Celebrating Curry Milestones

Over the course of the 2016-2017 academic year the Curry School is celebrating significant anniversaries of some of our most successful programs. Two academic programs, Speech Communication Disorders and Clinical & School Psychology, have now been preparing excellent human services professionals for a total of 125 years. The longevity of a pair of Curry outreach programs, Young Writers Workshop and the Young Women Leaders Program, proves their popularity and impact among adolescents. The Center for Advanced Studying of Teaching and Learning marks its first full decade of nationally and internationally recognized research on early childhood education and teacher quality at all education levels.

Speech Communication Disorders Program

75 years in 2016

The Curry School’s speech communication disorders program was founded by two prescient UVA faculty members who saw the need for the professions that became speech language pathology and audiology. Dr. Karl Wallace, professor of speech, and Dr. Fletcher D. Woodward, professor of otolaryngology, received permission from the Board of Visitors in 1941 to establish a Speech and Hearing Center. A “free clinic for speech faults” associated with the center was the first of its kind in the South, dedicated to aid “regularly enrolled students who may have such speech problems as stuttering, lisping, or other sound substitutions, hard-of-hearing speech, abnormal pitch levels, or general articulation problems,” according to an article in College Topics.

First located in Cocke Hall, the clinic then moved to 58 East Range, quickly establishing itself as an important part of the educational community. The clinic also served community children and coached teachers. Its success led to course in speech pathology and speech correction, then to a degree program in speech education in 1946.

“Across our 75-year history, it’s possible to tally the number of graduate degrees conferred,” said Randall Robey, director of Curry’s speech communication disorders program since 1999. “Beyond calculation, how­ever, is the number of infants, children, adults, veterans, and elderly patients whose lives have been positively impacted by all of those alumni.”

The program continues to thrive, with a fall 2016 masters class filled with an unprecedented 49 students. The program has modernized its recruiting and admission processes to resonate with millennial applicants. The new process proved exceptionally powerful, and the percentage of applicants accepting the program’s invitation to study in Charlottesville shot through the roof, Robey said.

HISTORICAL SOURCE: The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia: 1905-2005 by Eleanor Vernon Wilson

School & Clinical Psychology Program

50 Years in 2017

Dick Abidin, Professor Emeritus

Richard Abidin, Ed.D., was recruited to the Curry School in 1967 to develop a doctoral program in school and clinical psychology. At the time, clinical psychology was a relatively new applied profession, and the Curry School’s program offered the first applied psychology doctorate offered in Virginia. In 1976 the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia authorized a Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology to be granted through the Curry School. Abidin designed the program’s structure and curriculum.

Professors Ronald Reeve and Peter Sheras were hired in 1975 to work in the school and clinical psychology programs. The American Psychological Association approved the combined program in 1979. It was the first such program nationally, and its model of an integrated clinical and school psychology graduate degree now prevails nationally.

Faculty members in the program have since made many significant contributions to the mental health field, including Dewey Cornell and Peter Sheras’ study of youth violence, Ann Loper’s work with incarcerated females, and Edith “Winx” Lawrence’s work with the Young Women Leader’s Program (see below). Curry School dean Bob Pianta’s nationally known research on early childhood education and teacher quality began in the clinical and school psychology program. Jason Downer is now both the program coordinator and director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, which Pianta founded (see below).

Newer faculty members include Patrick Tolan, director of Youth-Nex: The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, Catherine Bradshaw, who conducts research on bullying, school climate and school-based prevention programs, Amanda Williford, who researches the development of young children’s school readiness and classroom-based efforts to reduce disruptive behaviors, and Michael Lyons, who studies adolescent well-being and school-based mentoring programs.  The program also has an outstanding core of clinical and adjunct faculty who oversee supervision of evidence-based treatment and assessment in the Sheilah C. Johnson Center, including Julia Blodgett, Joyce Matthews-Rurak, Peter Patrick, Ronald Reeve, and Antoinette Thomas. All lend their prestige to this exceptional academic program so that it promises to remain a leading source of empirical knowledge and topnotch clinical and school psychologists for decades to come.

HISTORICAL SOURCE: The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia: 1905-2005 by Eleanor Vernon Wilson

Young Writers Workshop

35 Years in 2016

The Young Writers Workshop (YWW) is the invention of Margo Figgins, who co-founded it in 1982 while a Curry School graduate student. The program celebrated its 35th anniversary last May with a four-day conference that reunited hundreds of alumni.  As a veteran English teacher, Figgins had observed that teens were most alive to themselves and others when they were being creative; that powerful work occurred through collaboration; and that, when their work was being taken seriously, they would spend endless after-school hours absorbed in artistic expression.

YWW Open Mic

The resulting Workshop provides teens a rare opportunity to live as a community of writers, where they produce original work, share it  and receive responses that advance its publication.  The Workshop has continued to innovate, now offering six genres with the recent addition of graphic fiction and nonfiction to the choices of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, songwriting, screen and playwriting.  It has been the launching pad for many new artists, whose accomplishments include two MacArthur Genius Awards, two Whiting Awards, a National Book Award, a major film release, a national theater project, a musical news group, and an international media presence.

