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School of Education dean candidate talks about the need for STEM education

Fouad Abd-El-Khalick interviewed for the open Dean position at the school of education.
Fouad Abd-El-Khalick interviewed for the open Dean position at the school of education.

Abd-El-Khalick, associate dean for research and research education at the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, began with a joke about the pronunciation of his name before talking about his goals and accomplishments.

Recent changes in demographics are affecting classrooms across the United States, he said, so there are large minority populations among students. Teacher diversity needs to keep up.

“The future already is here,” he said.

“The students, the kids are already among us.”

He said we need to find a way stop failing our population in equity, diversity and social justice, and it would be beneficial to act quickly.

Lynda Stone, an education professor, said the idea was appealing.

“I liked that he, in a sense, positioned us in a larger sort of picture about America,” she said. “I think we need to see ourselves in that larger arena.”

Abd-El-Khalick said the decrease in public funding of universities is leading to cuts to schools of education, even though there are teacher shortages nationwide.

He said during his time at Illinois, he tried to combat this by making money through online learning programs, which the school created in-house.

“We’ve created a situation where teachers do not want to go to school,” he said.

“We’ve created a situation where young people do not want to become teachers.”

Abd-El-Khalick said he is excited by research. If he becomes dean, he said he would take advantage of the Research Triangle to build a stronger education program.

“We need to think about how research changes the world,” he said.

Abd-El-Khalick said he hopes to also engage in community partnership in Chapel Hill.

At the University of Illinois, he worked to receive funding for EnLiST, a program paid for by the National Science Foundation that promotes science and engineering in K-12 education.

He said the program has created an increase in interest in STEM, especially among African-American students.

This type of work resonates with Emily Freeman, a graduate student in the School of Education.

“His way of talking about community engagement and partnership speaks to everything that I like to try to do in my research and scholarship,” she said.

Abd-El-Khalick said he’s happy in his current position, but he would be thrilled to work at UNC.

He was the second of three dean candidates to speak about his vision for the School of Education. The last forum will be Feb. 22 in Dey Hall’s Toy Lounge.

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