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Cultivating Partnerships for Long-Term Success – Union Theological Seminary



This year, UTS received generous funding from the Lilly Foundation’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. The 5-year, $5 million grant will transform UTS’ internal operations, unlock new partnership opportunities and expand existing ones, and enable theological schools and faith-based organizations to forge technology-driven innovation.
As David Gastwirth – Vice President of Online Education and Learning Innovation at UTS – explained, this grant will “allow UTS to realize its potential as a hub for collaboration… UTS has a unique opportunity to look at ways of working with other institutions to drive down costs and increase the quality of experiences.”
The first component of the grant is the Campus Service Alliance of Northern Manhattan (CSANM). UTS will work with nearby institutions – Manhattan School of Music, The Jewish Theological Seminary, International House, and the Riverside Church – to identify ways to share physical space and resources, technology, and procurement. CSANM has already achieved financial savings for institutions in the area of energy, and new relationships are underway to support event production/AV support and enhancement of hybrid technology. Shared programming contracting and procurement arrangements in areas ranging from employee training to student engagement are in the works.
Dr. James Gandre, President of the Manhattan School of Music, explained, “The more that we can share, the more we can save money and raise the level of the service that we provide to constituents.” He said that such partnerships aren’t just helpful but “critical.” Without them, these groups simply wouldn’t have the capacity to keep pace with larger institutions.
Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, stated, “There is goodwill and a desire among all of us to collaborate… It’s clear that we can be stronger together.”
The second component of the grant is the Academic and Student Experience Collaborative (ASEC). UTS, New York Theological Seminary (NYTS), and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS) are collaborating to provide enhanced student support in areas that include career services and professional development, wellness, and accessibility services. In the first year of the grant, three new staff members serving the group of institutions have been hired, and new resources, such as TimelyCare 24/7 Counseling Services, have been implemented.
Gastwirth noted that the alliance will help provide the “comprehensive array of support services that we know graduate students need to thrive and succeed while they are in school, as well as when they go off into their professional lives.”
The Rev. Dr. LaKeesha Walrond, President of NYTS, stated, “Partnerships built on strong relationships, both past and current, have the potential to create some new and exciting opportunities in our city… This partnership will allow theological education to be more accessible and more inclusive to individuals in our city, our state, and our world. It can expand the depth and breadth of our students’ experience as they matriculate.”
For example, as Rev. Dr. Walrond explained, NYTS was recently able to relocate its administrative office space to UTS. This move allows NYTS students to have access to a campus for the first time in over 50 years. It also ensures that NYTS students have a well-rounded experience with all of the support and support services that they need.
The third and final component of the grant is the Technology, Innovation, and Digital Engagement Lab (TIDEL).
Gastwirth explained, “With the proliferation of technology, theology schools and faith organizations are rethinking what role technology can or should play in how they go about serving their mission. But in many cases, they’re so small that they can’t afford the technologies that would help deliver better worship experiences and engage more community members. Or they’re not using appropriate tools because they don’t necessarily have the right expertise.”
TIDEL will help fill these gaps by providing a space for faith-based groups and organizations to come together to think creatively and collectively about technology, human-centered design, and innovation. TIDEL partners include Union Theological Seminary (UTS), Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS), New York Theological Seminary (NYTS), the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, and the RISE Together Mentorship Network (RISE).
Gastwirth stated, “There’s a real opportunity to bring these diverse theology schools and religious organizations together to think thoughtfully and strategically about what challenges they’re looking to address and the opportunities for technology to play a role.”
“Our country has responded to change differently over the past few years. It’s been difficult for many organizations – including faith groups – to keep up. Fortunately, with TIDEL, faith groups will have an exciting opportunity to maximize the power of technology as an investment in their organization’s mission,” said the Rev. Dr. Angela D. Sims, President of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.
TIDEL recently launched its first offering, the TIDEL Leadership Fellows Program. The 18-month paid fellowship will bring teams of two from seminaries, congregations, and faith-based organizations to develop technology-based solutions for their groups and organizations. The program’s curriculum will emphasize design thinking as an innovative approach.
UTS President Serene Jones shared, “The guiding image that anchors our grant proposal comes from the Gospel of Mark 2: 1-6. Here we find the story of a group of friends that want Jesus to heal their companion but they cannot get through to see Jesus because crowds have blocked the way. Left with few alternatives, they come up with the ingenious idea of climbing onto the roof and cutting a hole in it so they can lower down their friend to be healed, and they can see Jesus.”
“Cultivating ministerial imagination requires fresh insight and ingenuity plus the tools and training needed to accomplish new tasks and address new needs. It also takes, most importantly, a group of friends – enthusiastic, motivated collaborators – who are willing to combine their energies and share their tools in order to accomplish remarkable feats. We are excited to partner with our amazing colleagues on ASEC, CSANM, and TIDEL,” said UTS President Jones.
All in all, the Lilly grant initiatives will help put UTS and its partners on the path to a more sustainable, successful future.
The post Cultivating Partnerships for Long-Term Success appeared first on Union Theological Seminary.
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STEAM study tour social card