Figgins earned her education doctorate from the Curry School in 1987, served on the faculty until her 2014 retirement, and continues to direct the program.  She reflected, “Living on a college campus, making lifelong friends, and writing all day, could there be a better way to spend one’s summer?”  Over 6,000 have tested that question. Many from those alumni ranks return as residential staff, teachers, visiting writers, and administrators. When decades of alumni star power signed on for the reunion and were joined by performing artists Dahlia Lithwick, Cornelius Eady and John D’earth, the magic that captivates everyone who crosses the YWW threshold was reignited to power the next 35 years.

Young Women Leaders Program

20 Years in 2017

Winx Lawrence, YWLP co-founder and director

The Young Women Leaders Program (YWLP), founded in 1997 by Edith “Winx” Lawrence and Kimberley Roberts at the University of Virginia, is an after-school, curriculum-based mentoring program that pairs middle school girls with college women for a year to boost the self-esteem and leadership skills of both groups.

YWLP is co-sponsored by the UVA Women’s Center and Curry School of Education. By combining one-on-one mentoring with targeted group activities, YWLP addresses issues related to girls’ sense of self, scholastic achievement, body image, social aggression and healthy decision-making. Building on self-determination theory, YWLP focuses on building all participants’ sense of themselves as competent, connected and autonomous leaders.

“Our mission is to help the middle school girls – and the college women – see themselves as competent, feel connected to and supported by each other and think for themselves,” said Lawrence, professor of clinical and school psychology.

YWLP has served over 1,200 girls from diverse socioeconomic, racial and academic backgrounds in Central Virginia with trained undergraduate and graduate women mentors. An additional ten sister sites have been established nationally and internationally using the YWLP model.

The YWLP curriculum was developed and based on research in interdisciplinary areas by faculty members and undergraduate and graduate students from the Curry School of Education. In fact, ongoing research on YWLP has led to important program improvements over the years, including increased support for the college women mentors with a three-credit class on theory and research on adolescent development and best practices in mentoring, incorporating a global focus on issues facing girls participating in YWLP sister sites and more opportunities for groups to do leadership projects in their schools and community.

Over the next 20 years the hope is to have greater exchange opportunities, both virtually and literally, for the girls and women in YWLP across the globe.

The Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning

10 Years in 2017

Bob pianta
Bob Pianta, Dean of the Curry School and CASTL founder

The Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) has worked for a decade now to improve the quality of education in classrooms across Virginia and the nation. The research center, founded by Robert Pianta who is now dean of the Curry School of Education, opened its doors in 2006 and aims to answer a critical question: “How can we measure and improve the quality of teacher-student interactions so that learning is engaging and effective?”

After conducting a series of longitudinal studies in the early 2000s, which measured the quality of teacher-child interactions in early childhood classrooms, Pianta and colleagues found that many young children were not getting the high-quality learning experiences they needed. The findings prompted the development of a coaching model that gave teachers an opportunity to observe their interactions and work on the social, emotional and instructional support they provide children. Called MyTeachingPartner™, the model fueled the creation of CASTL and set the stage for a series of ongoing studies focusing on improving the quality of teaching and learning.

Since then the research center has expanded its focus to study classroom interactions at all educational levels, from infancy to higher education. CASTL has become a multi-faceted interdisciplinary research center, receiving over $55 million in grant funding over the past decade. The center’s studies in elementary and secondary education show that the interactions happening between teacher and student are a universal and essential component to improving the learning experience, regardless of age.

The center, comprised of about 20 full-time research faculty and 25 staff, is currently playing an integral role in changing the landscape of Virginia’s early childhood education through its participation in initiatives like the Virginia Preschool Initiative Plus and the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program.

Beyond the Commonwealth, CASTL has worked across the country and internationally to help measure the quality of the teaching and learning occurring in today’s classrooms. The center is involved with a number of national efforts to improve the quality of teaching, such as the Carnegie Foundation’s Student Agency Improvement Community. As part of this community CASTL researchers contribute to a growing body of knowledge designed to foster classroom experiences that have value for students and give them the tools necessary for academic success.

Throughout the years, the center’s mission to advance the quality and impact of teaching has remained the same and stems from a belief that effective teaching and learning are the foundation for opportunity, success and well-being. CASTL has mentored more than 90 students and postdoctoral fellows who have gone on to other institutions across the country to continue that mission.

While much work is still to be done to improve the quality of teaching in today’s classrooms, CASTL’s work is focused on making that change one teacher at a time.

Update 1/27/17:

The McGuffey Reading Center

80 years in 2017

A sixth important anniversary at Curry this year is the 80th anniversary of the McGuffey Reading Center – the oldest continuously running university-based literacy center in the country. READ MORE about the McGuffey anniversary.