A Letter from Dean Shabnam Koirala-Azad

by School of Education

Welcome to 2021. As a community of education scholars, practitioners, and mental health professionals, the USF School of Education is entering a new year with its continued commitment to advance justice through education. As we start the year, we are breathing a temporary sigh of relief following the transfer of power at the national level, impressive grassroots organizing at the local level, and initial stirrings of new policies that seek to repair harm. We all deserve it after a year of repeated adversity.

And still, if we learned anything from the converging pandemics of 2020, extending into 2021, it is that the issues we face are systemic in nature and deeply ingrained into the current social order. We recognize that, rampant materialism brought on by a capitalist framework, violent racism brought on by a white supremacist framework, and so many other divisions, disparities, behaviors, and attitudes, validated by such dominant frameworks, will continue to shape our realities if left un-addressed. In the School of Education, then, our approach involves both the recognition and critique of these existing frameworks, and efforts to create new concepts, ideas, behaviors, and attitudes that can lay the foundation for new social arrangements. In particular, we focus on the field of education, broadly defined, as the space in which, and the vehicle by which, we can start to test some of these ideas for change.  For us, our sites of practice, whether in schools, institutions of higher education, organizations, and communities, continue to be spaces of "radical possibility"..."to teach [and serve] in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students...to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin” (hooks, 1994).

In this regard, we are both pausing to address the most pressing issues of our time, and taking important steps towards the long road of radical systemic change. As we enter 2021, we will continue to advance and “maintain hope even when the harshness of reality suggests the opposite” (hooks, 1994). Twenty-two year old poet laureate Amanda Gorman describes it best in her poem, "Miracle of Morning":

We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof,
For it is in loss that we truly learn to love.
In this chaos, we will discover clarity.
In suffering, we must find solidarity.
In testing times, we became the best of beings.

I wish you all a fulfilling new year, and hope that this edition of the newsletter uplifts as it informs.

In solidarity,

Shabnam Koirala-Azad
Dean, USF School of Education