Exploring the Joyful, Accessible, and Practical World of Math Celebrating the Grace Dodge Society Eid al-Adha Mubarak 4 Must-Rea…


Building upon classroom teaching experiences, 14 TC Mathematics Education students gained additional first-hand insight on how teaching practices unfold across a variety of New York City educational institutions in a special STEM study tour led by TC’s Rochy Flint this spring. Different approaches and outcomes to hands-on learning, culturally-responsive teaching, resource distribution and more played out in the wide-reaching, week-long experience that allowed TC students to observe how math pedagogy techniques impact pupils across six schools and two museums. 
“Seeing pedagogy applied to create opportunities enabled students to appreciate the rich tapestry of New York City education in an innovative way,” explains Flint, a lecturer in the Mathematics, Science and Technology Department. “Observing how education leaders, many of whom are also TC alumni, weave different ideas together to cater to their unique communities allowed students to think about applying what they have learned in new ways and see the many rich opportunities available to them.” 
So what improves math education in the classroom and beyond? We spoke to some of the hosting TC alumni and students to find out. 
Applying Math in Real Life
Students witnessed creative, experiential learning activities applied in numerous settings during the STEM study tour. The unique approach of an innovative technical school in Brooklyn, the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech), offered a closer look at an approach designed to address two of education’s greatest challenges: helping students excel in STEM, and facilitating career readiness. A collaboration between three separate NYC education bodies and the IBM Corporation, P-Tech students gain skills in electromechanical engineering or computer information systems — and have the choice to earn an associate’s degree at no additional cost. 
“It’s an approach that doesn’t just prepare students academically, but also provides them with real-world skills and connections to industry professionals, which is essential in today’s rapidly changing job market,” noted first-year master’s student Huizhu Wu. 



Flint and Rashid Davis (M.A. ’95) [center] with TC Mathematics Education students. 

The P-Tech model, which is currently in use at nine NYC schools, is a compelling example of what the future might hold, with new research finding the model increased post-secondary degree completion, especially among male students. For Wu, the possibilities of a “partnership that brings together public schools, higher education institutions and industry leaders to create pathways” are not only endless, but essential to today’s rapidly changing workforce. 
The success is closer to TC than one might think. P-Tech’s founding principal is none other than Rashid Davis (M.A. ’95, English Education), who sees applicable skills as the means for choices after graduation, whether that’s in the job market or in higher education, which most P-Tech grads pursue. “[P-Tech’s approach is] really about the power of true collaboration, and not just access, but being intentional about time and resources to opportunity,” explains Davis, also a Cahn Fellow at TC in 2012. Notably, Davis explains, the P-Tech model is more attainable than many often assume due to the school’s partnership with IBM. “It’s really about teaching people how to learn and not having the latest gadgets.”
In addition to meeting Davis at P-Tech, TC students experienced hands-on learning in action at destinations like Brooklyn STEAM Center, the Hewitt School, the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) and the American Museum of Natural History, where students explored the cultural giant’s exhibits through engaging touchpoints and quizzes focused on climate change. 
“It’s one thing to read about these concepts in textbooks, but it’s another to see them brought to life through exhibits and interactive experiences,” said TC student Fangqi Zhu. “These hands-on activities cater to various learning styles and can ignite a student’s lifelong interest in science and the natural world.”
Culturally-Responsive Teaching
Of the eight institutions on this STEM study tour, at least half placed a special emphasis on culturally-responsive teaching. At the bilingual Ann Cross Mersereau Intermediate School in the Bronx, TC alum Andrés Rodríguez-Aponte (M.A. ’19, Mathematics Education) is doing something special. 
Rodríguez-Aponte gives bilingual instruction seamlessly throughout his lessons, but also pays extra attention to how students are feeling. With great enthusiasm and positivity, Rodríguez-Aponte cheers on his students while cultivating a culture of confidence in oneself and others to figure out whatever problem is presented. 
“Mr. Rodríguez-Aponte in particular created such a wonderful class culture, where the whole class was student centered,” recalls Edwin Geng, “and the students were jumping up at the opportunity to respond,” with a clear commitment to being part of a “learning community.” 
Fostering a sense of inclusion is a key part of Rodríguez-Aponte’s style, which includes switching between English and Spanish, and leading his students in daily affirmations (“I am great. I will do great things in life!”). For the teacher, whose Puerto Rican identity helps inform this approach, seamless bilingual instruction allows students to be comfortable in the classroom and with the material. 
“It’s okay to be yourself and speak your language, whatever language that is,” says Rodríguez-Aponte, whose studies at the College included preparation for multicultural classrooms. “Being able to speak your language without being judged allows you to take risks mathematically and language-wise.” 



