Excerpts from Dean Dantley's Opening Community Meeting Address

I’d like to take this opportunity to once again welcome all of the EHS community to the 2015-16 academic year. It is a real honor for me to welcome you as your new dean and may I say that I am very happy to be back and I look forward to working with each of you throughout this year and the years to come. I hope that you will find my leadership to be one that sets high expectations, that operates in excellence and going beyond the norm, that is marked by attention to vision and mission, one that is grounded in what is just and equitable and one that wants us to move into frontiers where we have only heretofore dreamed about but have not dared to take the steps to go there.

It’s a new day for our college.

Allow me, please, to share with you some thoughts I have regarding our College’s present and our future. I am convinced that the College of Education, Health and Society has all of the resources to become a leading college not merely here among the other colleges at Miami University but throughout the state and indeed the nation. That is one of my goals.

We should make it the case that when prospective parents and students and prospective faculty and staff think about education in all of its facets, public health, kinesiology, sport leadership and management, nutrition, social work and family studies, that our College will be one among the top institutions these prospective members of the Miami community will have to consider. I will talk more about that later.

As this is a new academic year this is also a new day for our College or actually for our EHS Community. It is the time for us to consider new paths and new ways of doing what it is that we have always done. It is time for us to become critically reflective about processes and rituals that we have honored and almost worshiped, over the years, and to determine if they have genuinely served us to move our College into a dimension where we are relevant, on the cutting edge, and setting the standard for other colleges like us to follow. That is, in my mind, a must for us.

We must be relevant. We must be on the cutting-edge, and we must set the standard for other colleges like us to follow. I strongly believe that we have the critical ingredients through the five departments of our College, the students and the staff to impact positively the human condition in our immediate environment but also in urban centers, suburban and rural areas and in fact in international venues as well. One of my goals is for us to begin to see ourselves and to interact with one another as a community fully cognizant of the divergent thinking, diversity of cultures and the multiplicity of disciplines represented in our College.

I want to see us move beyond, as a community, merely rhetorically endorsing diversity but to pursue the celebration of diversity in the fullest meaning of the word. Community implies that while we have many things in common, we also have differences and those commonalities as well as differences make us the unique community that we are. The differences in perspectives that are inherent in the roles we play in the College, be they faculty, staff, or administrative, all of them help to contribute to the community culture of EHS. That is why I wanted every member of the EHS community to be here for this opening luncheon and meeting.

It takes every one of us, staff, faculty, students and administration, working together and honoring the voices that we bring in order to cause our college to function as a vibrant and inclusive community. As each of us has a role to play and often several roles to play in the College, it is vitally important that we adopt the mind-set that what we bring through the execution of our roles contributes to the whole. We need one another to support the work that each of us is attempting to accomplish. We need the administrative assistants and other support staff members as much as we need members of the faculty in order to do the work of the College.

Forging community is not simple. Often it demands a change of mind, changes in policy, changes in expectations in order for genuine community to take place. This means having those difficult, sometimes painful conversations, at times that demand candor and transparency but are essential to our growth as a community. Our becoming a strong, vibrant and productive community is one of my goals for this year.

In short order you will hear ways that some, who have thought about this, would like to suggest to build community and will of course take the suggestions you might have to make this community building goal come to pass. People like Judy Rogers, Tom Misco and Kathy Salmon have already thought of ways to bring community on their portion of the third floor of McGuffey.

The Dean’s staff led by Denise Baszile and Dawn Tsirelis is also planning multiple ways for us to come together, to genuinely get to know one another and to be of support for one another as we contribute through our many roles in the College. More creative ways like that I am sure will be generated throughout the year. So building a positive, inclusive community is one of my goals for this year.

