondary life science for four years.

Venzant-Chambers-Terah-2013Terah VENZANT CHAMBERS, Associate Professor
Department of Educational Administration
PhD, University of Illinois

Terah Venzant Chambers is an associate professor of K-12 administration. Her research interests include post-Brown K-12 education policy and urban education/urban education leadership.  Specifically, she is interested in the ways within-school segregative policies influence African American students’ academic achievement and school engagement, as well as the price of school success for high-achieving students of color (racial opportunity cost). She has previously served as a Congressional Fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) with placements in the Office of Rep. Diane E. Watson (retired) and the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education.

Yun-John-2013John T. YUN, Associate Professor
Department of Educational Administration
EdD, Harvard University

John T. Yun has areas of expertise in diverse learners and educational equity, educational policy, assessment, and measurement and evaluation. His research focuses on issues of equity in education, specifically patterns of school segregation; the effect of poverty and opportunity on educational outcomes; the educative/counter-educative impacts of high-stakes testing; and the power of evaluation to impact policy and practice.

Zhang-Dongho-2013Dongbo ZHANG, Assistant Professor
Department of Teacher Education
PhD, Carnegie Mellon University

Dongbo Zhang is an assistant professor of second language education. He is interested in second language reading, bilingual children’s literacy acquisition, and second language acquisition and pedagogy. His research regards language and literacy acquisition as a cognitive endeavor situated in social context, and highlights the development of learner-internal competencies which necessitates learner-external support. Broadly, his research addresses two questions: What factors influence the development of language and literacy skills in an additional language? How can classroom pedagogical practices meet the diverse needs of learners in their second language or bilingual/biliteracy learning?


To Professor:
John Carlson
School Psychology
Lynn Fendler
Teacher Education
To Associate Professor:
Alicia Alonzo
Teacher Education
Amita Chudgar
Educational Administration and Policy
Summer Ferreri
Special Education
Kyle Greenwalt
Teacher Education and Policy
Rebecca Jacobsen
Teacher Education and Policy
Cary Roseth
Educational Psychology

Alumni Notes

Alumni Tribute

Remembering trailblazing alumna Patricia Carrigan

Alumna and former MSU Trustee Patricia Carrigan, (B ’50) died on June 19, 2013. Carrigan taught in Battle Creek and Willow Run public schools and served as the director of research and evaluation for the Ann Arbor public school district before moving on to corporate human resources in 1973. Carrigan became the first woman appointed to manage a General Motors assembly plant, and was later recognized nationally for her work in labor relations.

Carrigan was the first woman elected to MSU’s Board of Trustees and the first to chair the board, serving from 1971 to 1979. She received the university’s Distinguished Alumna Award in 1988.

More Alumni News


Kathleen Bieschke, PhD, ’91, (Counseling Psychology), became department head for Educational Psychology, Counseling and Special Education in the College of Education at Penn State University as of July 1. Through Bieschke’s new role, she will oversee two undergraduate, four master’s and four doctoral programs. Last year, Bieschke served as the administrative fellow to the interim executive vice president and provost at PSU.

Alex J. Bowers, PhD ’07, (K-12 Educational Administration), received the 2012 Jack A. Culbertson Award from the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). The award goes to an outstanding junior scholar in the field of educational administration. Bowers also received the 2012 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Emerging Scholar Award for Division A (Administration, Organization and Leadership). He currently is an associate professor of education leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Dr. Timothy Gordon, MA ’95, (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), began his appointment as the dean of students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in July 2013. Prior, Gordon served as associate dean of students and alumni services at the Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies. Gordon was also recognized by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) as a Diamond Honoree for his professional contributions to student affairs.

Governor Rick Snyder recently named Sara Grivetti, MA ’06 (Rehabilitation Counseling), to the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council. Grivetti is CEO of Disability Network/Michigan. Her public policy work has focused on health care, disability and transportation issues, and she has a variety of experience working in both public and private sector settings.

K-12 Educational Administration alumnus Matthew Militello, MA ’97, PhD, ’04, held a book launch for his third book, Principal 2.0: Technology and Educational Leadership, at the 2013 AERA conference in San Francisco. Militello’s book is written especially for school leaders to better engage with technology. He currently is an associate professor in North Carolina State University’s Leadership, Policy and Adult and Higher Education department.

After a long career in K-12 teaching and administration, Janice Nelson BA ’62 (Arts and Letters), worked for seven years at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich. She has spent the past four years at Concordia University Irvine, California as the dean of the School of Education.

Veronica O’Connor, BA ’64 (Elementary Education), serves as treasurer of the Greater NY Spartan Club and recently became president for the Michigan State University Alumni Association International Board. She is a retired Pelham Schools teacher and guidance counselor.

Ashley Smeltzer, BS ’08, (Kinesiology), was named head women’s field hockey coach at Shenandoah University in February 2013. Previously, she spent five years working as an assistant coach at the University of Rochester. In addition to collegiate coaching, Smeltzer has worked in various roles with the USA Field Hockey Futures Program since 2009.

The Lansing City Market welcomed Colleen Synk, BS ‘12, (Kinesiology-Health Promotion), as nutrition specialist. Synk will be responsible for coordinating special programming, education days and nutrition outreach with the Greater Lansing community.

Paula Turocy, MA, ’84, (Health and Physical Education-Sports Medicine), received the Caruthers Service Award in January 2013 from the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. Turocy is an associate professor and former chair of athletic training at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.


Clarence Underwood

Clarence Underwood, Jr., BS ’61, MS ’65, PhD, ’82 (Health and Physical Education, Higher Education), received the 2013 Professional Achievement Award from the MSU Department of Kinesiology. The award is given in recognition of alumni who have made significant contributions to the field of kinesiology.

John Welty, MA ’67, (College Personnel Work), retired after serving 22 years as president of Fresno State University. During his tenure, the university enhanced academic and athletic departments, increased fundraising efforts and strengthened community involvement. In retirement, Welty will continue to serve as a trustee professor at the Palm Desert campus of CSU San Bernardino.

From the Alumni President: Spartan Willpower.

On behalf of the entire MSU College of Education Alumni Association (COEAA) Board of Directors, welcome to another academic year at MSU. Each autumn prompts the start of school for students across the state and the start of activities for the COEAA. We hope to have a great lineup of opportunities for members to strengthen their connection to our alma mater and support the College of Education. Go green!

After I graduated from MSU with a master’s degree in 2004, I did not give much thought to the MSU Alumni Association, let alone the College of Education’s constituent group. I was simply happy to check that Spartan degree off my to-do list and continue wearing green on Saturdays.

A few years back, that all changed.  I received a phone call from a former professor, Jan Amsterburg, who asked me if I would have any interest in getting involved in the organization. I said yes (who can say no to Jan?), and then asked, “What can I do?” Since that day I have been volunteering for the MSU COEAA, and I have never regretted that commitment.

We all have limited time. Our schedules are packed. Resources are scarce. The road to East Lansing is a long one for many. If given these constraints you still find yourself asking, “What can I do?” please keep reading.

Honestly, I often worry that “one more thing” might break me. Yet, MSU needs us. And, I can’t help but think that when that degree is conferred upon each of us, The Spartan tells us, “Spartans will.”


You can help the MSU COEAA by simply attending the homecoming tent party or any of the other special events on campus. Sure, you may not know some or maybe even most of the alumni there. But I guarantee you that the food, music and fellowship at homecoming are worth the effort. It is a family-friendly day with appearances from Dean Donald Heller and Sparty himself! We would love to see you there. You will not regret returning to campus with family and friends for this one special fall Saturday.


If you can’t attend the homecoming celebration—no worries. You can sign up to donate your time at the annual “Get-A-Job Conference” for new teachers in late winter. If that doesn’t work, you can serve at Grandparents University in the summer. There are others. Keep reading the New Educator and look for that sweet spot in your calendar where you can donate some time to MSU.


I know it is not surprising to receive a solicitation for donations to MSU. Whether it is the Spartan Fund or the Edge campaign, consider giving, even the smallest amount, to support MSU athletics, activities and academics. I am proud to say that I graduated from one of the top education schools in the country. Help ensure that future generations can boast the same by making a tax deductible donation today.

May the upcoming academic year be prosperous and green.

Stay Connected

New grads, don’t forget to update your email and mailing addresses so you continue to receive information from the college.

Have you been recognized as a teacher, administrator or trainer of the year? Do you know other alumni who have been honored? We would love to hear about and share those accomplishments. Send an email to

Looking for more information about the college or to connect with other members of our community? Connect on Facebook and Twitter, and take a moment to meet the 2013 board members.

Emerging from the Darkness

Counseling alumna gives hope to veterans with PTSD

by Sarah Wardell


Fear. Anger.
Depression. Powerlessness.

These were the feelings felt daily by Taylor Swan, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the United States Navy. Swan wasn’t truly aware he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“I had awful dreams, and sometimes that dream state would revisit me during the day,” said Swan. “I’d hear or smell things that weren’t actually going on in that time and space. It was very disturbing.”

For veterans specifically, PTSD can carry painful symptoms such as depression, nightmares, intrusive thoughts and, in some cases, it can lead to suicide.

Many describe it as a living hell.

“Intrusive thoughts are common to those suffering from PTSD,” said Elaine Tripi, a graduate of Michigan State University. “It’s like a video that plays over and over, and it becomes torture for some.”

Tripi has spent the past 20 years helping multitudes of veterans and their spouses cope with PTSD-related issues. She became a certified rehabilitation counselor in 1976, and received a PhD in counseling from the College of Education in 1989. Tripi then went on to become a licensed psychologist in 1991.

Eleven years later, she met Taylor Swan.

The life effects of PTSD

Returning to San Francisco from a nine-month tour in Vietnam, Swan felt discouraged by the public opinion of veterans in the late ’60s.

“I had never seen a hippie because I’d been gone a long time,” he said. “I was very proud. The protests were intense … and I realized I couldn’t stay in America.”

Discontented, Swan enlisted in the Merchant Marines and went back to Vietnam, where he faced extreme danger on cargo ships that were frequent targets of enemy attacks.

Swan, in his 30s at the time, again returned to the United States, desiring normalcy—a wife, a home, a job—but instead he found himself homeless and addicted.

“If I’d hear flyovers, like an airshow, or guns going off, or firecrackers or people shouting, it would trigger it for me,” Swan said. “Eventually, I couldn’t work anymore because having a life got in the way of staying high. I had to stay high because of the pain.”

Swan spiraled into a deep depression. His journey ultimately led him to Michigan in 2001, where he discovered sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous after checking himself into a Veterans Affairs facility in Battle Creek.

“I came to know Dr. Tripi after a referral from a therapist that was growing increasingly impatient with me at the VA,” Swan admits.

Through her practice based in Brighton, Mich., Tripi has served as a strong advocate locally as well as nationally for veteran’s rights. She has helped many veterans in obtaining long-overdue benefits.

“Many who suffer from PTSD become extremely productive, to push their memories away,” said Tripi. “But as victims age, the memories flood back. Basically, if you don’t deal with them, they eventually deal with you.”

An evolution of healing

When Elaine Tripi transplanted to Michigan from Rochester, N.Y. in 1968, she never thought she’d be doing what she is today.

“I was working for the first private sector rehabilitation company, handling workman’s compensation claims—in a very male-dominated workplace,” Tripi said.

Through the course of her early career, Tripi came to see victims of severe auto accidents or work injuries as more than numbers.

She developed a passion for people.

While continuing to build on her career experience through the ’70s and early ’80s, Tripi chose to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at Wayne State University.

During this time, her interest in assisting those with disabilities grew.

“Helping people has become a real passion for me, which has developed over time as I’ve seen the struggles people are dealing with,” Tripi added. “For me, it’s not about money—I do a lot of pro bono work. It’s about helping people.”

Tripi then chose to pursue her doctorate at MSU, while simultaneously starting her own company through which she performed vocational assessments. Tripi said she found much support at MSU; support which was necessary at the time, as she had roles as a student, single mom and business owner.