But in other classrooms, culturally-responsive education took a different approach. At the Borough of Manhattan Community College, students met with faculty Elisabeth Jaffe (Ed.D. ’10), Kathleen Offenholley (Ph.D. ’07) and Jae Ki Lee (Ed.D. ’16) — who each often used collaboration to help “students see themselves as capable mathematicians,” noted middle school math teacher and TC student Cleha Kodama. 
“One of the most challenging aspects of teaching math is helping students believe they can do math and helping them redefine what it means to be good at math,” said Kodama, noting the confidence in the BMCC classrooms. “The most valuable skill I can teach [my students] is not solving quadratics or graphing equations but learning how to think through and overcome challenges.” 



Benjamin Dickman (Ph.D. ’14) and Elizabeth Brennan (Ph.D. ’16), who both teach at the Hewitt School, with TC’s Rochy Flint (center). 

Creativity & Small Class Sizes 
Since teachers alone can’t determine student learning and success, students found that seeing first-hand the ways in which school resources can expand classroom possibilities was a particularly rewarding component of the study tour. 
At the Hewitt School, an independent all-girls institution on the Upper East Side, small class sizes and an emphasis on critical thinking allowed class seminars to drive learning. “It reinforced my belief that true education goes beyond rote memorization and standardized testing,” recalled TC student Veronica Sun, noting the passion and curiosity present in the classroom. 
That’s precisely what Hewitt teacher Elizabeth Brennan (Ph.D. ’15) was determined to foster from the beginning of her career, seeing an opportunity to empower her students to do more than copy down her work on the white board. 
“You can’t learn how to play the piano by watching other people play the piano,” notes Brennan, who fosters creative problem solving by asking students to present different approaches, rather than providing a singular method to solve equations or scenarios. “When everyone has a calculator in their pocket, what is most important now is kids who can think about information critically, grapple with this problem, and figure it out. And that’s not the view of mathematics that most people have.” 
For Brennan, the key to success for new math educators lies in not only giving oneself grace, but also embracing the joy of learning. “It should be fun, for the kids and for you…The human brain naturally wants to learn,” says the TC alum, noting the enthusiasm for problem solving she sees in her young children. “Somewhere in middle school, that changes. ‘Tell me what to do to get whatever grade I want.’ You [as a teacher] have to do whatever you can do to keep curiosity and creativity going.” 



Elizabeth Brennan (Ph.D. ’15) and Benjamin Dickman (Ph.D. ’14) at the Hewitt School. “I’m blessed to have Benjamin as a thought partner on most things at work,” says Brennan, who encourages early career math teachers to build similar relationships. “Find a mentor/colleague who can support you! Even now in my 21st year teaching, I learn so much from my colleagues.” 

What’s Next 
Both Flint’s study tour and her recent Multicultural STEMSpaces Gallery Walkthrough illustrate that the future of mathematics education is bound only by imagination. 
“I want to encourage people to think more deeply about what it means to engage in mathematics and STEM,” explains Flint, who views experiences like the study tour and the gallery walkthrough as crucial in challenging preconceptions about what mathematics education can look like. “I aim to help my students feel more comfortable in new spaces, leaning into and embracing challenges as opportunities to be celebrated, which they can then pass on to young learners.” 
Illuminating “where mathematics learning can happen,” the gallery walkthrough included depictions of math in everyday life and unique learning experiences captured by students. This year, participants included students from Flint’s study tour as well as students from Roni Ellington’s “Multicultural Mathematics Education” course. Established by Flint in 2018, the show was inspired by the interests of former TC faculty member Erica Walker, who has “done groundbreaking work in highlighting mathematical spaces.” 
For Flint, the impact of expanding the definition of mathematical learning extends far beyond classroom lessons. She views the endeavor as deeply intertwined with challenging pervasive attitudes — such as self-doubt and anxiety — towards the field. 
“Your relationship [to math] is highly influenced by your parents, how society talks about it, and how teachers relate to it,” explains Flint, noting how often people unsolicitedly volunteer that they are “not a math person.” But those barriers may be reduced if educators and leaders can help the public see math and STEM more integrated into their everyday lives.
“Everyone is mathematical,” says Flint. “People are constantly problem-solving.” Flint defines mathematics as “the study of structures.” “The real numbers and school arithmetic are but just one structure in the vast field of mathematics. What other mathematical structures do you observe in the world around you?”
— Morgan Gilbard

