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The Fisher Early Learning Center a partner of the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) has received a renewal of their five-year accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) by the Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation. In order for a program to be accredited by NAEYC, it must meet all of the required criteria during evaluation, meet at least 80% of assessed criteria for each program standard, meet at least 70% of assessed criteria for each classroom or group observed, and continue to meet candidacy requirements after accreditation is conferred.

The Center, which opened its doors in 2000, has earned top marks for assessment on 9 of 10 programmatic areas and near-perfect scores for classroom observation assessment. Furthermore, Fisher met all candidacy requirements and achieved a grade of “PASS” on all required criteria. The NAEYC Academy commended Fisher for going above and beyond on a number of assessment points, including:

  • Promoting positive relations among children and adults and encouraging individual self-worth and belongingness
  • Implementation of a curriculum consistent in its goals and promotion of social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive development
  • Using teaching approaches that enhance each child’s learning and development in a developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective manner
  • A sound system for ongoing formal and informal assessments to inform on child learning and development
  • Promoting nutrition and health, as well as prevention of injury and illness, among staff and children
  • Employment of a qualified, knowledgeable, and professional teaching staff able to support the diverse needs and interests of students and families
  • Recognizing the importance of relationships between families and schools
  • Effective establishment of relationships with agencies and institutions within the community that provide support for Fisher’s goals
  • Efficient and effective leadership and administration that is inclusive of staff, children, and families

The MCE extends its congratulations to Rebecca Tankersley, Director of the Fisher Early Learning Center, and to the staff at Fisher. MCE is proud to continue supporting their ongoing commitment to providing an inclusive and high-quality early learning experience.

Since 1985, NAEYC has offered a national, voluntary accreditation system to set professional standards for early childhood education programs, and to help families identify high-quality programs. Today, NAEYC Accreditation represents the mark of quality in early childhood education.  Over 6,500 child care programs, preschools, early learning centers, and other center- or school-based early childhood education programs are currently NAEYC-Accredited.  These programs provide high quality care and education to nearly one million young children in the United States, its territories, and programs affiliated with the United States Department of Defense.

The University of Denver Office of Graduate Studies recently featured the advice of Morgridge College of Education (MCE)  faculty member Dr. Cecilia Orphan. A recent hire in MCE’s Department of Higher Education, Dr. Orphan knows how competitive the academic job market can be. Below, Dr. Orphan offers CV/cover letter advice and interview strategies for the academic job seeker.

Given the vanishing nature of tenure track jobs, a job as a professor is becoming more and more of an elusive brass ring. With careful preparation and practice, you can become a competitive applicant. What follows are a list of tips for your job search including advice about preparing your CV and cover letter and nailing the job interviews.

CV Prep

Curriculum Vitae is Latin for the “course of my life.” Remembering the etymology for this part of the application is important. A CV is much longer than a resume because it shows the academic journey you have taken since undergrad. There are a plethora of resources online that describe CVs, so I won’t be redundant and repeat the good advice of scholars much further along in their careers than me. That said, I have three pieces of advice:

  1. Imitate: Ask to see the CVs of faculty members you work with and students who are further ahead in your program or who have recently landed jobs. When you do this you’ll notice that there are a variety of different ways to construct a CV. If you see a format you like, ask the person if you can borrow their style. Also ask to trade CVs with 3-4 of your friends and say that you’ll edits theirs and give advice about it if they’ll do the same for you. The more eyes you can get on this document, the better.
  2. Proofread: There is absolutely no excuse for typos, spelling or grammatical errors in a CV. Your materials are going to be in a pile of hundreds of applicants and reviewers are looking for any reason to thin that stack. A typo or inconsistent formatting (ex: periods at the end of some but not all items on a bulleted list, italics in some places and bolding in others, etc.) can move your materials from the “look into further” pile into the “reject” pile. A piece of advice I received was to read my CV backwards, from the bottom to the top, so I could look strictly for typos and formatting inconsistencies.
  3. Tailor the Format: Depending on the emphasis of the job application, change the order of items in your CV. If you are applying for a job that emphasizes research, put your publications and research experience first. If you are applying for a teaching gig, put your teaching experience first. This re-ordering will signal to reviewers that you are serious about and understand the goals of the program and position.
Cover Letter Tip

Again, there is a bevy of advice out there on how to write a cover letter but I’ll chime in with the following advice: similar to the CV, your cover letter should tell a story about you as a scholar. The best way to do this is in a narrative format. How has your work, academic and personal experience culminated in your wanting to be a professor? How have your experiences influenced the research you do and the way you teach? How do all these pieces of your life fit together? Constructing a narrative is particularly important if you followed a nontraditional trajectory in your academic career.