A unique piece of the puzzle

Fast forward to today, and one sees that what was once a pipe dream for Tripi and her daughter, Gina Coopersmith, has become reality.

Also an MSU alumna, Coopersmith (BA ’97, Psychology) has built her clinical career as a child and family therapist. For the past two and a half years, Coopersmith and Tripi have shared the practice in Brighton where they work in tandem counseling families.

“Since I chose this field, we always kind of talked about, ‘Wouldn’t it be great someday if that would happen?’” said Coopersmith. “I had finished my licensing and everything kind of worked together for it to happen.”

And it’s no accident her chosen profession is similar to her mother’s.

“I watched her throughout my life … the care she has for people is inspiring,” said Coopersmith. “She’s just an amazing person.”

As for the future, Tripi admits she doesn’t plan to continue her work with veterans full time for much longer. She speaks frequently and affectionately about spending time with her young grandchildren, but she will continue fighting for veteran’s benefits on behalf of those victimized by PTSD.

“I really wish that our politicians would understand that the real price of war isn’t in the bombs and airplanes and ships,” she said. “But it’s in the cost of what happens to many people when they come back from war.”

Tripi has worked with veterans whose service ranges from World War II to the most recent conflicts in the Middle East. In the 40-plus years since Vietnam, Tripi said she still gets calls weekly from those who aren’t sure why they’re suffering from PTSD after so much time has passed.

In the case of Swan, he and Tripi developed a strong rapport, and she considers him an outstanding client—one who has been willing to work hard and do what is necessary to get well. During their time together, Tripi has connected Swan with a men’s support group specifically for veterans, as well as other resources that have helped him recover.

And when Tripi suggested Swan go to Chicago for an intensive outpatient program? He went without hesitation. Now 12 years sober and active in serving others within the recovery community, Swan said he plans to continue working with Tripi as long as possible.

“All of it began with me trusting this woman … she was able to help me put aside my fears enough to tell her what was really going on,” he said, as his eyes welled with tears. “She has been an anchor. And I know she has been in a lot of men’s lives.”

Rehabilitation Counseling at MSU

Est. in 1956

The master’s program has awarded more than 1,300 degrees, which lead to a variety of employment options:

Cardiac rehabilitation / Higher education resource centers for persons with disabilities / Community mental health / Independent living services / Businesses who employ those with disabilities

90% of those graduates are employed at graduation.

175 doctoral graduates have gone on to key leadership positions and made notable contributions to the field.

Michigan State University is one of nation’s top two institutions for graduate study in rehabilitation counseling, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Give to the College: Your Name, Our Future

phillips-melissaA name can represent many things. In the College of Education, a name can provide a meaningful connection and opportunity to a student or faculty member. Naming an endowed scholarship or faculty position in the college allows our alumni and friends to leave a lasting legacy or make an immediate impact, a chance to give back and engage directly with what makes this college and university so special: our students and faculty.

During the 2013-2014 academic year, the College of Education awarded more than 180 scholarships, totaling approximately $700,000, that provide support to 218 out of  3,500 of our students. A key initiative in the coming months is to increase the number of both expendable and endowed scholarships available to our students.

Expendable scholarship funds are allocated by the college in a given year. They are especially helpful for students who may encounter sudden financial challenges, and need immediate assistance to continue their education.

Endowed scholarships allow the college to prepare for the future, generating income from a principal balance that generates a 4-5 percent average return to be awarded to a deserving student. Establishing a named scholarship in the college not only provides opportunities to our students, but as an alumni or friend of the college, it enables you to leave a lasting legacy. A scholarship allows the donor a chance to connect with the college, and our students, in a most meaningful way.

Similar to endowed scholarships, endowed faculty positions bring honor and prestige to the college. Each of our departments places a high priority on recruiting and retaining the very best faculty to conduct cutting-edge research and provide our students with the best possible educational experiences. Endowed chairs and professorships provide the college with necessary resources to retain our talented faculty.

Scholarships and faculty support can be funded through a number of vehicles, including gifts of cash and/or deferred gifts. A cash gift can begin a scholarship or named faculty position immediately. Endowed gifts can also be made through gifts of cash, as well as through gifts of real estate, charitable gift annuities or charitable bequests through designations in your will.

We in the College of Education are incredibly fortunate to receive the support that we do from alumni and friends. In the coming issues, I will highlight the various ways in which you can make a deferred gift. I hope you will take a moment to think about how your name or the name of someone important to you could represent a life-changing connection for a future Spartan educator, athletic trainer or kinesiology graduate.

If you have questions about how you can impact the lives of our students and faculty, or questions regarding minimum amounts to begin your named endowed or expendable fund, I welcome you to contact our office at any time.

Hyde Scholarship Provides Unique Opportunities

by Sarah Wardell

In middle school, Kimberly Schoch saw her science teachers as passionate—albeit a little quirky—who truly made science fun.

“I had previously been planning on pursuing a career in writing or journalism,” said Schoch, a senior secondary education major. “But all of a sudden, I found myself caught up in the science world.”

Schoch is now exploring the world of science even more deeply as a recipient of the J. Franklin Hyde Scholarship in Science Education, a three-year award designed to give selected students an avenue to pursue a sincere interest in teaching science at the secondary level.

Funded by the Dow Corning Foundation, the scholarship is staggered so three students are receiving funds during the year—a junior, a senior and a fifth-year teaching intern.

A unique aspect of the program is that each recipient receives the opportunity to spend one summer as an intern at Dow Corning. Schoch spent the summer of 2013 at Dow Corning as a chemistry intern within the Copolymer Development group, where she learned about the process of experimental design.

“My internship involved method research, and the testing of products that I synthesized in the lab,” Schoch said. “This is done to determine their properties for later application in beauty care and household products.”

Fellow Hyde recipient Brittany O’Brien is now a fifth-year teaching intern placed at Lowell High School, where she is teaching 10th- and 11th-grade chemistry. She adds that the Hyde Scholarship allowed for new opportunities that helped her learn and grow as an educator.

“I will be forever grateful for this award,” she said.

Trailblazing a research path

Established in 1991 by contributions from the Dow Corning Foundation, the J. Franklin Hyde Scholarship pays tribute to former Dow Corning research scientist James Franklin Hyde (see below).

Hyde believed that if science teachers could take scientific principles and apply them to everyday life, students would take more of an interest in science.

As for Schoch, she wishes to equip students with this same philosophy once she becomes an educator.

“I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to be that person … the one who encourages a non-science student to look at the world around them in a different way, to really see the impact of science on their life.”

Who was James Franklin Hyde?

Throughout his 40-year career, James Franklin Hyde pioneered silicone research and development at Dow Corning, and he credits his inspiration to the encouragement of a remarkable science teacher. He is commonly referred to as “the father of commercial silicone,” and laid the foundation for future products to be developed—everything from common products to healthcare innovations.

Final Thoughts: To Postdoc or Not to Postdoc?

CarmenMcCallumAs a former postdoctoral fellow for the associate provost of undergraduate education at Michigan State University, I can attest that pursuing a fellowship is an excellent career decision.

In less than a year, I enhanced my research agenda, published scholarly articles, taught an interdisciplinary course, and gained evaluation and assessment skills. At this point, I definitely feel more prepared to enter the professoriate.

Postdoctoral fellowships provide unique opportunities to enhance skills for an increasingly demanding job market. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you consider a fellowship:

1. Know why you want a fellowship

Before applying, it is important to reflect on why you want a fellowship. Being cognizant of the skills you want to obtain and the goals you want to achieve during the fellowship will help you better articulate why you are a perfect match. Some are heavily focused on teaching, some are focused on research—others expect fellows to teach and conduct research. Knowing how you can contribute to both areas is key.

2. Understand time commitment

Just as the work expectations vary, the time commitment required also varies. Understanding these expectations in advance of accepting a position is crucial to having a productive fellowship.

3. Think outside the box

Fellowships in higher education are limited. As a PhD recipient, the skills you have acquired are extremely transferable. Broaden your horizons and search for positions in disciplinary programs, national and local government, and academic and student affairs departments. These atypical positions have the potential to be rewarding, challenging and helpful in preparing you for your future academic career.

4. Network

Fellowships are often not advertised, so use your networks—this cannot be stressed enough. It is often in the midst of informal conversations that the best opportunities arise. Ask your advisers, mentors and peers if they are aware of any upcoming opportunities. Utilize conferences and business meetings to articulate your research interests with those outside your immediate circle. Sometimes faculty members have discretionary funds, and they may be willing to use them to create a position—IF they believe your research agendas are aligned.

5. Individualize your research and teaching statements

Most fellowships require you to write a research and/or teaching statement, so prepare them early. Ask faculty, advisers, friends and colleagues to critique your statements so that they represent the polished scholar you are. Prepare three distinct statements that can be used as your foundation documents:

  • A research statement
  • A teaching statement
  • A research and teaching statement combined

When you are ready to apply, revise each statement to align with the goals of each fellowship.

6. You are your best cheerleader

Ultimately, it is up to you to sell yourself to future employers. Your adviser can make a recommendation, but it is you who must articulate your career goals and explain why you are perfect for the position. Practice. Give practice job talks with colleagues and have them critique your presentation. Practice explaining your research agenda to those outside your field—this is a good metric to determine if you are explaining concepts with clarity. The time you invest in these activities will help you stand out from the crowd.

Postdoctoral fellowships will further develop essential skills needed to become a higher education professional. Is the goal to be a faculty member? A fellowship will set the stage for the tenure track. Is your aim to be an administrator? A fellowship can add professional experience to your resume. As graduation approaches, consider exploring fellowship opportunities—the possibilities are endless for those who receive a PhD in any field.

Impacting Detroit



The city of Detroit is a dichotomy of sorts. Few would deny that it’s a place of great challenge. However, there are also many glimmers of hope—particularly for those who believe in the city’s future, those who are intentional about living out solutions.

Dan Gould, kinesiology professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports (ISYS) at Michigan State University, is one of the hopeful ones.

“I believe we are making a difference in Detroit, using the power of the university and the college,” he said. “It really is more than research, it’s really helping people, our being in Detroit.”

Gould has been a leader in a unique, long-term partnership between the institute and Think Detroit Police Athletic League, a youth development organization that works in partnership with the Detroit Police Department and more than 1,200 community volunteers, coaches and staff.

After completing a three-year evaluation designed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, ISYS helped to design and establish the IMPACT Coach Leadership training program for Detroit PAL’s  coaches and managers. The evaluation consisted of five interrelated studies.

Two missions, one cause

Detroit PAL currently serves one out of every 16 of the thousands of 5- to 18-year-olds living in Detroit. Its mission is to build character in kids through athletic, academic and leadership development programs. Also at the heart of that mission are goals to instill awareness of healthy and active lifestyles and the importance of civic responsibility.

A nationally known authority on youth sport issues, ISYS provides leadership, scholarship and outreach in ways that help maximize the beneficial physical, psychological and social effects of sports participation for children and youth.

“ISYS has elevated us from an organization with really good intentions, but lacking the mechanisms to track success—but the dream has been realized,” said Tim Richey, CEO of Detroit PAL. “Our partnership has created an intentional platform to evaluate the measurable impact we’re having on the kids.”

From its humble beginnings in the 1970s, the nonprofit’s growth speaks to the hard work and dedication that volunteers and staff have poured into Detroit PAL’s sports programs. In its first year, Detroit PAL—then called Police and Youth in Sports (PAYS), renamed in 1996—served around 4,500 children.

Today, with one of the largest inner-city youth football programs, the nonprofit boasts over 80 teams in 11 sports, and serves more than 10,000 kids through its massive, organized volunteer efforts.

“The most important thing is that our programs allow kids a chance to see how many people truly care about them, that they are valued,” said Richey. “There are challenges, sure—the city’s financial straits, having clean and safe facilities—but our program has really been elevated to a new level through the work of ISYS.”