Published Monday, Jun 17, 2024

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Low-Residency Mekhinah Program – Jewish Theological Seminary

Students Take First Steps Toward the Rabbinate

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JTS’s Low-Residency Mekhinah was first offered in January 2024 as a pilot. We’re now excited to officially launch this program, designed for students who are interested in becoming rabbis but need additional preparation. This accessible on-ramp to Rabbinical School allows students to participate in online classes focusing on Hebrew, Rabbinic Literature, Bible, and Liturgy. The program also offers mentoring, virtual cohort sessions, and a one-week in-person gathering. 

The Rabbinical School student body increasingly reflects the diversity of the North American Jewish community. Part of that diversity is welcoming students with varied Jewish educational experiences and entry points into observant Jewish life. The Mekhinah program embraces this diversity by inviting all students, regardless of their backgrounds, to acquire the skills needed to thrive at JTS.  Enrolled students can take the time to prepare themselves before beginning Rabbinical School full-time. After finishing the Mekhinah, they will be well-prepared to enter Rabbinical School with a depth of Jewish knowledge and critical intellectual thinking, two fundamental components of a hallmark JTS education. 

Mekhinah students can continue to live and work in their home communities, while acquiring the skills needed to maximize their JTS education. Throughout the program, they will learn about the formative texts and rituals of the Jewish people, build professional skills, deepen their spiritual lives, and form their rabbinic identities, which will sustain them in the evolving rabbinate.  

Last year’s program yielded four new JTS Rabbinical School students who will begin their rabbinic journey this September.  One of these students recently remarked, “As a foreign student, the Mekhinah program allowed me to discover the campus of the JTS, meet with renowned professors, and study with a curated cohort of potential future rabbinical students. This experience was life-changing!”   

Learn more about the Low-Residency Mekhinah program.  



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Joyce Cowin 2024 social card

Celebrating the Grace Dodge Society Eid al-Adha Mubarak 4 Must-Read Books On LGBTQ+ Experiences How to Celebrate Juneteenth at T…


More than 100 of the College’s steadfast supporters, TC Trustees and friends gathered for a joyous afternoon on June 11 for the College’s Annual Grace Dodge Society Luncheon, which included a special tribute to Joyce Berger Cowin (M.A. ’52), Trustee Emerita, for her decades of visionary leadership, support and service to the College. 
Overlooking Columbus Circle at Ascent Lounge, Grace Dodge Society members sat among students and faculty who are driving innovative research and practice.
The Society bears the name of Teachers College founder, Grace Hoadley Dodge — a “stellar example of leadership and service,” in the words of her great-nephew, William Dodge Rueckert, Chair Emeritus of the Board and Chair of the Society. Grace Dodge Society members plan to support TC through their wills, trusts or other planned gifts. 

Students Jamachi Opara and Gwyneth Sauter with President Thomas Bailey (Photo: Bruce Gilbert)

Sylvie Palmer, Cowin Scholarship recipient Ellen Gyasi and Helen Cowin (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

Board Chair Leslie Morse Nelson addresses guests at Ascent Lounge. (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

Prem Hira and Radhika Hira (M.A. ’21) (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

 Marion Boultbee (Ed.D. ’96) delivers remarks to her fellow Grace Dodge Society members. (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

David Hansen, the John L. & Sue Ann Weinberg Professor in Historical & Philosophical Foundations of Education, and student Jamachi Opara (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 


Grace Hoadley Dodge “supported generations of TC students in their desire to better serve the world around them. We are grateful to those of you who have followed in her footsteps by establishing gift plans which support the TC community,” Rueckert said to welcome guests, before recognizing the afternoon’s guest of honor, Joyce Berger Cowin (M.A. ’52). “Thank you for your decades of service to Teachers College and the TC community and for being one of the society’s charter members.” 
Vision and passion are central to the work of Cowin, whose  generosity follows a long history of service to the College since she earned her master’s in Curriculum and Teaching from TC in 1952. A former teacher and a member of the TC Board since 1980, Cowin has “strengthened the College through her considerable contributions of time and talent,” the Committee on Trustees wrote in their resolution conferring her new title of Trustee Emerita on May 30th. 