Being able to tell your story in a narrative format also humanizes you to the reviewers and makes for a memorable and compelling application. Echoing the advice I gave regarding the CV, depending on the emphasis of the application, you’ll want to highlight either research or teaching within the text of the cover letter. This means that in a 2-page cover letter for a posting for a Research 1 institution, you’ll spend 3-4 paragraphs talking about your research and the second-to-last paragraph briefly talking about your approach to teaching. In your last paragraph, you need to write convincingly about how XYZ State University is the absolute perfect place for you to continue your academic journey.

Interviewing Advice

Once you get an interview (or interviews), celebrate! This is a huge accomplishment followed by what will have likely been dozens of applications you submitted and heard nothing about. After you celebrate, it’s time to get to work. Nowadays search committees conduct a Skype (or phone) interview with candidates first before deciding to bring the top three candidates to campus for a day and half long marathon interview. What follows is my advice about both steps in the interview process.

The Skype or Phone Interview

  • Find the Perfect Spot: If it’s a Skype interview, find a quiet place that has the semblance of an office. This will take some creativity because as grad students, you don’t have access to scholarly-looking-rooms you can take over and use for an interview. I conducted mine in my bedroom in front of a bookcase and I told my roommate that she had to be absolutely silent for 30 minutes.
  • Dress the Part: You should be in interview clothes whether or not the search committee can see you. Stepping into interview clothes (preferably a suit – it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed in these situations) helps you get into the mindset of an interview.
  • Prepare for Questioning: Come up with a list of 8-10 questions that you think they’ll ask you and practice answering these with a friend. Write down points that you want to cover and put them on sticky notes attached to your monitor. This way you can discretely glance at them during the interview if you get stuck.
  • Create Some Queries: There will typically be 20 minutes of questions that they ask you and 10 minutes of questions that you ask them. Your questions for them are probably the most important part of the Skype/phone interview. Your questions should not be about salary or benefits but instead about the work of the department, the strategic direction of the department, and how the department fits into the larger institutional context. Asking questions like this shows that you have a keen interest in the department and more importantly, that you have done your homework.
On-campus Job Interview

The on-campus job interview is in a word: intense. You will be meeting with people who are far more powerful than you (senior administrators) as well as people who are more senior than you in terms of rank. These people are trying to figure out if you would be a good colleague for them. Every aspect of this process is a job interview – everything from walking in the halls between “meetings” (mini interviews) to dinner the night before to breakfast the morning of. You will be watched closely during the entire time you are on campus and need to be on your game 100%. The hardest part for me was shifting my perspective and self-view from that of a grad student to that of a professor. Here are some tips to help you do that.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice Your Job Talk: I wrote a script of my talk and rehearsed it probably 30 times. This is a huge time investment because your talk should be about 40-45 minutes, but it is so important. Also, see if you can convene a group of folks (with strong faculty representation) to watch you run through your job talk. Get their feedback, implement it and … keep practicing.
  • Create a Narrative: Surprise, surprise, your job talk should be a narrative of sorts. I included an “impetus” slide in my job talks that described the impetus for my research. This helped my audience get to know me and also helped them see the trajectory of my work.
  • Select the Right Person: When it’s time for questions, call on the oldest person in the room. Also, pay attention to the person other people seem to defer to and really listen to. This person is likely someone with a ton of informal power who will make or break your interview. Make sure you establish a connection with this person.
  • Get to Know Everyone: Remember that you’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Try to think of it as an opportunity to get to know new colleagues you will see at conferences for the rest of your life, and not as a do-or-die interview.
  • Approach Student Interviewing Earnestly: If the search committee has students interview you, take this very seriously. Students will report back to their faculty colleagues about how serious you took the interview.
  • Make Meaningful Connections: Read the last 3-5 articles written by every person in the department and think through ways your work compliments but is also distinct from theirs. Then be able to speak to these points of connection and areas in which you would add something new but related to their department.
  • Implement Mnemonic Devices: Print pictures of people and memorize them on the plane. Keep a cheat sheet in your brief case during the day. Calling folks by their names is extremely important. Do this in group interviews, “That’s a very interesting question, Cecilia … blah blah blah.” People like to hear their names. Calling folks by their name also shows that you have an interest in them as individuals.
  • Nix the Caffeine: Don’t drink too much coffee (unless you are exhausted). Your nerves are already going to be in overdrive. Coffee can exacerbate this. And for god’s sake, do not get drunk at dinner! I suggest ordering a glass of wine or a beer and sipping it throughout dinner.
  • Personalize the Follow-Up Email: Take notes about each person and send personalized thank you notes. If there is a question that you don’t know the answer to, say, “That’s an interesting and important question. I don’t know the answer to it now but I’ll think about it and get back to you.” Then follow up with that person through email and answer the question. Doing this shows that you are thoughtful and interested in ongoing scholarly engagement. If you wish that you had answered a question differently, after the interview email the person who asked and tell them how your thinking has changed or evolved since interview day.
  • Conduct Background Research: Take time to familiarize yourself with the mission and history of the university and come prepared with questions about how that larger mission informs the department.
  • Scrap Salary Talk: Don’t ask any questions about salary and benefits during the interview. This will happen in your negotiations with the dean if you get an offer.
  • Be Ready to Discuss Your Scholarship: Be prepared to talk through 2-3 concrete research ideas you will tackle in your first few years as a professor. A search committee is going to want to know that you’ll be able to stand on your own two feet after you leave the nest of your advisor’s mentorship. Having research ideas in mind will help with this.

