College News and Notes: Summer 2021



New look, feel to UNI brand reflects the UNI story 

New COE lockup University of Northern Iowa introduced a new brand on February 8, 2021, with the launch of a new identity and an updated story which focuses on our core purpose: to help our students achieve their unrealized potential. 

An initial flurry of communications in February to the UNI internal community, alumni and friends launched the initiative which was the culmination of nearly two years of effort. A research-based endeavor, the planning included input from nearly 4,000 constituents to help lay the foundation for the brand platform, messaging, creative and visual identity which emerged. 

For the College of Education, that has meant a new logo lockup for the college, its departments and units and the beginning of an updated brand story -- including a new look for our website now in progress. You can also expect to see an updated Premier alumni magazine in the next year.  Read more about the new UNI brand. 

New year brings leadership changes

  • Benjamin Forsyth has shifted from his position as head, Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies (EPFLS), to director, educator preparation. This College of Education position is part of a merger of the Office of Teacher Education and the COE Office of Advising into a new College of Education Advising and Teacher Education Success (CATS) Office. The CATS office will dually serve the advising needs of the college as well as oversee the admission and licensure preparation process for all undergraduate UNI Teacher Education students. 
  • Robert Boody will serve as the one-year interim department head for EPFLS. 
  • Robin Dada will serve a one-year appointment as interim head, Special Education, in addition to her role as head, Curriculum and Instruction. Susan Etscheidt, past head, is resuming teaching research and grant work. 
  • Stephanie Schmitz, associate dean, is returning to full-time teaching as part of the school psychology faculty. 

Spring heralds completion of first Teach Waterloo class 

Smith, Palmer, Boone with Teach WaterlooThe triumvirate is complete. With spring 2021 commencement, Pamela Palmer and Benjamin Smith joined Dawn Boone as the first graduates of the Teach Waterloo program. 

Palmer and Smith officially joined the ranks of graduates on May 8 after student teaching, while Boone finished in November 2020. The three began a shared journey in summer 2018 as part of the first class for this initiative intended to increase diversity within the teaching workforce. It’s been a partnership of the University of Northern Iowa College of Education and the Waterloo Community School District, with funding support from the McElroy Trust.

Boone, Palmer and Smith were also featured in UNI Magazine. A second cohort of 8 students will begin its second year of studies this fall. 

Kern grant extends impact of Institute for Educational Leadership 

A new five-year, $2.57 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation will bolster the University of Northern Iowa’s Institute for Educational Leadership’s “Leading and Learning with Character” program, which has provided professional development for Iowa school leaders since 2018. 

“This work is focused on rich dialogue around ethical, character-driven leadership that positively impacts schools and communities,” said Denise Schares, director and associate professor of educational psychology, foundations and leadership studies, in a UNI Foundation release. “We are creating a model of support for educational leadership and character development that is being shared nationally.” 

The first phase of the program was targeted to principals, superintendents and school board members in Iowa’s rural school districts that may have limited access to professional development. The new grant will allow the IEL to connect with new audiences such as non-public school leaders, leaders supporting special education teachers and classroom teachers. With this second phase, Schares estimates that, cumulatively, the program should reach 75 percent of Iowa school districts and more than 3,000 educators. 

The new funding coincides with recently enacted state standards for leadership, including an ethics standard, an area of focus for the program. The grant supports IEL leadership and staffing. 

Pre-service teachers gather on Zoom for STEM education

2021 STEM Pre-Service conferenceMore than 100 student registrants from all over Iowa teacher preparation programs intersected with STEM education at the 2021 Pre-Service Teachers STEM Conference hosted as a virtual event on April 9 and 10 by the University of Northern Iowa College of Education and the Northeast Iowa Region Governor's STEM Advisory Council. Called “Be Inspired: STEM in Your Future Classroom,” the effort was a shared initiative of the two hosts plus University of Iowa, Iowa State University and Upper Iowa University. 

Students heard from a full slate of presentations, breakout and workshop sessions, including these keynote presentations:

  • Ohkee Lee, professor, childhood education, New York University, “STEM Education with Equity:
  • Barb Schwamman, superintendent, Osage Community School District, “Computer Science Education, Why YOU Matter!” 
  • Jeff Weld, executive director, Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. 

The day also included several virtual “field trips'' to the UNI Metal Casting Center, the UNI Botanical Center, Wartburg Ioponics and the Iowa Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education.  “We were excited to offer sessions during this virtual conference that we wouldn’t be able to offer in a traditional face-to-face conference,” says Atwood-Blaine. 

And that's not all...

2021 Read-In RemoteThough mask mandates ended just prior to the end of spring semester, COVID-19 limited face-to-face gatherings for the school year. This past spring, the College of Education’s  commitment to professional development and engagement was maintained with several notable virtual conferences:

  • African American Read-In, which connected with nearly 1,000 first graders in Waterloo and Hudson schools despite a switch to a virtual format for its 15th year. 
  • African American Children and Families Conference, with around 400 registrants for its 10th year
  • A series of nine sessions in the Virtuous Educator Speaker Series which averaged 22 to 38 attendees
  • Carlton-Mellichamp Lecture in Education, March 30 and 31, with about 125 participants in four sessions. Guest speaker Justin Haegele, a leader in adapted physical education, led a virtual keynote presentation on  "Questioning the Inclusiveness of Education," along with smaller conversations with fellow professionals, faculty and students. 

Planning committees, particularly for the African American Read-In and African American Children and Families Conference, worked in conjunction with UNI information technology partners to ensure successful connections --sometimes, thousands of miles apart. 

