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Beth Burch, seen in her office in Academic Complex Building B, is beginning her second semester as dean of the Graduate School of Education.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
GSE dean stresses school visibility, growth
January 21, 2015Tweet
Beth Burch is looking to increase the visibility of the Graduate School of Education as she enters her second semester as dean.
“We want to revitalize and reinvigorate the school,” she said. “We want to bring the joy back to teaching and research because it is fun to work with young people.”
Burch, a Binghamton University faculty member since 1994, became dean on Sept. 1 after former Dean S.G. Grant returned to the faculty to serve as principal investigator for a multi-million dollar grant from the New York State Education Department to create units for the state’s K-12 social studies curriculum.
She described her first semester in the position as “exciting, hectic, a real adventure and a lot of fun.”
“The thing that surprised me is how little is known about the Graduate School of Education across campus,” Burch said. “That is one of my main goals: (Making sure) everyone on campus knows GSE and knows the great programs we have here.”
Burch, who previously served as division director of education in Binghamton University’s School of Education and Human Development from 2002-2004, said the GSE is now increasing its presence on the Internet and social media, while further engaging students and alumni. The school also is improving the physical space in and around its offices in Academic Complex Building B.
“We are trying to increase our outreach and have more people find us,” she said.
The school, created in 2007 when the School of Education and Human Development was split into the GSE and the College of Community and Public Affairs, prepares educators and administrators who are dedicated to both their professions and diverse learning communities.
The strength of the school starts with its two-dozen faculty members, Burch said.
“We have excellent faculty who are deep in research and very good teachers,” she said. “All of them come from teaching backgrounds and have formal teaching experience. We not only have a great teacher/education program, but a very good leadership/administration program that prepares superintendents and principals.
“Any student who comes through GSE should expect really good teaching because that’s what our lives have been founded on.”
Equally important to the school’s mission are the students who aspire to become teachers and administrators. Many of the students come from the Binghamton region, Burch said, and receive hands-on experience in local schools.
“Our students are dedicated to the profession,” she said. “It’s a challenging time to be a teacher. Teachers have to assume a lot of responsibility and make a lot of changes in the way that they teach. They are now being evaluated in a different way. They are teaching to demanding, new standards. … Teaching is not one of those professions in which you make a lot of money. If you want to get into teaching during challenging, exciting times like these, you are a dedicated person.”
One way the school has made an impact across campus over the past year is through its undergraduate education minor. The minor, which provides undergraduates with insights into careers in educational fields, has grown and now enrolls more than 300 students.
Burch learned first-hand about the quality of the students last spring while teaching a writing course in the minor.
“There were freshmen to seniors in the course,” she said. “I enjoyed teaching them so much. I thought: ‘These are the kinds of people I want in our program.’”
Even if students decide not to pursue a teaching career, Burch said the minor can supply valuable skills such as learning about individuals with disabilities, adolescent development and basic educational statistics.
“There are all kinds of ways that knowing about education can touch your life beyond being a teacher,” she said. “That’s what the minor can do.”
Other programs that Burch is excited about include the Liberty Partnership, which provides support to local high-need/at-risk students, the Master Teacher program, the Talent Search Project and the Teacher Leader Quality Partnership (TLQP), which offers research-based professional development for state math teachers in grades 3-9.
Burch stressed the importance of the support that the school has received from the University, particularly the provost’s office, communications and marketing, and Harpur Advising.
“Lots of people are helping us succeed,” she said.
There is room for growth in the Graduate School of Education as it raises its profile and recruiting initiatives while working to revamp its doctoral program, Burch said. She added that she would like the number of students at the school to increase by 10 percent by 2016.
“The education market is rebounding slowly, but it is rebounding,” she said. “A lot of teachers lost their jobs (in 2008-09) when school districts had to shrink. Those jobs have never fully returned, but I think they are coming back.
“As the community begins to rebound and we ramp up our recruiting, I know we can grow.”