Wesleyan Establishes College of Education Studies

Students at Wesleyan have long been interested in studying educational practice and policy, and have been committed to working with local schools and children through a wide variety of programs. Here, Emma Distler '19 plays an interactive reading and counting game with a four-year-old through Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program organized by Anna Shusterman and her students every summer.

Students at Wesleyan have long been interested in studying educational practice and policy, and have been committed to working with local schools and children through a wide variety of programs. Here, Emma Distler ’19 plays an interactive reading and counting game with a 4-year-old through Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program organized by Anna Shusterman and her students every summer.

Wesleyan has announced the establishment of a College of Education Studies, along with a new linked major in Education Studies.

Rooted in a liberal arts framework, the new College will foster interdisciplinary scholarship of education studies that is connected to practice and policy. It is an opportunity for Wesleyan to integrate serious scholarship with the University’s social justice mission, according to Associate Professors of Psychology Anna Shusterman and Steve Stemler, the co-chairs of the newly formed College.

A proposal to establish the College was unanimously endorsed by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) earlier this year, and was approved by a vote of the full faculty on April 14.

“We are tremendously excited by the amount of energy around this project that we have seen coming from all corners of the University,” said Stemler. “It is such a truly interdisciplinary project that it just feels like an ideal match for a liberal arts environment and fits in perfectly with the cohort-building ethos of colleges on this campus.”

The field of education studies has been developing on campus for nearly a decade, with a certificate established in 2011 that evolved into a minor in 2017, and growing numbers of students pursuing studies in this field. More than 90 currently-enrolled students have declared the minor in education studies, representing majors in 27 different departments and programs. According to Shusterman, more than 20 students have already declared the new major since it was approved.

In addition to the academic program for students—including both a linked major and a minor in education studies—the College will feature research-practice partnerships with local school districts and other organizations; will offer career support, practicums, and internships; and will hold conferences, colloquia, and intellectual exchanges. Eventually, it is hoped that the College will host postdocs, visiting scholars, and a think tank.

While the College does not currently offer a formal path to teacher certification, “we feel that it will provide really good foundational knowledge for students who want to go into teaching, whether they follow a traditional MA path or a different approach, such as teaching in an independent school or internationally,” said Shusterman. “The College will continue to curate opportunities for students and provide individualized advising to help students plan out their path to teaching careers.”

The College will also be home to a new initiative, the Middletown-Wesleyan Collaborative, which will formally organize and coordinate the wide variety of programs and volunteer opportunities through which Wesleyan students already engage with local schools and schoolchildren. Currently in its planning stages, the project entails regular discussions and strategy-building between staff at Wesleyan’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships and the Middletown Superintendent’s office.

“[Jewett Center director] Clifton Watson and I have had a series of dynamic and wide-ranging conversations with Middletown [Public Schools] Superintendent Dr. Michael Conner and Director of Innovation & Grants Natalie Forbes,” explained Shusterman. “Our goals range from building a data science venture, which would allow the University to assist and learn from Middletown as a diverse and innovative school district, to holding joint trainings, pedagogical groups, and initiatives on topics like STEM, arts education, socio-emotional development, and college preparation, to name a few. These are areas where both communities have a wealth of knowledge and resources, and where there are exciting, immediate possibilities to enhance each other’s work.”

The College’s supporters also look forward to opportunities for alumni relations and community building.

“Last semester, we worked with the Office of Advancement on an alumni survey, and received responses from over 500 alumni who are currently working in the field of education and are looking forward to connecting with the College of Education Studies in different ways. Some are superintendents, others are teachers, others are in policy, law, etc.,” said Stemler. “Alumni are very excited about this new endeavor.”

He invited members of the great Wesleyan community who work, or have worked, in the field of education and are interested in connecting with the new College of Education study to complete this survey.

Shusterman and Stemler thanked the College’s advisory board of 30 faculty and staff, and President Michael Roth for his enthusiastic support in establishing the new college.

“I take great pride in Wesleyan’s long tradition of interdisciplinary colleges,” said Roth. “For many years, our students, alumni, faculty, and staff have been engaged with education studies, and it is altogether fitting that we focus that network of experience, inquiry, and practice in this new college. I know the program will contribute much to our students, and to this multi-dimensional field.”