Illuminating educators, students and staff

spring 2021 Diversity DialogueSteps toward broader conversation regarding diversity, equity and inclusion continued this past spring with these initiatives:

  • A second “Diversity Dialogue” with teacher education students, featuring a virtual panel discussion on “Engaging in Difficult Conversations,” a topic that emerged from a previous dialogue session. Among the panelists participating were alumni: Brandy Smith (BA, ‘95; MA, ‘05; EdD, ‘18), Cedar Rapids AEA early childhood consultant; Zeina Yousof (MA, ‘10; EdD, ‘16) school psychology graduate student; and Sheena Canady (MA, ‘15; ASC, ‘16) principal, George Washington Carver Academy, Waterloo

 “The panel was amazing—such a great group of educators with diverse experiences and backgrounds,” says Stephanie Schmitz, associate dean. “They were able to share experiences, learnings and suggestions with the groups and there were some good student questions as well.”  

  • “Illuminating Educator Series,” an opportunity to supplement information from classes with topical virtual conversations. Speakers included:
    • Susan Etscheidt, professor, special education, “What all educators need to know about IEPs and 504 plans.”
    • School psychology graduate students Leigh Hanefeld and Linda Spencer.” “Educating Educators about Student Mental Health Issues.” 
    • Book club review of “This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake up, Take Action and Do the Work.” 

Students present at UNI research conferences 

Research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels is a distinctive part of the experience at UNI and the college. College of Education students participated in these spring sessions: 

Honors Research Day 

  • Baylee Smith, elementary education/middle level dual:“Applying the Education Debt to Waterloo, Iowa,”
  • Grace Brady, elementary education/middle level dual: “A Critical Examination of Corporate Ideology in Educational Policy and Practice: The Real Cost”

INSPIRE student research and engagement conference

  • Kristina Cavey, kinesiology graduate program: “Halo Sport Ergonomic Effects on Older Individuals' Cognitive, Balance and Motor Performance.” Co-authored with COE faculty member Kelsey Bourbeau, it also received the 2020 Midwest Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine: Outstanding Graduate Research Project of the Year. 
  • Abigail Auten, kinesiology graduate program: “Effects of Transcranial Direct Stimulation of the Motor Cortex on Cycling Time Trial Performance and Prefrontal Cortex-A. Co-authored with Cavey and Emily Busta

New program and options: Student affairs goes online, public health major refined 

New online option for student affairs professionals. In June, a new online option for students seeking to advance their career in the field of student affairs in postsecondary education received approval. This new, flexible pathway to the MA degree is in addition to the popular on-campus option which remains. 

Regents approve redefined public health program. Beginning fall 2021, students in the Department of Health, Recreation and Community Services will earn a degree in public health, formally public health and education. “In our rapidly evolving environment, there is a great need to improve overall health and reduce risk to populations within communities. These professional areas of study are more important than ever,” says Kathleen Scholl, department head. With this latest update, students can earn public health degrees with an emphasis in community health or environmental health science. They can also seek certificates in corporate fitness, wellness, women’s health and global health and humanitarian studies. 

Grants bring added opportunity for faculty, students 

Space grant supports learning tool using NASA scenarios
Dana Atwood-Blaine, assistant professor and Jacobson Science Fellow, is among a group of four UNI faculty and staff who received a $9,999 grant by the Iowa Space Grant Consortium for the project NASA Scenarios for Distanced STEM Curriculum on Information Literacy and Science Communication. The group plans to create an interactive prototype learning tool based on near-future NASA exploration scenarios which will engage students from diverse backgrounds and support remote teaching. 

New grant awarded to CET will focus on trauma-informed care.
A new multi-year grant from Cedar Valley United Way will support a new partnership between the Waterloo Community School District (WCSD) and the UNI Center for Educational Transformation (CET). The program -- We Can! Building Relationships and Resilience -- has a goal to develop a system of trauma-informed care in the home and at school to help teachers and parents better recognize and respond to the symptoms of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Lisa Hooper, Richard O. Jacobson Endowed Chair for Research and director of the CET, says the economic, cultural and health impacts of the past year’s pandemic added even greater urgency for trauma-informed training. The program will include partnering with parents and be culturally tailored to the specific needs of Waterloo community,  families and school districts. 

Faculty retirements

At the end of the 2020-21 academic year, the UNI College of Education wished a happy retirement to the following faculty and instructors who, collectively, represent 115 years of service to UNI and the college.

  • Barbara Bakker, 14 years, Health, recreation and community services
  • Lynne Ensworth, 25 years, Curriculum and instruction
  • Lea Ann Shaddox, 36 years, Kinesiology
  • Deb Tidwell, 31 years, Curriculum and instruction 
  • Catherine Zeman, 29 years, Health, recreation and community services 

New student council, additions to Dean’s Advisory group 

A new Student Leadership Council composed of student leaders of College of Education-related student organizations and other key student roles was formed in spring 2021. “This will give our students an added voice at the table, and also allow us to build their capacity for leadership,” says Dean Colleen Mulholland.

The student group joins the COE Leadership Council (deans, department heads, marketing and development) and the COE Dean’s Advisory Council in providing leadership, guidance and advocacy for the college. New representatives for the COE Advisory Council include:

  • Ron Rinehart, EPFLS, a COE faculty representative
  • Victoria Robinson, emeritus professor, has also joined the council
  • Stephanie Mohorne, associate superintendent, Waterloo Community School District 

The dean’s advisory council is primarily an external group of leaders in education, business and government. See the full listing of members.