I definitely owe some gratitude to the past leadership of EHS. A phenomenal foundation has been set by previous administrations. I am particularly grateful for the work of former dean, Carine Feyten for establishing a standard and a hallmark to define our College. No doubt, Susan Mosley Howard helped to maintain the standard of excellence during her interim period as dean. And to Susan, I am also very grateful. All of that tremendous foundation building will allow us to use creativity and imagination to move the College of Education, Health and Society to a greater place of prominence and reputation.

I’d like to take a few minutes now to share with you more of my goals that I hope will guide my work and will set the course for this year. I mentioned to you earlier one of my overarching goals for our division. My desire is for the College of Education, Health and Society to have a national as well as international reputation as being a college that not only prepares our students, upon graduation, to handle professional challenges with excellence, in urban, suburban, rural venues, but that our graduates will also be able to do that work through a commitment to what is socially just, and with an obligation to challenge systems and institutional practices that marginalize and disenfranchise any member of society based upon race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability or any other identity marker.

So my first goal is to enhance the national reputation of the College that singles us out as a College of academic prowess and social justice commitment. Second and perhaps equal to the first is the challenge we must meet in increasing our undergraduate and fee-paying graduate student enrollment. It seems to me that the only ones who can best sell our college and tell our story are the people in this room and our students. As we more systematically and strategically tell our story, we will see the results of the positive marketing. I am very pleased that our graduate enrollments are on an upward trend this year. However I would like to set as a target for our graduate programs an increase of 15% as well. That is 65 new graduate students for the 2016-17 academic year.

My third goal is for the College of Education, Health and Society to actively pursue the living out of our vision and mission. As a tangible way for you to keep the vision in mind, each of you has been given a mug with the vision printed on the back. Hopefully, this will remind you of the very powerful vision that the College has adopted a number of years ago. Now is the time to make sure that we take steps to bring the vision to fruition and not allow it to become simply a statement on our website or in published materials. The vision is always a guide that demands effort and resources to reach.  This year I will be putting effort and resources on the portion of the vision that focuses on the College transforming those we serve through an integrated, holistic approach.

This means that meaningful, thoughtful efforts to increase interdisciplinarity that positively impacts our students and the communities we serve throughout the College will certainly get my attention and will be the kinds of endeavors I will be prone to support. Many of you already are involved in these kinds of interdisciplinary efforts. My goal is to build upon those and to see more of them. I firmly believe that we have all of the departments in our College to make a positive impact on the human condition.

The events of the winter and the spring in Cincinnati and Monroe, Ohio and nationally in Charleston, South Carolina, Ferguson, Missouri, Texas and New York have caused me to believe even more strongly that the College of Education, Health and Society has the research and teaching, service and partnership resources to positively impact the resolution of the issues we have all witnessed over the second half of the year. If ever we needed research that unashamedly tackles the major issues of our society, it is now.

We have the resources to ask the questions as well as to provide the answers to issues of community, the African American community and police, health care disparities, changing family structures, motivating young people to become teachers, and helping to change the public’s perceptions about the teaching profession teaching English language learners and engaging their families and dismantling the xenophobic ideas that are slowly attempting to undergird the nation’s perspective on immigration. We have all of that at our disposal. It is very difficult for me to comprehend how any professional graduating from our College could do so without engaging with each of the departments in EHS. So that, in doing so, the students’ education is an example of our commitment to an integrated holistic approach.

My leadership will be pushing this interdisciplinary goal. It is a new day for our College. It is time for us to build upon the achievements we have enjoyed in the past but certainly not to rest on them. We have many, many challenges we have to meet. Some include increasing our use of on-line instruction, increasing our external grant funding and creating more 4+1 programs. These are challenges but I believe that we can definitely meet them.

So in summary, the goals we will pursue this year are the building of community, enhancing the national and international reputation of the College as one that is genuinely committed to academic rigor, equity and social justice, to increase both our undergraduate and fee paying graduate student enrollments and living out the portion of our vision that highlights transforming those whom we serve through a holistic, integrated approach.

I anticipate that you will do your very best to ensure that these goals come to fruition through the multiple ways you contribute to the success of our college.