Mutual benefits

The nexus of the partnership between Detroit PAL and ISYS really began when the institute hosted a three-day youth development seminar in 2005 at MSU’s Henry Center. The purpose was to teach Detroit PAL volunteers how to coach and develop character and life skills in young people.

“Instead of assuming that youth will know what character is, a great deal of emphasis was placed on asking questions to get them thinking, versus just telling them to be a good person,” Gould said.

Detroit PAL was most interested in learning more about its coaches, the effects the program was having on participants and what was and was not working in its programming. Researchers at ISYS were not only interested in these key objectives, but also in conducting studies that would contribute to the body of scientific knowledge on how organized sports participation can be used to facilitate positive youth development.

The challenge for ISYS, Gould says, was switching from lecturing to facilitating discussion.

“East Lansing isn’t Detroit, we don’t face the same challenges, and we don’t assume we have the answers,” said Gould. “We’ve really had to listen, to find common interests and then push for change.”

Results suggested to Detroit PAL from the data included:

  • Emphasizing a caring, mastery-oriented coaching climate
  • Focusing on a positive versus punitive approach to coaching
  • Beyond tough love on the field, the need for more effective coaching strategies
  • Preparing coaches for unique challenges within an under-served community (i.e.- gangs, hunger, violent activity)

In addition to ongoing assessments and implementation of more complex analysis of youth outcomes, doctoral student Andrew Mac Intosch has been working on a weekly basis with Fred Hunter, head of Detroit PAL evaluation, to design surveys and set up a computer system that will allow the organization to better track participation numbers, measure retention, program intensity and character-related outcomes.

ISYS is also helping create a one-on-one mentoring program that will match at-risk youth with Detroit citizens, coaches and police officers.

All of Detroit PAL’s programs reinforce their core mission of positive youth development through sport, and the work of Dan Gould and the ISYS staff is truly at the heart of MSU’s land-grant philosophy of outreach, community service and engagement. Leaders from both organizations shared in receiving the prestigious Outreach Scholarship Community Partnership award at the MSU Awards Convocation last February for their work together.

For more information, visit and

Continuing the Legacy

by Reitumetse (Reitu) Obakeng Mabokela, Ph.D

For almost 30 years, the College of Education at Michigan State University has been a trailblazer in the international arena under the masterful leadership of Professor John (Jack) Schwille. As one of the leading colleges of education in the country, our college has the responsibility to educate the next generation of globally-conscious educators, administrators, policymakers and researchers. They must be prepared to transcend domestic and international boundaries to lead schools, colleges and universities, and other institutions of education. Building on the strong legacy of international engagement at MSU, the College of Education is strategically poised to train world-class graduates who can engage diverse students, domestically and internationally.

My vision for the next phase of international work in the College of Education is deeply rooted in my firm belief that “people matter.” Some of the educational experiences during my formative years in South Africa deeply influenced my scholarship and approach to leadership. I have devoted a significant part of my career studying higher education issues to understand experiences of historically marginalized populations, primarily in developing countries.

It is my sincere desire to understand issues of equality, equity, access and justice is grounded in the words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Therefore, one of the core goals of the Office of International Studies is to develop an integrated international strategy that builds programs and opportunities for students and faculty – to engage globally in the curriculum, research and outreach.

The College of Education has a track record of excellence as evidenced by exceptional national rankings across a number of our graduate programs. To continue this tradition, the Office of International Studies will work with department chairs, program directors and faculty to:

  • Integrate international and global perspectives in the undergraduate and graduate curriculum and produce graduates prepared to engage seamlessly in cross cultural/ international contexts
  • Create synergies in global programming across programs
  • Develop and implement short and long-term strategic objectives for internationalization of the curriculum. Coordinate curricular options (e.g. courses, internships, practica) for undergraduate and graduate students (e.g. the Global Educators Cohort Program and the Fellowship to Enhance Global Understanding) to ensure our graduates are globally competent
  • Coordinate international study tours, study abroad experiences and other faculty-led programs.

Faculty support is also critical. My staff and I will:

  • Collaborate with the associate dean for research to provide support to faculty interested or engaged in international research.
  • Work with the associate dean for research and the Development Office to explore opportunities to grow external funding for internationally –oriented programs, grants and contracts, and solicitations from private donors

Last, we will continue to foster deep connections across the university. This requires exploring opportunities for collaboration around international research and activities with other MSU colleges with a truly interdisciplinary spirit (e.g. Global Center for Food Systems Innovation).

I am honored to be appointed to this role of assistant dean for international studies and look forward to serving the college to maintain our tradition of excellence.

From The Dean

It has been a little over a year since my appointment as dean of the College of Education, and I feel like I have barely had the opportunity to stop and catch my breath. When people have asked me what it has been like being dean, the first thing I generally talk about is the pace: “frenetic.” There are so many interesting initiatives and programs in which the college is engaged that I often find myself running from meeting to meeting, trying to educate myself as well as provide input to the discussions. In some ways, it is akin to being the proverbial “kid in a candy shop” — so many interesting people to speak with and engaging events to participate in, that I find myself wanting to be involved with all of them.

Over the course of the year, I have had the chance to meet in large and small groups with the majority of the 150 faculty in the college, as well as many of the additional 150 staff who help support our teaching, research and outreach missions. I have also met hundreds of our alumni and supporters at events on campus as well as in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Oakland County, Chicago, Florida, Vancouver and Ireland. Even though I am no longer in the classroom, I have still managed to find time to interact with our undergraduate and graduate students on occasion.

I come away from these encounters incredibly uplifted by the energy, enthusiasm and expertise that I find on a daily basis in the college. Our people bring great skills and experiences to some of the nation’s — and the world’s — most pressing educational and health-related problems. This issue of the New Educator describes some of this work.

Our cover story focuses on online teaching and learning. Many of our faculty members teach in fully online programs, and some of them — primarily those in our Educational Psychology and Educational Technology program — conduct research on best practices in online education. Forty-four percent of all graduate students in the college and almost two-thirds of master’s students are enrolled in online or hybrid programs, which mix computer-mediated instruction with traditional, face-to-face instruction. Last spring, we dedicated the CEPSE/COE Design Studio in Erickson Hall, a facility that provides the latest technological tools for faculty teaching online or for those who want to make more effective use of technology in their face-to-face classes. The Design Studio consultants have expertise in a variety of state-of-the-art tools, including video production, website development, game design and animation development.

Also featured in this issue is a profile of Justin Grinnell (’04, Kinesiology), owner of State of Fitness, a personal training gym in East Lansing. Justin is a successful entrepreneur who gives back to his alma mater by hosting student interns from the Department of Kinesiology in his facility. Kinesiology is our fastest-growing undergraduate program, with enrollments almost doubling over the last decade. As the nation becomes more health- and fitness-conscious, we expect enrollments to continue to grow.

We introduce a new feature in this issue, Faculty Viewpoint, in which our faculty weighs in on hot issues from their research. Professor David Arsen of the Department of Educational Administration has written an open letter to Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, in which he describes the possible impact of some important educational changes being proposed in our state.

There is much more inside these pages, so I hope you will take time to read about what we are doing, and why being a dean is like drinking from a fire hose — there is so much coming at you that it is hard to keep pace. But trust me, you don’t want to miss a drop.

Rethinking Teacher Ed

NCTQ’s Kate Walsh challenges the field

Kate-Walsh-2012-004As teacher educators await the results of a controversial, nationwide review of teacher preparation programs, the leader behind the project made a stop at Michigan State University. It was the first time Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), spoke in a college of education — and the discussions were frank.

“We know that teachers arrive in classrooms not ready to teach on day one,” Walsh said. “There is no reason that a teacher prepared by a traditional program shouldn’t be better prepared than a Teach for America teacher.”

Calling teacher education “a field in disarray,” she outlined common goals in university programs — forming professional identify, confronting assumptions about race and class — that are contributing to a “clear disconnect between teachers prepared in higher education and what’s expected in PK-12.” There is not enough focus, she says, on raising student achievement and training educators to actually practice the best teaching methods.

The NCTQ review is expected to be released in April 2013 as a partnership with U.S. News & World Report. It evaluates more than 1,100 teacher preparation programs based on standards determined with input from superintendents and various experts and evidence gathered via course syllabi, policy manuals, surveys of local school districts, etc.

Although she disagrees with some of NCTQ’s methods, MSU’s teacher education Chairperson Suzanne Wilson invited Walsh as part of an ongoing effort to understand and respond to public criticism about university teacher education. The Marianne Amarel Lecture Series continues on campus this spring.

Higher Ed and the Fight Against World Hunger

R_Mabokela- HESN launch

Professor co-leads global food systems center funded by USAID

Michigan State University is using a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve agricultural production and reduce poverty in parts of the world suffering from rapid urbanization, population growth and skills gaps.

Receiving up to $25 million over five years, finding solutions to the problems that affect food production will be the focus of MSU’s new Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

The center will work with food and agricultural sciences, engineering and education experts to discover, test and implement food system changes in Central America, East Africa and Southeast Asia. Reitumetse Mabokela, professor of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE) in the College of Education, is co-director with Ajit Srivastava, professor and chair in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at MSU.

“One of our goals is to reach not only the academics and technical experts but also the people on the ground who are going to be addressing these major issues,” Mabokela said. “That requires us to engage youth and train the next generation of development experts.”

With extensive international experience, Mabokela will play a lead role in building collaborative relationships with the partnering institutions around the world:

  • Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania
  • Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands
  • The Energy and Resources Institute in India

MSU’s International Studies and Programs will house the center.

Higher Education Solutions Network

More broadly, the new center is part of USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) — a partnership with seven American and foreign universities designed to develop solutions to global development challenges.

More than 20 people representing MSU — including Mabokela and HALE doctoral students John Bonnell and Tonisha Lane — went to Washington, D.C. in November 2012 to celebrate the launch of HESN. The trip included meetings with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as an opportunity for students to showcase their work.

“By collaborating with top universities around the world, we hope to tap today’s brightest minds and focus ingenuity on global development challenges,” said Shah. “With the right ideas, we can reduce extreme poverty by more than 60 percent — lifting more than 700 million people back from the abyss of hunger and malnutrition — in just one generation.”

The other universities receiving grants are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, the College of William and Mary, University of California-Berkeley, Duke University and Makerere University in Uganda. Each will establish Development Labs that will work with USAID’s field mission experts and Washington, D.C. staff to apply science and technology to address problems in areas such as global health, food security and chronic conflict, he said.

John (Jack) Schwille, assistant dean for international studies in the College of Education, said the HESN will help Michigan State strengthen its international impact significantly.

“It reflects MSU’s priority on working across colleges, as well as with institutions outside the U.S.,” he said. “There is a lot of important work going on in other countries and this project will be a basis for helping us understand that better.”

Farming, literacy, equity and more

PrintLeaders of MSU’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation will start by visiting each region being targeted to identify the top problems in food production and distribution. They will then develop a set of interventions with potential to create long-term change.

Solutions will be disseminated to stakeholders, such as USAID, agro-industry businesses, farmers, traders and other food system workers throughout the globe. Undergraduate and graduate students will form the Translational Scholars Corps, and as future leaders will be key to the center’s success.

Mabokela has long-conducted interdisciplinary research in developing countries such as Ghana and Pakistan. She is excited about the center’s potential to increase the involvement of women in global food security and to create brighter futures for all people in the targeted regions.

“This project gives me an opportunity to engage with a set of issues that are not only food-related but, in the long run, influence whether children go to school for example,” she said, noting literacy is a major issue in food system improvements. Using a new fertilizer can help crops grow faster, she said, but that will not happen if farmers struggle to read the application directions correctly.

Up to two-thirds of the world is hungry according to UNICEF and the center will be exploring solutions all along the chain, from food production to consumption.

