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Emory University President James Wagner and the Board of Trustees: Continue the important work of the Division of Educational Studies (DES)

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On September 14, 2012, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University, Robin Forman and the Dean of the Laney Graduate School and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies at Emory, Lisa Tedesco, supported by Emory’s president Jim Wagner, unexpectedly announced a decision to close Emory University's Division of Educational Studies (DES).  This decision was announced in the following language: "The foundation of a great college - and a great university - is academic eminence...Which programs have achieved distinction, and which programs are truly essential for a twenty-first century liberal arts education?" We disagree with the administration, and believe that DES has continually demonstrated academic eminence, and that the field of education is a critical part of preparing students for the 21st century.

DES has provided teacher training,  an undergraduate major and minor, and graduate research degrees over the last half century at Emory University.
We, DES students and alumni and supporters, are deeply troubled by the cloaked manner in which this decision was reached by the administration as well as a deliberate decision by the administration of Emory University to disinvest in engagement with public education. Now more than ever, decisions around public education are critical to advancing equity in our local, national, and international contexts. Emory's specific legacy in the formerly segregated city of Atlanta and mission to "create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity" make this decision particularly disheartening.

Emory has consistently been ranked as one of the best universities in the country by the U.S. News & World Report rankings. In 2010, Forbes dubbed it number seven in the list of “the 20 Best Colleges in the South.” However, Emory’s dedication to education has dwindled over the years. With a reported endowment of $5,443,397,455 (the 9th largest in the country), Emory’s closing of DES shows a lack of commitment to education and to the community. Furthermore, in light of both the specific mission of DES to target educational inequities and the high number of faculty and graduate students of color in the Division, this decision questions Emory University's commitment to promoting diversity in its institution and local community.

Why Sign this Petition? The Division of Educational Studies (DES) was created during the mid-twentieth century and since then has kept a strong commitment to social justice and critical pedagogy in the metro-Atlanta area, across the country, and internationally. DES graduates work every day to provide quality education to students across the country, and it is these students who will be hurt by such cuts.

 ·         Service and Community Involvement: DES is a “leader in developing community relations and partnerships with local schools. These partnerships with public elementary, middle, and secondary schools with substantial African American and immigrant enrollments include the Emory University Partnership Advisory Committee (EUPAC), Elementary Science Education Partners (ESEP), the Challenge & Champions (C & C) Program, and the Community Outreach Partnerships Center (COPC),” and Teaching in the Urban South (TITUS).

DES’ program Challenge and Champions, selected as a top 5 finalist in the National Association for Summer Learning Excellence Award, has worked for years so that “all middle-grades youth, regardless of income, ethnicity or home life can work toward increased: skills as a student, confidence as a learner, cultural competency in a global society, and comfort with taking on leadership” (

·         Faculty and Student Demographics: The faculty at DES is composed of 45.5 percent faculty of color. DES is one of the only seven departments university-wise with reported over 25 percent faculty of color (Emory 2009 University Profile; In addition, “DES produces more African-American PhDs than any other program of its kind in the country” (comment on - Self Study, 2010).

·         Awards and Honors: The Division of Educational Studies is the home to nationally recognized scholars who advocate for educational equity, including this year's presenter of the Brown Lecture for the American Educational Research Association, the premier venue for academic conversation about public schooling in the shadow of the Brown decision.  Other awards received by DES faculty and students include the NAEd Spencer Dissertation and Postdoctoral Fellowship,  NCSS’ Outstanding Dissertation Award, AERA’s Early Career Award from Division K, and theJean Dresden Grambs Distinguished Career Research in Social Studies Award, among numerous others.

·         Quality of Education: DES consistently provides excellent education to both undergraduate and graduate students. Based on standard end-of-course surveys, 100 percent of seniors in 2011 reported that DES provided courses of quality (DES Evaluations).

·         Educator Preparation: The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at DES, which is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, has received several awards, including the Georgia’s Distinguished Teacher Education Program Award in 2007. MAT graduates are consistently recognized as excellent teachers in their schools with numerous “Teacher of the Year” awards. (

We, DES students and alumni, want to urge  Dean Forman, Dean Tedesco, President Wagner, and the board of trustees to demonstrate their commitment to the education of children, youth, and educators by reexamining their decision to close DES. We also want to urge donors to reconsider supporting an institution that does not include education as part of its vision of excellence.

Please sign this petition to SAVE Emory University's Division of Educational Studies, which has served as a critical space to train students at all levels to engage in courageous inquiry around education in the United States and across the globe. Feel free to share your statistics and stories about the importance of DES in the comments. Thank you for your support!!

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