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A Message from the Dean: April 2021

Dear SOE Billiken Alums,

Spring has certainly sprung in Midtown St. Louis and Saint Louis University is preparing for a rebirth in 2021! Once again, the SLU community – students, staff, and faculty alike – have shown that we can successfully deliver an in-person and safe educational experience for our students. And, with the ever-increasing numbers of students and community members being vaccinated each week, we are expecting to gradually return to some level of normalcy on our campus in 2021.

Along those lines, we are grateful that, thanks to endless efforts from SLU leadership and health officials in the city of St. Louis, we will have in-person pre-commencements offered here on campus in May 2021! The School of Education ceremony will be first on the list, and will be held on May 18 at 4 p.m. Check this site for more information on all of the 2021 commencement activities at SLU. While there are certainly restrictions, for the sake of safety, that will change the nature of the ceremonies, I am still absolutely thrilled that we will be able to gather in person! (Remember the uncertainty that surrounded us one year ago at this time … and, of course, we were unable to do anything in person in May 2020.)

In the midst of all of this optimism, the world continues to remind us how far we still need to go to create a society in which we all feel welcomed, valued, or even safe. During the past month alone, we have witnessed the murder of Asian-American women in Georgia and, even as Derek Chauvin is being tried for the May 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, yet another unarmed young Black man, Daunte Wright, was shot to death by police just a few miles from the courtroom.

So much work to do … and our mission as a Catholic Jesuit University calls us to be a leader in this work. While it is very difficult to decide what we should do to confront societal problems, we are not standing still. Associate Dean Schaller is leading our schoolwide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, which is planning regular events. We are working to create a more diverse community of students, staff, and faculty.  And we are engaging in very practical efforts, such as partnering with local high schools to develop a grow-your-own teacher pipeline so that our School of Education is supporting more local students and students of color. Our goal is for these students to, after graduation from SLU, return back to their own local schools to enhance the quality and diversity of their own teacher workforce.  

Of course there is much more to do, and our current strategies may be imperfect and insufficient. We will continue to be reflective, will be open to change, and interested in your feedback. Our aim is for our School of Education to be part of the solution in improving the openness, the equity, the vibrancy, and the overall well-being of our community – and we want to work with our entire SLU community toward that end.

On to the newsletter … there is so much going on at the School of Education that it was hard to decide which stories to highlight in this newsletter. First of all, we are fortunate to be in the position to be bringing on new faculty in 2021. While we are still hard at work completing a couple of searches, I am happy to share a sneak preview of one of our new faculty Billikens – Dr. Karen Hall, an educational leader in St. Louis and across Missouri will join our faculty this Fall! As much as I am excited about our new faculty, I am also always thrilled to share the good work of our former students; in that light, we are very happy to tell the story of our esteemed alumnus, Dr. Eric Clark, the President of Loyola Academy of St. Louis. Finally, as we look to a future, when we can again begin to travel within and beyond our national borders, we are continuing to imagine how we might sustain and grow our exciting partnership with school leaders in Belize. Read more about the origin of the Belize Partnership here.

Our SLU community, and our School of Education, is looking forward to exciting times ahead, and our alumni are central to everything we do. Please let us know if there are ways we can support you or communicate with you better. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Best wishes for a rejuvenating and safe summer,
Gary W. Ritter, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Education