Says Srivastava: “If we ‘bend the trend’ toward equitable and sustainable development and build the body of knowledge on how to harness these trends, we can have the largest impact on the productivity of global food systems.”

Faculty Viewpoint: On Michigan School Finance


Dear Gov. Snyder,

Last summer you requested legislation to profoundly change funding for Michigan’s K-12 schools with a sweeping replacement of the School Aid Act of 1979. Since financial arrangements decisively influence school operations, many Michigan citizens took note.

Your goal was to incorporate the new legislation into the state’s budget for the 2013-14 school year. You received the proposed Michigan Public Education Finance Act of 2013 in November as planned, but didn’t mention it in your recent State of the State address. As one finance nerd to another—alas, I’m an economist (guess what, my wife is too!)—I applaud your decision to slow down and give fuller consideration to the proposed changes.

These policy decisions will have very far-reaching implications for Michigan’s public schools, so it’s important to get them right.

The proposed funding system was drafted by the Lansing-based Oxford Foundation, which was established “to lessen the burdens of government.” You asked Richard McClellan, a distinguished lawyer and one of the founders of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to lead the effort. The proposed legislation and related documents are available via

The goal of Oxford’s finance reform is to facilitate a 21st Century “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” learning model in which funding is student-centered, not district-centered, and focused on things that work so it is more cost-effective. The drafters also sought to “allow nonpublic school students and home school students maximum access to public education resources.”

As you know, since Proposal A took effect in 1994, all operational funding for Michigan schools has followed students when they move to another district, to a charter school or recently to an online school. The Oxford proposal, however, embodies two key innovations. First, it “unbundles” education services. Rather than all state funding following students to a single school, students could allocate their enrollment and state funding across multiple schools and districts. In a standard six-hour school day, students might take classes in six different districts.

Since the challenge of transporting students among multiple schools during the school day could limit choice, the Oxford proposal envisions a robust expansion of online instruction. Districts and charters could offer online and face-to-face courses to any student in the state.

The Oxford group calls its second key innovation “performance-based funding.” Students would take standardized tests at the start and end of each class. Schools would lose a portion (expected to increase over time) of the state funding for every student who did not make sufficient progress.

The Oxford proposal was explicitly designed to operate in conjunction with 2012 House Bill 5923, which would allow new entities (private businesses, municipalities, cultural institutions) to establish public schools in virtually any location, with little oversight and without regard to their impact on existing schools. It removes enrollment restrictions on cyber schools. Significantly, HB 5923 authorizes some schools to use selective admissions based on student academic ability, gender or migrant-worker status. Schools established by businesses could give enrollment preference to children of company employees.

The Oxford funding proposal and HB 5923 represent a truly dramatic strategy to shift the provision of Michigan’s educational services outside locally-governed school districts. They would establish the closest approximation to a universal statewide voucher system ever implemented in the United States. This possibility drew the excited attention of observers across the political spectrum. But with so many high-voltage policies commanding Lansing policymakers’ attention at the end of 2012, progress on these landmark policies stalled, leaving them for the current legislative session.

This is an ideal moment for you to offer leadership. The drafters staunchly maintained that they were implementing your vision for Michigan schools, as set forth in an April 2011 address (a few months after you took office while you were getting acquainted with many areas of state policy): The opportunity for more reflection makes this is a good time to clarify your views for Michigan policymakers and citizens.

In the spirit of constructive dialogue, I offer some initial reactions to Oxford’s 300-page proposal. The proposal lacks coherence. Indeed the drafters acknowledge that many elements (like student testing) remain unresolved. Rather than focus on these, I direct attention to a few important considerations that have been overlooked.

Michigan’s current funding system has many problems when assessed against standard evaluation criteria from the field of school finance. Remarkably, the Oxford proposal doesn’t simply fail to address these problems; it would make them worse.

Revenue Trends

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The Oxford reformers did not consider which revenue sources should fund the system. Nor did they ask how much money is needed. They didn’t even consider how earmarked revenues that currently fund Michigan’s public schools have fared. If they had, they would have observed a striking trajectory. The figure to the left shows general fund revenues for Michigan’s K-12 local school districts and charter schools, adjusted for inflation and enrollment.

Between 2002 and 2011, real per-pupil funding of Michigan’s public schools fell by $2,643 or 24.5 percent. Consequently, virtually all schools have cut services. Some of this decline is due to the state’s decade-long economic contraction which depressed sales, income and property tax collections. But that’s not the main story. Sixty percent of the revenue decline can be attributed to declining tax effort — in other words, policy decisions. If we had merely devoted the same share of our personal income to public schools in 2011 as in 2002, per-pupil funding would have been $1,589 higher.

Massachusetts, the highest-performing state on most student outcome measures, spends about 40 percent more per pupil than Michigan. Our revenue decline has not yet hit bottom. The Oxford proposal does nothing to arrest this disinvestment. Instead it creates new drains on available school aid funds.

Equity, Adequacy and Perverse Incentives

As a school finance specialist, I’m surprised to see a statewide plan that completely ignores equity and adequacy. Proposal A narrowed but did not eliminate funding inequalities among districts. Adequacy, however, requires that district revenues match the costs of producing outcomes expected by the state. We rate poorly on this standard. Part of the problem is the collapse of revenues already noted. I focus here, however, on the mismatch between state revenues and local costs. Since the state controls operational funding for all Michigan districts and charter schools, these problems could be solved.

Michigan’s school aid distribution is not adequately adjusted to reflect the differential cost of expensive special-needs students, regional cost-of-living variations or declining enrollment costs (which arise because revenues decline faster than costs — some costs are fixed in the short run — which then forces cuts in programs for students left behind) (Arsen & Plank, 2003).

School choice policies exacerbate the problem. Funding arrangements give choice schools a strong incentive to enroll low-cost students (elementary versus secondary students, regular versus special education). On average, Michigan’s local districts devote over 9 percent of their spending to special education services, while the percentage in charter schools is less than half this amount (Arsen & Ni, 2012c). Such cost creaming lowers average costs in choice schools, by simultaneously increasing average costs in the schools their students formerly attended.

Michigan’s school choice policies promote sustained outflows of students and revenue from districts charged with educating the highest-need children (Ni & Arsen, 2011), significantly contributing to fiscal stress (Arsen & Ni, 2012a) and the prospect of state emergency management (Arsen & Mason, forthcoming).

The Oxford proposal would surely expand such problems. It does not fix foundation grant inequalities or align them with costs. It simply divides foundation grants among course providers based on their share of a student’s total classes. Course providers would have a great incentive to attract low-cost students into low-cost classes — not special education, for example, or high school science labs. Inexpensive online classes with large enrollments would be preferred. Schools losing students to such ventures would see average costs rise, undercutting their ability to continue offering high-cost classes and other services.

Good schools now offer an array of additional services—libraries, reading specialists, transportation, student newspapers, sports, assemblies and so on. By failing to allocate revenue to cover the costs of such services, the Oxford proposal would discourage schools from providing them. Over time, these incentives would force district programming and operations to progressively converge to those of stripped-down online vendors.

Whereas participation in Michigan’s school choice policies is currently concentrated in urban areas, participation would grow substantially in suburban and rural districts under the Oxford and HB 5923 choice plans. Indeed, districts with per-pupil foundation grants thousands of dollars above the basic level would be prime targets for external course providers. (Hello, Detroit suburbs.)

A third-grade student who can’t read could be enrolled in several online classes by his guardian. Under the Oxford plan’s performance-based funding, if he didn’t learn anything in those classes, the course provider would forfeit 5 percent of the state funding. What would prevent a (mostly) home-schooled student from taking advantage of a district’s extracurricular offerings, without bringing any corresponding revenue to that district, while the bulk of her foundation grant goes to a company that provides her with a computer used for online classes — and the family business, too?


The Oxford proposal would generate inefficiency in many ways. It would increase administrative costs to implement complex and essential student recordkeeping. It introduces new ways for enterprising service providers to game the funding system, requiring costly monitoring procedures to discourage misuse of public funds. And it would increase costs to transport students between classes in different schools, costs borne by schools or families.

Educational efficiency is defined by student outcomes relative to the cost of providing them. It is inherently linked, therefore, to instructional practices. The Oxford proposal drafters don’t know much about teaching and learning. They appear unaware that effective schools establish cohesive cultures that inspire and coordinate the efforts of all educators and students. Otherwise they would recognize that a plan to encourage students to come and go as they please, without their school’s consent, could undermine outcomes for choosers and non-choosers alike.

They ignore clear evidence that noncognitive skills and social adaptability matter greatly for student and adult success, so they do not consider the possibility that their preoccupation with cognition as measured in test scores could generate a serious bias in instructional practice, undermining desired student outcomes and efficiency.

The drafters assert that the proposals will make Michigan’s education system more cost-effective, but don’t really want anyone to check. The proposal eliminates existing requirements for schools to report the costs of their online operations.

Many once presumed that new, entrepreneurial education service providers, in contrast to bureaucratic public school districts, would shift spending from administration to classroom instruction. Yet on average, Michigan’s charter schools spend nearly $800 more per pupil per year on administration and $1,110 less on instruction than the state’s school districts (Arsen & Ni, 2012c). What would prevent HB 5923 and the Oxford proposal from accelerating this top-heavy reallocation of school spending?

Many once expected competition from charter schools to improve educational efficiency in district schools, but on balance this has not been found in the accumulating research (Arsen & Ni, 2011, 2012b; Ni & Arsen, 2010). Michigan’s poorly designed school finance and choice policies are interacting to create a downward spiral in the state’s urban districts. These are now such extraordinarily turbulent educational settings that comparisons of charter and district performance need to account for the adverse impact of charters on districts (Ni, 2009). What would prevent the proposed reforms from creating similar harm in other districts?

School Facilities

While the state controls funding for school operations, funding for Michigan’s school facilities is left entirely to local districts. School infrastructure is financed primarily by local property taxes. Variations in per-pupil property wealth across communities create huge inequalities in local districts’ ability to pay for school facilities. Consequently, dramatic disparities in facility quality across Michigan districts are strongly correlated with local property wealth (Arsen & Davis, 2006, 2008).

Property tax millage rates in some poor districts would have to be 10 times the level in affluent districts to generate the same per-pupil revenue. As a result, facilities in many of Michigan’s poorest school districts are inadequate. Michigan’s current system of school facility finance has generated unequal opportunities for students and unequal burdens for taxpayers. It is a shameful situation that courts and lawmakers in other states have rectified (Mason & Arsen, 2010).

These problems could be addressed with suitable state policy. Michigan is one of a handful of states that provide no state aid for facilities. The state’s only role has been to lower local district borrowing costs under certain circumstances by guaranteeing the construction loans. Remarkably, at the very end of 2012, when so many contentious bills awaited your signature, you signed the little-noticed Public Act 437, which within a year will terminate even this meager state support, effectively ending facility construction in most districts.

Further Reflection

Gov. Snyder, the Oxford funding proposal and HB 5923 fail to solve the actual problems facing Michigan schools. Instead they would worsen those problems and create a host of new ones. While claiming to advance a plan for globally competitive schools, the drafters propose a set of policies found in no high-performing nation’s educational system. While claiming to advance a modern 21st Century system to replace the old “factory” model of schooling, they in fact offer a plan based on the grim principles of 19th Century piece work production that relied not on collaboration but rather on the coercive measurement of individual effort. The proposals are not based on empirical evidence of what works but rather on faith.

This is a plan to privatize Michigan’s public schools. The Oxford proposal and HB 5923 explicitly seek to undermine local school districts as the providers of education services. But most Michigan citizens like their local public schools, and they like having democratic control over school boards. Their communities are defined by their local school districts. For some, the most pertinent defense of public schools is that the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” What is lost with “unbundling” is community. Community is real. We know that it matters for health and happiness. And people are willing to pay for it.

Real estate markets reflect the value people place on local school districts in home prices. Identical homes on opposite sides of a district boundary can differ in price by tens of thousands of dollars. Destroy the districts where people have paid extra for their community schools, and property values will fall.

Trust Your Judgment

My hunch is that you have a pretty good sense of what makes for a good school. You had the opportunity to send your own child to excellent public schools, but chose Greenhills School, a wonderful private school in Ann Arbor. It is selective. The school has attractive facilities and grounds, a student-faculty ratio of eight and an average class size of 17. Greenhills strives to provide a wide range of stimulating and challenging classes. Teachers and administrators take pride in the school’s democratic decision-making; it’s not top-down.

Annual tuition for Greenhills is nearly $20,000, and, as you know better than I, that doesn’t cover all operating costs. If the trend line for Michigan public school revenues looks like a frown, then the one for Greenhills looks a bit more like a smile.

I don’t question your choice. But this is what puzzles me. Students at Greenhills do not take standardized tests until they apply to college. The school’s educators sympathize with their public school colleagues whose professional lives now revolve around tests.

Greenhills does not accept credit for online classes, nor offer classes for credit in the summer. It takes a firm position against students taking courses at other institutions, including colleges or universities, unless they have already taken the school’s most advanced course in a subject. Greenhills students don’t graduate early, but rather all together at a spring commencement. The school is designed around remarkable physical spaces devoted to “forums” for students in each grade to meet, deliberate and socialize.

The school has a thoughtful rationale for these decisions: it wants students to interact with one another and faculty to establish a durable and supportive community. I try to imagine how the families and educators at Greenhills would react if they were forced to operate under the rules embodied in the Oxford proposal and HB 5923.

As you search for strategies to improve Michigan’s public schools, you might consider Massachusetts, the top-performing state, which years ago established broad-based task forces comprised of experts from universities, government and business, along with educators and citizen group representatives to develop long-term plans for funding and other aspects of the state’s public schools.

If you do so, there’s a collection of really smart people, just down the road from your office, in a College of Education with top-rated programs in elementary and secondary education and other fields, who, despite the fact that the state is funding an ever-dwindling fraction of their salaries, would be happy to offer assistance.

Most importantly, citizens across Michigan care deeply about these issues. Please listen to what they have to say.


David Arsen

The content of this article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Michigan State University or the MSU College of Education.


Arsen, D., & Davis, T. (2006). Taj Mahals or decaying shacks: Patterns in local school capital stock and unmet capital need. Peabody Journal of Education, 81(4).

Arsen, D., & Davis, T. (2008). Underinvestment in capital facilities in Michigan’s urban schools: Dimensions of the problem and state policy options. Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development. Urban Policy Research Series. Report 1.

Arsen, D., & Mason, M.L. (forthcoming). Seeking accountability through state-appointed emergency district management. Educational Policy.

Arsen, D., & Ni, Y. (2011). Shaking up public schools with competition. The School Administrator. 68(7): 16-19.

Arsen, D., & Ni, Y. (2012a). The effects of charter school competition on school district resource allocation. Education Administration Quarterly, 48(1), 3-38.

Arsen, D., & Ni, Y. (2012b). The competitive effect of school choice policies on performance in traditional public schools. In G. Miron (Ed.), Exploring the School Choice Universe: Evidence and Recommendations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Arsen, D. & Ni, Y. (2012c). Resource allocation in charter and traditional public schools: Is administration leaner in charter schools? Education Policy Analysis Archives, 28(31).

Arsen, D., & Plank, D. N. (2003). Michigan school finance under Proposal A: State control, local consequences. Education Policy Center at MSU.

Mason, M. L., & Arsen, D. (2010). The role of state courts in securing school facility adequacy and equity. Education Policy Center at MSU.

Ni, Y. (2009). Do traditional public schools benefit from charter school competition? Evidence from Michigan. Economics of Education Review, 28(5), 571-584.

Ni, Y., & Arsen, D. (2010). The competitive effects of charter schools on public school districts. In C. Lubienski & P. Weitzel (Eds.), The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence, and Implications (pp. 93-120). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Ni, Y., & Arsen, D. (2011). School choice participation rates: Which districts are pressured? Education Policy Analysis Archives, 19 (October).

Editor’s note: This post was updated on April 23, 2013 to clarify revenues sources represented in the figure.

Learning 3.0: Face-to-face, Online, Hybrid

In the classroom or on the screen — or both, the College of Education continues to rethink where, and how, learning occurs


By Nicole Geary

Have you taken a course online? How about a hybrid program?

The College of Education led the charge into web-based teaching more than a decade ago and currently claims nearly 900 students pursuing degrees completely online. That population accounts for almost two-thirds of all master’s candidates in the college—and that doesn’t include hundreds of others who now take online courses as part of traditional (face-to-face) programs.

The mission hasn’t changed, but the reach is far greater.

Online programs make higher education opportunities available to more people in more places. Fewer students feel they can sacrifice time and professional commitments to travel to campus, and improving technology and web accessibility means they don’t have to.

More than ever, professors are prepared to foster learning online without sacrificing the quality of instruction that Michigan State University is known for. At least a third of the full-time faculty now teaches online.

Recent media coverage has marveled over making online education even more expansive — take the movement toward massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that can enroll more than 100,000 students in a single class, for example.

In the MSU College of Education, the question is not how many students can be reached. The question is how the online experience — like any other educational experience — can become more meaningful.

“We used to ask questions like whether we should or not, and if the technology will actually work,” said Cary Roseth, assistant professor of educational psychology.

In 2013, he says, instructors must be prepared to ask themselves which software platforms and instructional methods best match the tasks assigned and the students involved. It’s the rationale outlined by the TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) framework, developed at MSU and adopted by educators around the world: rather than being just a vehicle for transmitting knowledge, technology must be an integral component of the teaching and learning process.

Keeping the goals of the course or particular lesson in mind, instructors must think about the boundary conditions, as some refer to it. At what point does the technology being used no longer make sense?

“Up against the boundary, I have to adjust and I start wondering about what I can accomplish,” Roseth said. “Teachers make these kinds of decisions all the time, like what to do in the time left before recess. The online world forces us to think about another context.”

The questions have become:

  •  WHEN should students work independently (asynchronously) and when should they interact live (synchronously)? 
  • WHERE should they interact, whether online, face-to-face or some combination of formats (hybrid)?

Graduate education in today’s universities is becoming a complicated mix of these hybrid options, and the College of Education offers one of the most innovative so far: a hybrid doctoral program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET).

NE-Cover-SP2012-043“The hybrid was developed to meet a need in the mix of doctoral students we wanted to attract to the four-year program — namely, mid-career leaders in education,” said Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education Chairperson Richard Prawat. “The resident or face-to-face program was successful in drawing those with recent BA degrees and those who wanted to change careers, but not necessarily those who could not afford to put their careers on hold for a length of time.”

With 24 professionals enrolled across 10 states (and one in Dubai), the hybrid program must run completely online — in concert with the traditional doctoral group — except for two weeks each summer. The first students have been able to integrate doctoral coursework and research projects into their world of practice somewhat seamlessly, which in turn contributes more realistic and grounded knowledge to the conversations on campus.

With their faculty leaders, the hybrid Ph.D. students are establishing a brave new model for scholarly community, and a laboratory for the rest of the college.

“It’s an urgency that drives innovation,” said John Bell, co-coordinator of the program. For example, Bell has been developing ways for the hybrid Ph.D. students to participate in face-to-face classes via video conferencing systems (GoToMeeting is a favorite) and the use of iPads mounted to desks. The tablets become what he calls “physical avatars,” which represent the remote students’ spaces in the room.

Bell also is director of the new CEPSE/COE Design Studio, a physical and philosophical gathering space for experimenting with and implementing new technologies in teaching. Launched in 2012, professors from every department within the college are testing and employing the use of synchronous technologies, reconfigurable chairs called Node chairs, remote controlled cameras and other equipment in their classes. They are sharing knowledge from their hybrid or online teaching experiences with each other more frequently through roundtable discussions and featured lectures.

The Design Studio builds on existing resources in the college such as the Center for Teaching and Technology and helps professors address emerging needs in their teaching, from creating Khan Academy-style videos with green screen technology to building new online course infrastructure and testing real-time learning assessments that pop up on students’ screens. The studio includes four staff and graduate assistants, two designated classrooms and about $300,000 worth of technology on the fourth floor of Erickson Hall. Research is integrated throughout their projects.

“We are a resource for faculty and instructors, but a very proactive one. We strive to push the conversation forward,” said Bell, whose father Norman retired as a College of Education faculty member specializing in educational technology after more than 30 years.

“The goal is to use our own expertise to guide ourselves.”

Why synchronous?


Click to enlarge

The first fully online program in the College of Education, the Master of Arts in Education (MAED), started in fall 2001 with just over 50 students. It now claims more than 600 graduates and is one of six fully online master’s programs within the college. Other programs in teaching and curriculum, special education, higher education, educational technology and health professions education all began within the last five years, with more expected in the future.

College of Education faculty members often win awards on campus and from outside organizations (read more about the 2013 Best Practice Award from AACTE) for their use of and research on technology in teaching. One of the top challenges continues to be finding ways to cover the same amount of content from a face-to-face class in a virtual group format. Computer-mediated communication can take up to four times as long, according to MSU Communication Professor Joseph Walther.

Faculty members say synchronous technologies like Google Hangouts for group video discussions and Etherpad for real-time collaborative editing can help cover more material while leading to much richer learning.

And happier students.

When Tanya Wright began teaching in the online Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum (MATC)—a program for teachers including those hoping to become reading specialists—students told her that their online courses had often felt too much like independent study. They longed for “real instruction” and discussions that didn’t feel “staged.”

So, like many other professors who find themselves problem-solving in the online world, she got creative. She hosts live Adobe Connect meetings to discuss case studies about struggling readers. The sessions are optional, but more than 90 percent of students participate. Wright also sets up professional book clubs that meet synchronously by time zone. She makes video presentations through which students actually see and hear her, either live or on their own time.

“Even at a distance, students crave interaction with one another and want to know the faculty member as a person,” she said.

When communicating in-person, both teachers and students know more immediately whether their messages are being understood. However, asynchronous interactions are also valuable because they give students opportunities to reflect, review materials or resources and, for those less likely to speak up in large groups, a chance to contribute more actively to discussions.

For instructors, teaching in online or hybrid formats is more labor intensive. They have the added responsibility of sorting through technical problems, time logistics and a stream of student communication that doesn’t start and stop with one class session. But students aren’t the only ones learning through the process.

“I have learned far more about my teaching through online teaching than I have face-to-face,” said Marilyn Amey, chairperson of the Department of Educational Administration, during a college-wide roundtable event last fall. “It’s caused me to really question my assumptions about learning, about how I know students are learning. It’s changed, fundamentally, how I teach a face-to-face class as a result.”

The hybrid experiments

Synchronous learning takes on different dimensions with hybrid courses, in which students gather live at least some of the time. In vertical hybrids, students flip between attending face-to-face classes and engaging in various web-based interactions. In horizontal hybrids, some students see their instructor in person while others participate from elsewhere.

MSU teaching interns placed in Chicago schools, for example, rely on Polycom video conferencing to connect with fellow interns and their instructors on campus. Teachers and school leaders enrolled in the off-campus K-12 Educational Administration master’s programs based in Birmingham and Detroit learn through a mix of face-to-face sessions and online activity — both asynchronous and synchronous — designed to mesh with their professional lives.

Professors such as Kenneth Frank from the Measurement and Quantitative Methods faculty alternate teaching between two locations. Others including Roseth, Matthew Koehler, Punya Mishra, Christine Greenhow and Douglas Hartman are experimenting with connecting students from multiple locations to a single live classroom.


Click to enlarge

In Erickson Hall’s Room 452, they are testing ways to make remote students feel almost as though they are sitting amid the group, able to see and hear all details of class.

And participate in small groups, too.

