Happy New Year from Dean Erica N. Walker
Happy New Year to all OISE faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends:
I am delighted to be joining OISE as your new Dean, and I very much hope each of you had a joyous and fulfilling holiday season to reconnect with those closest to you.
The start of 2023 for me is, as a recent OISE newsletter put it, a “bright beginning.” Over the past several months, I have been excitedly preparing for the move from my home and professional life in New York City to Toronto, and have been gratified by the warm welcome and well wishes I’ve received from so many at the Institute and the broader University of Toronto community. I want to especially acknowledge Professor Normand Labrie for his stewardship of OISE during this transition and for staying on as Associate Dean Programs at OISE in the coming months.
I am very excited to be here and to have begun the process of settling in to this new role and my new home. A few decades ago, I first came to Canada as a high school senior, visiting from my school in Atlanta, Georgia for several weeks as part of an international outreach program. I have many fond memories of that visit – it was my very first trip outside of the United States – and it was the start of many friendships and collaborations across cultural and geographical lines.
As a researcher in mathematics education and former public high school mathematics teacher, I’ve continued to cross boundaries in my work – taking a very interdisciplinary approach to how we think about the learning and teaching of mathematics while ensuring deep understanding of the subject matter – and further, exploring the breadth and depth of spaces for mathematics education beyond school walls.
As OISE Dean, I hope to inspire our community to build upon OISE’s unique history and tradition while together developing new ideas and deepening our commitment to equitable education, opportunity, and wellbeing across the lifespan.
In this 21st century, we are living in an amazing, challenging, and, dare I say, hopeful time. I am reminded that across history significant pandemics often have been followed by a rich flowering of ideas, innovations, and progress across fields and disciplines, with worldwide impact and influence. As a New Yorker, art and music lover, and avid museum goer, I see echoes of the Harlem Renaissance (which followed the 1918 flu pandemic) everywhere. As a newcomer to OISE and Canada, I look forward to our exploring new possibilities for engagement and learning, and reflecting what we’ve learned over the last several years in order to advance generations of teachers, learners, researchers and professionals.
We are doing the most critical work: helping people learn, teach, thrive and create; and that work we do is the foundation for much of what goes on in this world.
As I see them, my primary responsibilities as Dean and Professor (as in my previous roles as a senior faculty member and administrator) are to support, facilitate, and disseminate the good work of our faculty, students, and staff. That good work, and how we emerge from these challenging times, depends on a strong institution.
Thus, in looking ahead to my first weeks and months as Dean, I will be using a few different approaches to learn more from you about OISE, its strengths, and your dreams for its future to develop a shared vision and mission. I will also be moving forward with a number of critical faculty and leadership search processes that are already underway. These positions are key to our ability to keep innovating within our research and graduate programs and so ensure OISE’s continued strong reputation and stature as a top-ranked graduate education institution in the world. I will look forward to working with many of our faculty, staff and students on these search committees to continue helping to recruit the very best to OISE.
It is thrilling to me that after more than three decades since that high school visit, I am back in Canada to live and to lead such a dynamic institution. With many new responsibilities, I appreciate your understanding and patience as I learn all about OISE (and wait for my sadly delayed moving truck to arrive from the U.S.!). I can’t wait to meet all of you and begin this journey together – please stay tuned for an upcoming meet-and-greet, happening in a couple of months. To everyone, and especially to fellow newcomers, welcome to a bright 2023. I share all best wishes for a wonderful and productive start to the term.
Erica N. Walker
Professor and Dean
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto