We find ourselves in a moment few could have ever imagined. The continued impact of COVID-19 and our collective reckoning with systemic racism have shaken many of us. While public health officials deal with the science of COVID-19, it is in large measure left to the education community to deal with the social, emotional, intellectual and civic effects of both crises. Never before have schools of education been so critically important to our democracy and to our nation’s future. We are in many ways in an existential state, one where we must ask who we are as a community, whether we will look out for one another, how will we meet this moment and how we can leave this world in better shape than it is in right now.
Last spring, long before this “new normal,” GSE faculty and staff held a discussion about our commitments to equity, diversity, justice, and inclusion. From that meeting we drafted “Defining our Commitment” statement. Building on this call to action, GSE has mobilized faculty, staff and students to better understand pervasive inequality and come together to create a path forward that is motivated by change and action.
We began the academic year with a “Teach-In for Racial Equity.” The purpose of this mandatory two-day event was for GSE faculty, staff and students to come together to engage in the “radical act of teaching and learning.” Together we learned from distinguished scholars and activists not only about the impact of racism and its relationship to educational inequality, but we were also charged to examine our own practices—as teachers, researchers and community advocates.
GSE’s commitment to breaking down barriers and becoming more inclusive began with our decision to waive the GRE requirement for all of our programs that are not prohibited from doing so legislatively. The waiver is currently in effect. We believe by doing this, we will see an increase in the diversity of our applicants. In the coming months we will continue to examine policies that serve to unnecessarily limit inclusivity and, whenever possible, dismantle them.
While GSE has stepped up its relationships with school and community partners over the past three years, the current crises have resulted in GSE taking an even larger step to positively impact individuals and communities. We have partnered with Buffalo Public Schools to offer tutoring support to any students in need, especially right now as the district is still 100% virtual.
While the impacts of COVID-19 and racial injustice are very real, I don’t want to lose sight of the brighter spots for GSE. This year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gifted Math Program. We also want to celebrate and welcome six spectacular new faculty who have already begun to make an impact within GSE. We graduated our first cohort of Teacher Residents, who are now all employed in Buffalo Public Schools, and we welcomed our next cohort. Now more than ever, creating purposeful pathways that serve to diversify the teaching profession is so critically important.
This edition of our magazine is also the first under a new name and a new design. We’d love to know what you think about the new design, layout, and contents.
There will come a time when we will be able to return to campus and pre-K-12 will once again welcome students in their buildings. Make no mistake, however: the classrooms we return to, whether in higher education or in pre-K-12, will be transformed. They must be. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many more reveal to us in plain sight that our schools must be more equitable and must explicitly address racism and education. GSE is committed to preparing those professionals who will lead the way to educating the next generation of students in a reimagined and more just world.
Stay healthy and stay safe,