The writing is on the wall

If walls could talk in the College of Education, they would tell stories about all the elements that make up the teaching profession.

By Kris Foster
The Revisited campaign will see eight walls throughout the main floor of the Education Building get a custom makeover, explained Michelle Prytula, dean of the College of Education.

"The impetus wasn't to redecorate the walls," said Prytula. "This is all about alumni engagement, and you can't have that without student engage­ment. This is about affinity, connection and pride."

So a college group of faculty and staff began working with the university's marketing and communications team to redesign a number of walls based on words critical to the teaching profession and ending in a bold "ed"—such as Committed, Diversified and Represented.

The first wall, Committed— featuring the college's education oath and photos from the inaugural pinning ceremony— refers to the commitment the profession of teaching requires.

Diversified, the second wall, points to the diversity of students, faculty, staff and alumni in all forms—ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability and socioeconomic status. The wall also features members of the college community, numerous inspirational quotes on what diversity means and artwork.

Represented, the wall completed at the end of November, highlights all of the student associations—Education Students' Society, Indian Teacher Education Program and the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teachers Education Program— and includes a number of shadow boxes that will feature easily changed items to represent student voices in the college.

"The walls take a piece of the profession and bring it to life," said Prytula, adding that walls, each budgeted to cost between $2,000 and $5,000, will be the first décor update in the college in about 20 years.

Upcoming walls, Pytula continued, include: Treasured, slated for December and focusing on the child and family; Connected, going up in January, references connec­tions alumni, students and donors have to the college; Indigenized, in February, will reflect First Nations, Métis, and Inuit culture within the college; Discovered, in March, will focus on research and programming; and Cultured, in April, the last of the initial planned walls, will see fine arts and music education taking centre stage.

The Revisited campaign, which has received great feedback so far, Prytula continued, is just one aspect of the college's plans to increase engagement among its stakeholders.

The need for an engage­ment strategy, Prytula said, has been long overdue as low alumni engagement within the college was brought into sharp focus by a survey conducted this past spring.

"We were challenged in the survey—alumni told us that they felt disconnected," said Prytula, who also happens to be a graduate of the college. "The feedback made sense because with the sequential program, students were in the college for only a year before leaving to intern, and then half a year after. It wasn't long enough. We realize that if we don't give them a sense of belonging, they will find something else to belong to."

The college recently moved from sequential to direct admis­sions, meaning students will now spend four years, rather than two, learning to be teachers, a change Prytula believes will not only strengthen teaching and learning, but will create strong connections between students, and eventual alumni, and the college. This change will be available for fall 2016 term.

Another part of the engage­ment strategy, launched for the first time this fall, is the pinning ceremony, which saw incoming students receive a special pin and had them sign an oath to demon­strate their commitment to the teaching profession.

"It was an amazing event to be at. Students felt great and there was an incredible sense of belonging achieved within the hour-long ceremony," said the dean.

"This is where people come to be teachers. The work that happens here is so valuable and we need to show everyone else that, whether it is on our walls or through our students, faculty, staff or alumni."