A new Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Southern will serve as a “hub” to address pressing state and local education challenges at both the pre-K-12 and higher education levels.
Kari Sassu, professor of counseling and school psychology, has been named director of the Center, which was approved in September by the CSCU Board of Regents for Higher Education approved the
“This Center also will help fuel the engine of education in Connecticut by turning innovative ideas into meaningful projects,” said Sassu, who helped design Southern’s proposal with Stephen Hegedus, dean of the College of Education, and several faculty members.
“In other words, we plan to combine the theoretical with the practical,” Sassu said.
Hegedus and Sassu said examples of the challenges the Center will likely tackle in the months and years ahead include the lack of racial and ethnic diversity among faculty, especially in urban school districts, and mental health issues among students, recently sparked or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
They said the center also plans to look at ways to better prepare high school students for college, while also looking inward at our own university teaching practices.
The plan was lauded by the state Board of Education.
“The Center for Teaching and Learning is an example of SCSU’s visionary work (that) seeks to focus on improving the work of higher education and its direct impact on school improvement and learners’ achievements in Connecticut,” said Charlene Russell-Tucker, commissioner-designate of the state Department of Education, in a recent letter to the Board of Regents’ Academic Affairs Committee.
“The work of the Center will provide a robust body of research and professional development that can be utilized by educators to enhance the efforts of the larger educational community in Connecticut and beyond,” Russell-Tucker added.
“(The department) applauds your vision and implementation of a resource (that) will benefit educators, students, families and all those who week to improve the quality of education in the state of Connecticut for years to come,” she said.
Sassu said one of her first steps as director will be to form a steering committee to help in the development of the Center.
“We are excited about the new possibilities of the Center, building on our present strengths and establishing new partnerships and initiatives,” Hegedus said. “Kari looks forward to working with many constituencies across campus in establishing the Center.”