My final piece of advice is to be yourself. Be exactly who you are. Authenticity is important for obvious human reasons but also important because a search committee is going to meet other interviewees who are trying to be who they think the department wants. That doesn’t land a job. Being yourself does.

For more information, check out the Academic Job Search Handbook. This is an amazing resource that will walk you through each step of the process.

NOTE: This blog post is being featured from the official blog of the University of Denver’s Office of Graduate Studies. View the original post here.

Keelie Sorel, a master’s candidate in the Higher Education department (HED) at the Morgridge College of Education, has been selected as one of two Distinguished Graduate Community Leaders for December 2015. The masters in HED empowers students to explore topics of access, equity, and inclusive excellence, and Keelie has developed a critical lens she uses to examine the effects of systemic inequity in education. She is committed to addressing these concerns through merging theory and practice.

At DU, Keelie serves as the program coordinator of the Social Justice Living and Learning Community, as a graduate assistant in the office of Student Outreach and Support and as an apartment fellow in Housing and Residential Education – and she loves it all. In each position, she has the opportunity to work with dedicated and passionate members of the DU community. Through her engagements, she works to support the holistic development of the students she works with while engaging with the larger community to support DU’s focus on inclusive excellence.

In that vein, she is eagerly planning a variety of events to support DU as we engage in equity work on our campus; she is working with the Colorado Women’s College to host a LunaFest film screening which is a series of short films directed and filmed by women about women’s issues, planning the fifth annual Social Justice Colloquium, which unites members of the community to engage in meaningful conversations that advocate for societal change, and will present about the need for interfaith cooperation at DU’s Diversity Summit this January.

She is incredibly grateful to be a part of the DU community and is honored to engage with peers, faculty, professional staff and students that are committed to making positive change in our communities. For more information about any upcoming events or to collaborate in the future, you can email her at keelie.sorel@du.edu.

DGCLA winners are selected through a peer-nomination process. To nominate a colleague, email du.gsgs@gmail.com with a 250-500 word statement describing why the nominee deserves to be an DGCLA winner.

The department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) at the Morgridge College of Education hosted a colloquium on November 30 that focused on the challenges and experiences of turnaround schools in the greater Denver area. The event featured a panel discussion between principals of current turnaround schools as well as district administrators working with turnaround schools.

The colloquium’s panelists, all of whom have graduated from, or are current students of, the Turnaround Success Program, included:

  • Peter Sherman, Executive Director of the District & School Performance Unit at the Colorado Department of Education
  • LaDawn Baity, Instructional Superintendent and former principal of Trevista at Horace Mann
  • Ivan Duran, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, a graduate of Denver Public Schools, and a current EdD candidate at the Morgridge College of Education
  • Nick Dawkins, principal at Manual High School
  • Lisa Mahannah, principal at Oakland Elementary
  • Julie Murgel, principal at DCIS Montbello
  • Jésus Rodríguez, principal at Trevista at Horace Mann and current doctoral candidate at the Morgridge College of Education

The panelists held a discussion about the realities of providing leadership in turnaround schools and the many factors, internal and external, which can contribute to a school requiring turnaround services. Pre-conceived notions about communities, the difficulty of providing adequate mental health services, and disparities in low-income and disadvantaged communities all contribute to a lack of student success.

Culture was an important theme of the discussion; panelists talked about how important it is to create a structure and provide high expectations and accountability to change students’ perceptions of learning.

A second, and significant, theme of the evening was innovation. The ability to innovate varies between each school due to differences in priorities. Despite this, panelists all agreed that having the ability to take initiative to get results in schools is of the utmost importance.

After the panel discussion, attendees engaged in a design thinking activity in collaboration with the Daniels College of Business. Jennifer Larson, a student at the Daniels College, led a brief presentation describing design thinking – the experience of “how” rather than just “what,” and asking “what if we?” or “why can’t we?” – in relation to solving a challenge. The activity included participants breaking out into groups to learn from each other about unique experiences with challenges in their educational work.

Susan Korach, the ELPS Department Chair, closed the event by asking what the audience heard and did not hear from panelists and fellow participants. Attendees noted that they did not hear discussions about test scores or practicing for assessments, nor did they hear pessimism or excuses from their colleagues about the work they do. They did hear an emphasis on relationship-building in their communities, honesty about equity and oppression, and hope and optimism regarding the future.


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