Power of Higher Education – 11.05.21

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

Deep in my mind are the names of all my elementary school teachers, most of my high school teachers and some special university lecturers. There is Mrs von Maltitz, who said she was not sending me to university until I learned how to use a burette properly. She taught me that science was fascinating, but she also taught me about keeping going. Her husband was killed by a drunk driver, her infant thrown from the car and forgotten in the grass until that evening when someone went back to search. The baby was alive and unhurt. As a single parent, she raised him and taught high school science, even able to conjure ducklings out of her lab coat pocket. I am ever grateful to her. There is Dr. Barry Fabian, who taught me that everything came from the egg and opened my eyes to the magic of developmental biology. But he also taught me about thinking freely, his first lecture involved extending his writing from the blackboard across a nearby wall, and out the door. Climb out the box and think freely, he taught. I am ever grateful to him. And Dr. Shirley Hanrahan, who taught me histology, how to break glass blocks diagonally to make such a sharp knife that ultrathin tissue slices could be cut for electron microscopy. Dr. Hanrahan taught me how a patient, yet challenging teacher could encourage a student in ways that lasted for a long time. I am ever grateful to her. I could write pages about each teacher who guided me in some valuable way.

At Northeastern University, students enroll with us because of our excellent education and our excellent teachers. We give students the Power of Higher Education. We give them interesting lectures and labs, and of course our signature Northeastern University experiential opportunities, that together promote their outstanding next steps. All faculty teach, but our Teaching Faculty are the heart and soul of Northeastern College of Science undergraduate education. This expert group devises curriculum, suggests novel learning approaches, builds empowering labs, and mentors new faculty to become effective educators. I am immensely grateful to every faculty member who teaches. (You should also know that I personally love to teach, and feel that becoming an academic teaching professor is a fantastic career choice.)

In the College, we have an impressive array of majors and degree offerings, within and between departments and colleges. Some unique majors include Behavioral Neuroscience, Biochemistry, and Linguistics, taught by talented teaching faculty. Congratulations to Linguistics Director, Dr. Heather Littlefield, who is a CONNECTS Award recipient today! Excellent teachers are candidates for the COS Excellence in Teaching Award, and in 2020 awardees were Prasanth George (Math), and Oyindasola Oyelaran (CCB) who was also honored with the University Excellence in Teaching Award; while in 2021 COS Teaching Awards went to Richard Bailey (MES), Jude Mathews (CCB) and Missy McElligott (Biology) who was also honored with the University Excellence in Teaching Award. Please nominate a brilliant educator for the 2022 COS Excellence in Teaching Awards (below).

Education is wonderful work, important and exciting, but also difficult and intense. And this semester is unlike any other. The COVID-class of students is upon us. Across multiple departments, I am hearing of students not equipped to deal with their academics, perhaps because the last two years of high school involved lackluster online learning, even cheating, just to get by in the frightening, unreal pandemic. And that missing education is showing now, across all levels. It puts a huge stress on students not equipped for their rigorous Northeastern academics. And it puts a huge stress on you, our faculty, who are burned out, even mid-way through the semester, after eighteen months of relentless and changing teaching needs, and sometimes larger class sizes to meet our huge enrolment increase. What enormous pressure for faculty who are trying to do what you love and to meet your own high standards under difficult circumstances. Thank you to everyone in our departments who is strategizing how to help students succeed in their classes and qualifications, in the face of these unprecedented challenges.

How can we help you? How can I help you? In the Dean’s Office we cannot fix everything, but we are working very hard and together, we’ve made great progress in many areas. Let me know your concerns and ideas using our anonymous feedback form.
Please come and speak with me individually or in a group (we are building a signup, but drop a note in the meantime). Mostly, you and I have met as 2×1 inch flat screen units, a tough way to get to know one another, so let’s meet in person. Bring any topic you like, and I promise to listen, learn and support you as much as possible.

Best regards,

dean signature

Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science
Northeastern University