Nelson introduced a video tribute featuring TC Board colleagues, alumni, friends and family recounting the myriad ways Cowin has impacted our community. Standing to address Grace Dodge Society members and friends after looking back at her journey, Cowin shared: “I’m thrilled and appreciative and I thank every single one of you.” 

“Your enthusiasm for TC and your role on the Board was an example we should all emulate,” Board Chair Leslie Morse Nelson said of Cowin in her remarks during the video tribute, noting the alumna’s boundless humor and grace throughout her service. “We are all filled with gratitude for the many ways that you have made Teachers College a better place.”
Over the span of more than forty years on the Board, Cowin has contributed strategic vision, leadership and financial support to numerous initiatives, including the Joyce B. Cowin Scholarship; the Joyce Berger Cowin Conference Center; the Heritage School; and the Cowin Financial Literacy Program, which has provided more than 5,000 educators with free professional development to teach personal finance since 2012.

Sylvie Palmer, Dana Cowin, Trustee Emerita Joyce Berger Cowin and Kenneth Cowin. (Photo: Bruce Gilbert)

Surrounded by family, Trustee Emerita Joyce Berger Cowin addresses friends and colleagues from TC and beyond. (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

Mary Edlow (M.A. ’67), Trustee Emerita Joyce Berger Cowin and Susan Diamond (M.A. ’67) 

Trustee Emerita Joyce Berger Cowin and Michael Gillespie (Ed.D. ’83) (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

Trustee Emerita Joyce Berger Cowin and Trustee “Missie” Rennie Taylor (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

Trustee Emerita Joyce Berger Cowin and her granddaughter Sylvie Palmer (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

Trustee Emerita Joyce Berger Cowin and her niece, Pat Braga. (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 

Elizabeth Staub and Dana Cowin (Photo: Bruce Gilbert) 


“A treasured friend to Teachers College for many years, Joyce has made a profound impact on generations of TC students, faculty and alumni. With extraordinary compassion and a spirit for innovation, Joyce embodies the fierce commitment to consequential work that defines Teachers College itself,” President Thomas Bailey said of Cowin, surrounded by family and friends from TC and beyond. “We are deeply fortunate to stand alongside her in community, and look forward to a new chapter of her legacy that will last for many years to come.” 
Leadership shared that the next chapter of Cowin’s generous support for College will allow for the creation of the forthcoming Cowin Student Success Hub — a new, state-of-the-art suite that will allow students to enjoy centralized support services across academic success, professional development, health and more. The project builds upon the College’s strategic efforts to advance student pathways from admission to graduation and beyond 120th Street. 

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What I admire about Joyce is her outspokenness, which is wonderful and allows her to achieve whatever she wants to achieve.

Alumna and friend Susan Diamond (M.A. ’67)



I admire my grandmother’s unwavering, enthusiastic loyalty to the people, places and causes she cares deeply about. Her dedication to Teachers College, The Folk Art Museum, The New York Historical Society, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and so many more iconic institutions in New York City is so inspiring to me. She’s also the best party host of all time, and I love her taste in fun chunky jewelry and sparkly birthday cards!

Granddaughter Sylvie Palmer



Joyce is vibrant, engaged, thoughtful, energetic and committed…I admire her so deeply.

Alumna and friend Mary Edlow (M.A. ’67), who was inspired to establish the Edlow Reproductive Literacy Project after seeing Cowin’s own impact at TC


The magnitude and longevity of Trustee Emerita Cowin’s impact is palpable. “Doing anything for 40 years is incredible, but doing it with her level of dedication and commitment is admirable,” said Dana Cowin, Joyce’s daughter. 
That very desire to make a difference binds all who come to TC, but especially the alumni, faculty and friends who become supporters through the Grace Dodge Society.
“As a proud member of the Grace Dodge Society, I know — as you do — how important our support is to the future of the College, to our faculty and to our students,” said former Alumni Council President Marion Boultbee (Ed.D. ’96), who will support international students through her planned gift. “Every gift we can make to TC supports our vibrant community making true change possible in our world.” 

Published Friday, Jun 14, 2024

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