Multi-faceted Educators

Nathan Duong | New University

“Under Construction Indefinitely” is not just a clever moniker for UC Irvine. Originally, it refers to the ongoing construction expansion of the campus that began in the 1980s. It was also the title of an exhibit at the Langson Library in 2005 that detailed the architectural styles of UCI’s buildings.

Apart from the architectural connotations of the phrase, UCI embodies a different one — the ways the university has changed over the years in interacting with its students, faculty and community.

The UC Irvine School of Education began in 1971 as the Office of Teacher Education, initially offering a teacher credential program, offering training for teachers and administrators. Its offices were located in the Social Science Tower until the Office became a Department  in 1991.

Professor Carol Booth Olson, Associate Professor in the School of Education and Director of the UCI Writing Project (1978), recalled that the goals of the Office of Education in 1973 were only oriented towards awarding teaching credentials at the time.

“All of the faculty who were professors had joint appointments in other units [in English, education, social sciences, among others],” she said. “That was the case until 1991 when we became a department .”

With the new designation, the Department of Education finally had a Department Chair, as well as full-time education faculty.

This allowed for the creation of graduate degree programs, including the Doctorate in Education in Educational Administration (1994) and the Masters of Arts in Teaching. For undergraduates who were interested in teaching, the minor in education was added in 1998.

The Ph.D. in Education program accepted its first students in the fall of 2007. Professor Mark Warschauer, the director of the Ph.D. in Education program in the School of Education, said the establishment of the program was a key event in the Department’s road to becoming a school by placing a large focus on research along with awarding teacher credentials.

“Having a Ph.D. program was critical,” he said. “It helped faculty recruitment, [and] I don’t think Dr. Vandell and others would have come here if the Ph.D. program wasn’t at least in the works. It really helped redefine our, at that point, Department.”

Dr. Vandell’s appointment as the Department of Education chair in 2006 also broke a chain of several who were basically “acting chairs” — one was a retiring chemistry professor.

The “revolving door” of chairs, Prof. Olson said, was finally closed with Dr. Vandell’s appointment.

“Dr. Vandell has a very excellent reputation in her own field of study,” she said. “We were very fortunate to get her, and based on her own reputation she was able to recruit top-level professors from other universities like [Dr.] Greg Duncan and George Farkas.

“She came here with a mission of helping us become a school, and I believe the central administration supported her in that. Our momentum and trajectory forward really grew because of Dr. Vandell.”

The Department of Education became a School officially after the UC Regents approved to reconstitute it as such in July. Dr. Vandell was named founding Dean in August.

With the official designation, Prof. Warschauer said the School can look forward to more than just increased grants.

“The most important thing isn’t the rankings or grant dollars —- it’s the quality of work we can do,” he said. “With the type of faculty we’ve been able to recruit, as well as the terrific Ph.D. students, we’ve been doing cutting edge research here that can be important for improving education in California and across the country.”

The School of Education will not receive a new building to house themselves in. However, the continuing research and growth in capabilities of impacting education at the local, state and national levels will keep the School of Education “under construction indefinitely.”