One night during Mishra’s CEP 917 course in Room 452, Tracy Russo sat at her laptop, silently chatting and creating a document along with one student sitting on the other side of the room and two others sitting in their homes hundreds or thousands of miles away. In total, 10 students were in the room and 10 were off-site. When the whole group came back together, the faces of students from Texas, Idaho and Utah appeared on the large screen, which they call “the balcony.”

The groups struggled a little to summarize what they had just communicated with each other (through writing) on Etherpad: “You can spew a bit more online, but it’s hard to rein it in at the same time,” said Andy Driska, a kinesiology doctoral student in the class.

Sometimes, an iPad attached to a tripod serves as a camera that can be moved around the room to help remote students follow the person who is speaking more closely (and read facial expressions). They jokingly call it the TriPad and, yes, it is not a perfect system.


Students and faculty in the College of Education embrace a spirit of experimentation and a shared goal no matter what new technology is being integrated: to improve learning.

According to Professor Patrick Dickson, the Design Studio and EPET hybrid program are beginning to add powerful contributions to a conversation about best practices in teaching with technology that is long-running within the college—and rare.

“There are not many institutions that have this kind of discourse,” he said. And graduates of the college, who have taken online or hybrid courses and/or taught them themselves, are leaving with the knowledge they will need to lead future models in K-12 and higher education settings.

With online learning integrated into every discipline offered, “it’s in the DNA of their study,” Dickson said.

“Our students will, no doubt, be instructors online. They will be collaborating and writing with people at a distance.”

It is the reality, ready or not.

Center for Teaching and Technology

Housed just off the lobby in Erickson Hall, the Center for Teaching and Technology provides a variety of services to help faculty, staff and students use technology in teaching and learning. This includes offering workshops, lending equipment such as cameras, digital audio recorders and iClickers, and providing in-classroom support. In 2012, the center launched an iPad loaner program allowing instructors and their students to explore the device’s potential throughout an entire course.

Equity for All: Researcher Studies Disadvantaged Children Worldwide



The perception of a young Amita Chudgar—now an assistant professor of educational administration at the College of Education—may be described as anything but ordinary.

Growing up in India, Chudgar lived in a non-traditional, middle-class Mumbai household with surgeon parents. At the end of 10th grade, Chudgar made a choice that many schoolchildren in India must make: the direction of their career path.

Chudgar chose social science—“a less prestigious decision,” she says—in comparison to her peers who opted mainly for commerce, engineering or medicine. The choice wasn’t a popular one.

“The decision broke from a perceived social norm, which freed me from seeing the world through a narrow lens,” Chudgar adds.

She even had a school principal tell her that she had ruined her future.

While the societal opposition she faced was steep, Chudgar went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics with a quantitative concentration at University of Mumbai. She graduated with honors and received a prestigious gold medal in economics.

Take that, naysayers.

Chudgar then went on to discover her passion for social issues while teaching economics to undergrads in Mumbai. It was here she had one of many aha moments concerning her desire to contribute to pressing social challenges using sophisticated research and analysis.

“Economics are beautiful, really,” Chudgar says with a smile. “It’s beautiful to be presented with complex situations and to find simple, elegant patterns … It’s really very exciting to me and I am fascinated by research that systematically makes sense of human behavior.”

After turning down a full ride at University of Oxford, Chudgar continued her journey at University of Cambridge to pursue a multidisciplinary master of philosophy in development studies. After Cambridge, Chudgar worked for a year on multiple research projects in rural India. It was here that she identified education policy and equity as the primary social issue she wanted to focus on, and pursuing a Ph.D. in Economics of Education at Stanford University was the next logical step.

“There are so many issues in this world, and I have decided to focus on educational challenges more closely,” Chudgar says. “I went to far-flung schools in India and saw deplorable teaching-learning conditions. I have seen classrooms with hardly any furniture or learning material, teachers teaching with few resources and bright, enthusiastic children short-changed by an under-resourced system.”

Chudgar adds: “Deep-rooted gender inequities and unfair social norms often make these challenges even harder to address. The consequences of these disadvantages are similar everywhere, even Detroit—all our children are unable to access quality education. It’s simply not okay anywhere for this to be happening.”


Click to enlarge

Fast-forward to today, and one sees clearly that Chudgar has established herself as a leading researcher in the study area of disadvantaged children worldwide, and the implications of their resource-constrained conditions. In October 2012, Chudgar released study findings that contradicted past research by concluding there is no systematic benefit for school-aged children to attend private versus public schools, if the vast differences in their home backgrounds are carefully accounted for.

Now, with several awards and honors throughout her career, Chudgar remains humble, saying that she feels very privileged to do the work she does. “I feel fortunate. I love what I do. This is my passion—this work breaks my heart and brings me to tears.”

Chudgar places a high value on mentoring, and is currently working with three graduate students, James Pippin, Ben Creed and Madhur Chandra. Along with colleagues from Claremont Graduate University, the team is generating a cross-national understanding of teacher distribution across more than 20 countries through a $229,000 UNICEF-funded grant project that will wrap up in late 2013.

A Global Partnership

In partnership with the Azim Premji Foundation in India, Chudgar and Chandra are currently working with Radhika Iyengar from Teachers College, Columbia University on the Child Friendly School Initiative (CFSI). The team has collected two waves of data from 90 schools, which includes about 3,000 children, to examine the association between learning levels and community attributes.

“Perhaps the most exciting outcome of this joint research project is a panel I have organized at the upcoming Comparative and International Education Society’s Annual Conference in March 2013,” she says. The panel will consist of four papers related to the project, and Chudgar says she’s expecting three to four members from the foundation’s research team to attend.

“I am very glad that just as we are able to benefit from their research and data collection capabilities on the ground, we are able to share this international exposure and attention with them,” she says.

When asked about her future plans, Chudgar says she intends to expand her work with bolder projects. “The research community at MSU has been incredibly supportive, and I appreciate the institution’s commitment to global issues,” she adds.

Exploring urban education may also be on the horizon for Chudgar, as the relevancy of her current work in resource-constrained environments abroad would be a natural foray into an area with similar issues and challenges closer to home.

For now, Chudgar is content living a multi-continental lifestyle, speaking at international conferences and performing groundbreaking research—with her biggest “problem” being that her passport is too full.

Faculty Books

BeidaBookCoverAssistant professor of teacher education Kristen Bieda is the co-author of Developing Essential Understanding of Proof and Proving for Teaching Mathematics in Grades 9-12. The book focuses on knowledge for high school teachers about proof and the process of proving. It is part of a series published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Bieda’s co-authors are Amy Ellis, Eric Knuth and Rose Mary Zbiek.
AngCalabreseBartonBookThe ongoing problem of math and science education not being equally available to poor students is addressed in a new book co-written by Angela Calabrese Barton, professor of teacher education. The book, Empowering Science and Mathematics Education in Urban Schools, attributes economic and political causes for education inequality—pointing to consistent failure to integrate student history, culture and social needs into the core curriculum. Calabrese Barton and co-author Edna Tan raise questions on why and how students participate in math and science. The book was published by University of Chicago Press in 2012.
9780470947203_cover.inddKristen Renn paints a picture of American higher education and where it’s headed in her new book, College Students in the United States: Characteristics, Experiences and Outcomes. Renn, a professor of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE), and co-author Robert Reason account for student demographics, enrollment patterns and various outcomes, all while highlighting differences among traditional and non-traditional student groups. The book was published by Jossey-Bass in 2012.
Microsoft Word - Lazar et. al Q&D.docxPatricia Edwards, professor of teacher education, co-authored Bridging Literacy and Equity: The Essential Guide to Social Equity Teaching. The authors point to six key dimensions of social equity teaching that can assist teachers in developing students’ potential and in creating a literacy-supportive environment. Also included is pertinent—and often complex—essential cultural knowledge for those teaching literacy. The book was published in 2012 by Teachers College Press. Co-authors are Althier M. Lazar and Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon.

Conducting the Orchestra, Committing to their Future


Music education student shines as leader of growing youth ensemble

“Ready? One, two, ready, go.”

The conductor’s baton drops and swirls into the beat, while a stageful of teen musicians practice a Trans-Siberian Orchestra piece for an upcoming concert.

The auditorium is empty and there is laughter between each song. But their leader is preparing them for something bigger than their next performance.

A talented violinist, Lyndra Tingley spent her childhood becoming serious about beautiful music. Now she is serious about teaching.

And beautiful music.

She was hired as director of the Mason Philharmonic Orchestra when she was just a sophomore in the music education program at Michigan State University. Two years later, the extracurricular group has tripled in size from 20 to more than 60 kids—and growing.

As members joined from other nearby communities, Tingley arranged to move rehearsals from the group’s base in Mason to Okemos, where the central location and school-based strings program have helped the group flourish. She has planned concerts, summer camps and a visit to Michigan’s well-known Interlochen Center for the Arts, from which she graduated in 2008.

Playing in an orchestra can be a rare opportunity for youth as schools struggle to keep or expand arts programs, especially those including string instruments. In the Mason Philharmonic, Tingley has created a community where fun and confidence seem to flow along with music from the strings, woodwinds and brass sections.

“She really motivates the kids and keeps them interested,” said Kay Lancour, whose son and daughter are members of the orchestra. With Tingley’s encouragement, they both have received opportunities to play solos and even, in Joey Lancour’s case, a chance to conduct a piece at the winter show.

Tingley-Lyndra-035“I just see a lot of growth in my kids,” Kay said. “I don’t know how she does it all.”

This fall, Tingley completed her teaching internship, a one-semester requirement for MSU music education students, at St. Johns Public Schools. Meanwhile, she also continued teaching private violin lessons for over 40 students, played with her quartet at special events nearly every   weekend and started a violin club for preschoolers.

It’s a schedule that demands commitment, particularly with what it takes to meet the expectations of the music education program at MSU — a mix of requirements from the College of Music and the College of Education.

“There’s nothing that I have right now I am willing to give up,” Tingley said, not long before graduating from MSU in December. “I care so much about all these kids.”

The path to teaching

The daughter of a violin teacher, Tingley started playing at age 3 in her hometown of Batavia, Ill. She was only one of two violinists accepted to attend Interlochen as a high school freshman and she dreamed of recording movie soundtracks with a professional orchestra.

When she came to MSU, she was a music performance major.  She changed her major soon after she began interacting with the music education faculty and teaching private lessons based on referrals from local teachers.

“Once I got teaching, it just really opened a door,” said Tingley, who had not attended public schools herself. “I love being able to share my musical knowledge with my students and make great music together.”

Michael Steele is an assistant professor of mathematics education in the College of Education and current president of the Mason Orchestral Society, the parent organization of the youth orchestra. Tingley was up against veteran musicians and doctoral students when she got the director job.

“What stands out is that, at her young age, everything for her is a teaching and learning opportunity,” Steele said. “Every interaction I see her have with kids, even when there are 45 of them bouncing around a rehearsal room, is about little learning moments.”

And those moments can be challenging to achieve in music, while managing multiple students, instruments and ability levels. Mitchell Robinson, chair of music education, says music teacher candidates at MSU begin in-school field experiences as freshmen and focus on building skills for “teaching people, not music.” They also are encouraged to serve the community in entrepreneurial ways.

Tingley2“Lyndra took so much initiative to do things outside her coursework,” said Associate Professor Judy Palac, who specializes in strings and has been a mentor for Tingley. “She has a good handle on how to treat kids, when to smile and when not to smile. And she is unusually mature.”

With her positive and ambitious spirit, Tingley keeps finding ways to bring music to more people. She earns respect from both students and parents, pushes her pupils to deliver performances they thought they couldn’t handle and shares her responsibilities with MSU classmates. Charlie Lukkari, a junior music education student specializing in the tuba, served as assistant director of the Mason Philharmonic.

Tingley recently received a job offer from a school for gifted students in Peoria, Ill., but she turned it down. She has a long-term substitute teaching assignment in St. Johns for former mentor teacher Jenn Parker. Meanwhile, she has begun her job search, hoping to start one next fall and keep working with her orchestra and private students.

She is serious about helping them make beautiful music.

And sharing what they have learned throughout life.

“Yes, I want them to be successful and play their best,” Tingley said. “But at the end of the day, my goal is that they will walk out of here with a passion and that they will want their children to one day have that same experience.”

From MSU to the “Olympics of Teaching”

DSC_8290Last year, MSU teaching intern Alexandra Beels spent a lot of time visiting BOB — the Basic Observation Buoy. Floating in Lake Erie or Lake St. Clair, BOB took water quality measurements every hour and, once or twice a week, Beels and seventh graders from Harper Woods Middle School near Detroit waded out to recalibrate his sensors.

BOB, BIF — a Basic Information Flotation device that monitors water pollutants — and a host of related hands-on activities became part of a yearlong project focused on environmental stewardship that was led by Beels and her mentor, former Michigan Teacher of the Year June Teisan. Together, they showcased their innovative efforts to teach science to urban youth during the Microsoft Partners in Learning forum attended by 100 educators in Seattle last summer. Then, as one of just 11 teams selected to win awards at the U.S. event, Beels and Teisan were invited to attend the program’s Global Forum in Prague in November. The forums highlight the world’s most creative uses of technology to transform learning.

“It honestly felt like a dream to be surrounded by so many talented educators that supported one another and were genuinely interested in our project,” said Beels, a secondary education (biology) graduate from St. Clair Shores, Mich. “Being able to collaborate with people from around the globe … for seventh-graders, I think that’s absolutely amazing. We really helped them understand how anybody at any age can be a scientist.”

A full-time intern with Teisan now, Beels actually had to delay her MSU teaching internship for one year because she didn’t pass the required Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC) on time — by two questions. Teisan, who was looking for strong intern candidates, had already met Beels and begun talking about the year ahead. The two women clicked.

Beels3“My heart was broken for her but I saw the potential for a beneficial partnership,” Teisan said. So she asked Beels to help with the new grant-funded water project getting underway the following fall in Future Think, a class for high-achieving students at Harper Woods. “When our students hit a wall, we have to help them climb over the wall, and I think that’s what Alex and I ended up doing together when it was her wall to climb.”

Beels worked closely with Teisan and the Future Think group throughout the year, thinking through lesson plans, arranging BOB visits and even helping students win three national competitions — and a $10,000 prize! Meanwhile, Beels passed the MTTC and secured a long-term substitute teaching position in Fraser Public Schools.

Now Beels is in the classroom with Teisan every day, working on her final semester in the MSU teacher preparation program and dreaming up unusual, community-based learning experiences for her own future students.

“I don’t know why she picked me … She is a blessing in my life,” she said. “I have heard, ‘You are only a student teacher and you already set the bar this high. What are you going to do next’? I’ll be able to take what I’ve learned and apply it to bigger, better things down the road.”

Teisan is now working with Future Think students on a project focused on infusing art into science, technology, engineering and math which she calls STEAM through the Detroit Institute of Arts and the murals of Diego Rivera. MSU teaching intern, Kelly Herberholz, is assisting. 


Teacher Candidates, Mentors to Tour Tanzania Together

TanziniaA group of future teachers from Michigan State University — and their mentor teachers — will travel to Tanzania during summer 2014 for a unique experience in learning to teach global perspectives. The university has received funding under the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program to offer the five-week trip, along with related activities before and afterward.

The goal of the project is to help educators gain expertise for teaching about Africa in K-12 schools. Each of the selected teacher candidates will be paired with their mentor teacher for the forthcoming internship year (2014-15), during which they will integrate what they have learned through lesson plans and other interactions with students.

“In this way, both the teacher and the mentor can develop as teachers who are able to teach for global competence,” said Margo Glew of the Department of Teacher Education. Glew is co-directing the project with John Metzler of the MSU African Studies Center. The Center for Advanced Study in International Development (CASID) is also a partner.

Prior to the trip, participants will take a spring semester course specifically developed for the program. Their tour of Tanzania will provide in-depth understanding of history, culture, politics, economics and more in Eastern Africa. Overall, they will learn how to situate that knowledge within the major themes of social studies and humanities across the K-12 curricula, including new state standards and benchmarks.

Laura Apol, associate professor of teacher education, serves as curriculum director for the program and will join Metzler on the tour in Tanzania. Kyle Greenwalt, also a faculty member in teacher education, is a consultant.

All education students at MSU, and particularly members of the Global Educators Cohort Program (GECP), are encouraged to broaden their knowledge and perspectives for teaching through international travel. Glew, who coordinates GECP, said pairing teacher candidates with their mentor teacher for study abroad is unusual.

“We are really committed as a program to making these global experiences as accessible as possible, not only for GECP students but for all teacher candidates in our program. All teachers need to be able to teach today’s children for tomorrow’s world.”

Students can apply for the Tanzania program starting in fall 2013. Contact for more information.

Another experience: Costa Rica

Some College of Education students will be going to Costa Rica this summer as part of another Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program for teachers. That trip, led by Kristin Janka Millar of the MSU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, will empower both practicing and pre-service teachers to explore the UN Millennium Development Goals using Costa Rica as their laboratory. Participants will be immersed in the Spanish language and stay with local families.

Recruiting is now underway, and some slots have been reserved for GECP students. Contact for more information.

From the Alumni Board President

Greetings Spartans,

johnson-gunnardThe 2012 Homecoming Tailgate Party was a great time! Over 550 College of Education people visited our party and it was wonderful seeing and visiting with old friends as well as meeting new friends. The weather was not the best, but that did not stop Spartan alumni who came and enjoyed excellent food, watched the MSU Marching and Alumni Bands practice and visited with each other. It was a great time experienced by all!

Your Alumni Board has been busy selecting major goals that will give the board directions for this year as well as future activities.

We have narrowed our goals to two:  

  1. Providing financial resources and
  2. Establishing a greater presence in K-12 schools.

The board has established two committees that will develop these goals. Our task will be to develop these two goals into activities for this coming year and future years.

One of the many events that the College of Education Alumni Association is involved in is the Get A Job Conference. This event is scheduled for Saturday, March 9, and about 50 MSU graduates who are teachers, principals and superintendents come to campus and interview over 150 seniors who are looking for teaching jobs. Each of the College of Education seniors is able to go through a practice interview with an experienced teacher or administrator. The alumni interviewers are able to give feedback to the students on their interview skills. It is a great day for the MSU seniors as well as the alumni involved.

If you have not already done so, please check out the College of Education’s social media channels by liking our Facebook page at It is an excellent method of gathering information concerning the College of Education.

The College of Education has also started publishing an eNewsletter. I know you will find the eNewsletter informative. There are many good features that will inform you about what’s happening in the college. If you have not received the eNewsletter and would like to receive it, contact Sarah Wardell at

We will continue to look for alumni willing to serve on the College of Education Alumni Board of Directors. If you are interested, you can go to our webpage, for information or contact Sara Jones at or me at

I hope 2013 brings you the best year ever! Happy New Year!

The Legacy of EAD 315/415

EAD315-415-027Alumni often feel connected to one another as graduates of an institution and, even more so, as graduates of a particular degree program. Sometimes, a single course can tie people together — and leave a lasting legacy.

In the case of EAD 315 (formerly 415): Student Leadership Training, more than 500 former instructors — the majority of whom are graduates of the College of Education — share in a tradition of preparing student leaders at Michigan State University that goes back to the 1950s.

Faculty and staff from the university’s Division of Student Affairs and Services and the Department of Educational Administration have collaborated throughout the course’s history to provide a powerful learning experience for any undergraduate on campus interested in becoming a leader.

Along the way, teaching the elective course has become a valuable and popular opportunity for graduate students from two program areas, Student Affairs Administration (SAA) and Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE).

Last spring, many former EAD 315/415 instructors gathered in Erickson Hall and during special receptions in conjunction with national conferences in those fields. They shared stories about their experiences — the first time teaching for many — and received pins to show their affinity to the unique group.

“My co-instructor and I had the opportunity to connect with students, explore their interests and creatively engage them in discussions about leadership, diversity and social justice,” says Briana Martin, a master’s student in SAA. “This experience definitely ignited a passion within me to teach.”

More than 5,700 students have enrolled since the current course format (315) was established in 1992. A summer online-only version was added in 2007.

“It has made a significant difference in the quality of the leadership of the students that then get involved with different student governments … the residence halls, sororities and fraternities and other off-campus groups,” said Professor Emeritus Louis Hekhuis, one of the course’s early instructors and coordinators. “It gave the students an opportunity to meet together and to form a better idea of how they could participate and contribute in their positions as student leaders.”

EAD 315 continues to draw a particularly high percentage of students of color and diverse backgrounds. Known for transforming both student and instructor perspectives, it has often been replicated at other institutions.

Patricia Enos oversaw the course from 1985 until she retired as a faculty member and assistant vice president for student affairs last year, passing on the role to EAD Assistant Professor William Arnold.

“I want you all to know what I know, which is how this course goes across generations and people,” Enos said. “It’s really very special and thank you so much for making it that way.”


Do you have your pin?

EADPinIf you taught EAD 315 or 415 at Michigan State University, the department wants to hear from you. Contact William Arnold at or (517) 355-6613 to request your affinity pin and to provide your up-to-date contact information.

Alumni Notes

Alumna receives national biology teacher award

NatlBiologyTeach_HeatherPetersonMentor teacher and College of Education alumna Heather Peterson (’98, secondary teaching certificate) has received the 2012 National Outstanding Biology Teacher Award.

Peterson received the award from the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) during the association’s recent professional development conference in Dallas.

“We don’t get a lot of recognition in teaching, so it feels nice to have the recognition from peers and professors,” said Peterson. “We’ve also had a supportive school and community — our doors are always open.”

Now in her 21st year of teaching, Peterson (BS ’92, MS ’97, MSU College of Natural Science) is a biology teacher at Holt High School and has served as a mentor teacher to dozens of teacher candidates and interns. This year, she is working with four MSU seniors.

“She [Peterson] is a wonderful mentor, and a great example of professional growth,” said associate professor of teacher education Gail Richmond. “She advocates for ambitious pedagogy and models what she teaches. She is a significant force at Holt and she shares her knowledge not just within but outside the classroom.”

Peterson is also head coach of the Holt Science Olympiad team. She is the science department chair and participates regularly on numerous panels and committees related to the field of biology. In addition to biology, Peterson also teaches human physiology and botany.

More Alumni News


Peter Flynn

College of Education alumnus Peter Flynn, MA ’69, Ph.D. ’71 (Curriculum, Secondary Teacher Education), has received the 2012 Superintendent of the Year award from the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA). Flynn retired earlier this year as superintendent of the Freeport School District 145 in Freeport, Ill. after 12 years.

During his 41-year career, he spent time as a teacher, assistant professor and, prior to joining the Freeport school district, served as superintendent of schools in Pennsylvania, Iowa and Kentucky.

John E. Peterson, MA ’71 (Health and Physical Education), renewed his contract in the National Football League (NFL) as a player evaluator with the Carolina Panthers located in Charlotte, N.C. and achieves retirement at its conclusion. During his time in the NFL, Peterson evaluated and recommended players to be drafted and signed by the Seattle Seahawks who advanced to the Super Bowl.
Stephan Walk, MA ’90, Ph.D. ’94 (Physical Education and Exercise Science), continues his roles at California State University, Fullerton as chair of the Department of Kinesiology and faculty athletic representative in the university’s relationship with the NCAA and the Big West Conference. From July to December 2012, Walk served as interim director of intercollegiate athletics.


Professor of teacher education at Western Oregon University, Mark Girod, Ph.D. ’01 (Educational Psychology), has been named interim dean of WOU’s College of Education while Hilda Rosselli takes a leave of absence. Girod started at WOU in 2001 and currently serves as chair for the Division of Teacher Education.
Michael DeGagne

Michael DeGagne

Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education alumnus Michael DeGagné, Ph.D. ’02, has been selected as the president and vice chancellor of Nipissing University in Ontario, Canada, beginning a five-year term in January 2013. Nipissing is a public, liberal arts institution. Before his selection, he was serving as the executive director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Ottawa, Ontario.


Dan Vaughn, Ph.D. ’05 (Kinesiology), has been appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy (JMMT). Vaughn is based at the Physical Therapy Program at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he has both teaching and clinical practice responsibilities. His research at Grand Valley has focused on the efficacy of manual therapy interventions and the influence of therapeutic exercise on spinal posture.


Ericka (Olson) Fatura, MA ’06 (Curriculum and Teaching), was named the 2013 Michigan High School Science Teacher of the Year by the board of the Michigan Science Teachers Association. Fatura is a teacher at Pentwater Public Schools. She was chosen for inspiring her students, demonstrating innovative teaching strategies, being an excellent role model for students and other teachers and exhibiting a passion for science and teaching. She will be honored at an awards ceremony during the 2013 MSTA Conference.

Kinesiology Alumnus Moves Community to the Next Level

“Wow, I really regret that workout,” said no one ever.

Justin-Grinnell-2012-026Walk into State of Fitness on an average day and visitors not only see that statement painted on the wall, but they will enter into a cacophony of sound and activity.

Amid weights clanging, upbeat music and machines humming, it’s Thursday and Michigan State University kinesiology alumnus Justin Grinnell is working with a small group of high school students involved with the Sports Performance Academy.

The kids are scattered around the gym. There are those working with Grinnell, and others who are working with trainers—nearly all of whom are either current MSU students or recent graduates of the university’s kinesiology programs.

Grinnell is intently watching the kids do jumping squats while lifting five-pound weights with one arm. It’s a tricky move and some of them aren’t doing the squat correctly—but Grinnell is patient. He doesn’t get mad or frustrated; he simply demonstrates the move and asks them to try again.

An incredibly driven person, “How bad do you want it?” has become a mantra of Grinnell’s. Those who know him describe him as ambitious, assertive and motivated.

So, where did one of the highest-grossing trainers to ever come out of the Michigan Athletic Club learn the science of movement?

The fundamentals

At 19, Grinnell was studying business at MSU and working at a local health supplement store to make extra money.

Was he happy? Not so much.

Restless? Definitely.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do, but people were saying I had a knack for training,” Grinnell said. “It was when I began training my brother for the Major League Baseball draft that I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

An athlete in high school, Grinnell was always interested in fitness and had become a bodybuilder. Heading into his sophomore year at MSU, Grinnell decided to take it to the next level and switched his major to kinesiology, health promotion; he became a certified trainer and worked in a local gym.

“The first thing I realized was that I needed to learn more about the science behind exercise. I knew about nutrition but I needed the base the ‘Kin’ major offered me,” Grinnell said. “It gave me the scientific knowledge that backed up what I had already learned in the real world.”

But Grinnell didn’t want to just graduate, he wanted to be the best—“not just a meathead bodybuilder,” he added.

“There were a couple professors who really pushed me,” Grinnell said. “While at MSU, I had opportunities to work with those who were autistic or in wheelchairs … basically, I learned how to work with people. I conversed with other experts and trainers in the field so I knew what I was talking about.”

Things took off after graduation in 2004. Grinnell got married—to another kinesiology graduate—and began working at the MAC in East Lansing as a trainer. While there, he built an intern program that became highly sought-after by kinesiology students.

After four years and loads of hard work, Grinnell began asking questions many pose throughout their professional lives: “How can I get better? What’s next for my career?”

At the same time, kinesiology graduate and physical trainer Rebecca Klinger was asking the same question. And, after some prompting from a real estate friend to open State of Fitness in its current location, Grinnell and Klinger became willing to take the risk of business ownership.

And into the deep end they jumped.

A new chapter

Grinnell, now 31, and Klinger are co-owners of State of Fitness, a unique exercise and training facility for all ages and fitness levels, located on Grand River in East Lansing. The gym has become a well-oiled machine, fueled by the high energy of its owners and staff. At the end of 2012, there were six MSU kinesiology graduates and 13 MSU student interns working with Grinnell.

Ben Boudro, an exercise physiology graduate student and current trainer at State of Fitness, said Grinnell embodies all the qualities of a true leader.

“I sometimes get to the gym at 4:30 a.m. and Justin is already there, and he’ll stay until seven at night,” said Boudro. “He also meshes well with different personalities—he finds a way to connect then uses that connection to make it the best workout a person has ever had.”

Justin-Grinnell-2012-020Grinnell has created an innovative intern program and considers it a feeder system. He says that, on occasion, there are even those that return for a second internship.

Jo Hartwell, lead advisor for the Department of Kinesiology, has known Grinnell a number of years. “We encourage the students in the kinesiology program to get out and do,” Hartwell said. “Justin is a good example of an alumnus giving back to the community and encouraging students to do the same.”

Each month, Hartwell sends out a newsletter to students and graduates that typically highlights jobs or internships, and nearly every month Grinnell is seeking one or both.

“A lot of interns don’t get much out of their internships, and I don’t think that’s fair,” remarked Grinnell. “I’ve got to always be on my toes, so they get the best education. I have to hold up my end and give students a great experience.”

Now, after three years in business, Grinnell feels the company is doing well with a solid business model and efficient staff. Marketing-wise, Grinnell has written columns for a number of years for local fitness magazine Healthy & Fit as well as national magazine Muscle & Fitness. He also has a blog ( and is currently working on an e-book about different approaches to nutrition.

Yet, challenges within the industry remain.

“Unfortunately, there aren’t many places like this [State of Fitness] that are qualified to offer sound advice,” Grinnell adds. “We are going to start seeing fewer and fewer massive gyms, and in the next five years I know we’ll see an explosion in the demand for personal trainers.”

Hartwell couldn’t agree more.

“Personal trainers are definitely in demand,” she said. “A Bachelor of Science in kinesiology provides an excellent foundation. Students are prepared by learning everything there is to know about the human body—and that, combined with a recognized personal trainer certification, makes our graduates very marketable.”

As for the future, Grinnell and Klinger hope to open another facility within the next couple of years, which means more staff—good news for the local economy and MSU kinesiology graduates.

Until then, Grinnell will keep asking himself: “How bad do you want it?”

And then he’ll go get it.


From the Development Director

The Power of A Scholarship

phillips-melissaIt’s great to be home! I joined the College of Education Development Office team on Dec. 3, 2012 and, so far, I have loved every minute of being back in Spartan country.

I graduated from Michigan State in 1997 and am a Spartan through and through. Most recently, I spent time as the senior director of development for Iowa State University’s College of Business and prior to that was an associate director of development for the University of Pennsylvania’s Western region. I started my career in development with a five-year stint at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to lead this team. In collaboration with Dean Donald Heller, who brings a great deal of expertise, enthusiasm and determination to the job, I anticipate great things to come for our college in the near future.

As a student, I understood the impact a scholarship can have. Scholarships are not handouts. They can be, and often are, a much-needed vehicle that can make the difference in a person’s future.

As a young woman and single parent, I wanted desperately to attend and graduate from college. I would be the first person in my family to receive a degree. I had been working since the age of 15 and didn’t come from a family that had the financial means to support four years at a major university. A scholarship was my only hope to go to college. Through perseverance, family support, many extra hours in the classroom and always having my nose in the book, I qualified to receive a scholarship.

Because of that scholarship, I was able to continue my education at Michigan State. Because of that scholarship, I was able to take steps toward ensuring a secure future for myself and my daughter. Because of that scholarship, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college.

I share that story because the true power of a scholarship cannot be measured. Each prospective student or potential recipient is different. Each scholarship will have a special impact, but most importantly, each scholarship is extremely vital to the success of our students, who are our future leaders.

I truly understand the power of a scholarship because I wouldn’t be where I am today without the many wonderful alumni, faculty, staff and friends of MSU. Similarly, the success we have achieved in the College of Education would not be possible without the alumni, friends, faculty and volunteers who give of their time, talent and resources.

Dean Heller has remarked that “we have a great responsibility educating students who will be future educators, researchers and leaders.” Our goal is to provide the support needed to help the college continue to build on its success, and to recruit the best and the brightest students and most talented faculty and staff. The College of Education is poised to build on our momentum and provide opportunities for our students and faculty. I hope that you will help us elevate the college to the next level.

I’m thrilled to be back and will work hard every single day to make a positive impact on the College of Education and Michigan State University as a whole.

Go State!

Final Thoughts: Need a Job?

Create a Strong Job Search Strategy

Final-Thoughts-Parker“Why isn’t my job search getting me anywhere?”

As the director of alumni career services for the MSU Alumni Association, I frequently get this question from graduates. Let me give an example.

A recent call came from Kate (not her real name), who is a 2008 MSU College of Education graduate. She secured a position immediately, but found herself on a job hunt in 2012 after an unexpected layoff.

At the time of her call, Kate was three months into her search and frustrated. Not only was she not getting job offers—she wasn’t even getting calls from résumé submissions and applications.

What was wrong with Kate? Nothing. Kate was a great elementary school teacher who happened to be a terrible job seeker. Most professionals are better at doing their life’s work than looking for work; however, the current job market demands that professionals have a strong job search strategy.

Kate had three main trouble spots.

The first was overly-generic content in her cover letters and résumé. With the exception of changing the name and address of the school in her cover letter, all submissions were identical. Though there are many universal similarities among what schools value when it comes to educating children, there are differences. The differences are often what set schools apart.

What Kate was failing to recognize was that she wasn’t selling her background in connection with what was unique about each school in terms of its mission, philosophy, programming, student population, parent involvement, innovation strategy and the like.

By treating each institution as “just another school,” she was being treated as “just another candidate.” Kate solved the problem by:

  • Reading annual welcome letters from principals and superintendents on school websites
  • Studying schools’ mission statements
  • Reviewing Board of Education minutes
  • Researching communities the schools served
  • Absorbing the information found in staff bios and school newsletters

She used the information she found to pinpoint what the schools valued—and tailored each submission accordingly.

The second trouble spot was an impersonal approach when engaging prospective employers. Kate’s cover letters began with: “Dear Hiring Manager.” By using this impersonal label, Kate was missing an easy way to show respect for (and interest in) the person she hoped to work for some day.

In her defense, contact names were not provided in the original postings. Most schools, however, are extremely transparent when it comes to staff directories. She solved the problem by inserting the principal’s name when the primary contact wasn’t clear. If a school has an opening, it’s a safe bet the principal will be involved.

The third—and probably most significant—trouble spot was relying on superficial contact to get herself noticed. While pressing submit on an electronic application, Kate would cross her fingers, hoping that someone on the other end of the digital black hole would 1.) see her,

2.) realize how great she was and 3.) pluck her out of a sea of other qualified applicants.
Today, even with a targeted message and personal approach, getting noticed may not happen. Knowing someone within the inner-workings of an organization greatly increases the odds of success. Kate’s challenge was that she didn’t have any direct contacts in the schools she was approaching. The good news is that individuals who work within education tend to be approachable, visible and enthusiastic about meeting other people who do what they do.

So to build connections where none had existed before, Kate contacted teachers, administrators, parent leaders and board members involved with the schools to build awareness of her interest in joining their community. She even sought out their perspectives on the school’s goals, accomplishments and culture.

Kate also began networking through LinkedIn and other channels to see if any Spartans worked for the school. For the districts near her, Kate made schools aware of her willingness to volunteer and substitute, so they’d have chances to get to know her.

Because of her hard work and willingness to step out of her cookie-cutter job search approach, Kate is closing in on a new opportunity and enjoying the momentum she’s experiencing. She’s discovered she is not only a great teacher—she is a great learner.

Upcoming Events:

March 9
Get a Job event. To volunteer as an interviewer for current interns visit:

April 15
Teacher & Administrator Recruitment Fair