A Brief History of the Graduate School of Education

Today’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) began in 1931, with Leslie Cummings as its first dean. It quickly became and has remained primarily a graduate school. Research in the field of education was fostered by the development of the Doctor of Education degree and the consequent expansion of the faculty.

The post-WWII years saw an increase in the number of students and programs. Robert Fisk became dean in 1953 and was charged with making the school prosper. A significant accomplishment during this time was the $2 million dollar “Four University Project” grant (between Buffalo, Cornell, Rochester, and Syracuse). In addition to encouraging new approaches to teacher selection and teacher education, this grant helped advance the school’s educational administration program.

Another milestone was the creation of the rehabilitation counseling program, initiated by a 1954 grant. The program was designed to meet the needs of a population that had limited access to educational services. Under the direction of Marceline Jacques, rehabilitation counseling first specialized in the rehabilitation of people with mental and physical disabilities, and later alcohol and drug addiction. In 1974, the federally funded Regional Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program (RRCEP) was formed at UB to serve rehabilitation needs at the federal, regional, state, and local levels. At that time, it was one of 10 RRCEPs set up nationally by the U.S. Department of Education. The long-term success of the rehabilitation training programs in the Graduate School of Education eventually led to new grant awards and the development of a Center for Rehabilitation Synergy in 2006, focused on excellence in education and in human resource and organizational development in the field of rehabilitation.

The school’s current program for teacher education began in 1962. An increased interest in the improvement of teacher training led to the formation of the Buffalo Research Institute on Education for Teaching (BRIET) in 1988. Led by Catherine Cornbleth, BRIET’s mission included studying teaching methods and preparation; planning and implementing programs to enhance pre-service and continuing education of teachers; and researching professional development and support services for schools. Since its inception, the teacher education program has helped thousands of students become New York State certified teachers. In 1999, BRIET was renamed the Teacher Education Institute. In 2006 GSE’s Teacher Education Program obtained accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

The 1960s and 1970s brought other significant changes. In 1962, the University at Buffalo transformed from a private to a public institution after its merger with the State University of New York. The School of Education became the Faculty of Educational Studies in 1966, and the increasing numbers of students and faculty facilitated the school’s move from Foster Hall on South Campus to Baldy Hall on North Campus in 1973.

Under Hugh Petrie’s leadership (1981–1997), faculty reorganized the school and the name, Graduate School of Education, was chosen to reflect the professional nature of the school. In addition to improving upon its long-standing programs, GSE solidified its teacher education program, learning and technology initiatives, and school-university partnerships.

Jacquelyn Mitchell (1997–1999) oversaw a comprehensive strategic plan during her brief time as dean. Building on GSE’s diverse strengths, she provided the school with a roadmap for the new millennium. Mitchell focused faculty efforts on urban education and technology, areas where she envisioned GSE playing increasing leadership roles.

During Mary Gresham's tenure (1999–2012), GSE expanded its academic mission to support school-based research throughout the pre K-16 community, and embraced a variety of international education initiatives. Her leadership helped develop relationships and create partnerships with universities around the world, and importantly to articulate a vision for the future of the Graduate School of Education.

In 2001, GSE introduced its first fully online program in general education. Enrolling students with diverse backgrounds and experiences into our Online Programs is a unique global outreach experience that GSE was, and continues to be, committed to expanding. Today, GSE offers online master’s degree programs in library science with a concentration in reference; library science with school library media certification; rehabilitation counseling; and science and the public. Online advanced graduate certificates are available in educational technology and new literacies; gifted education; and mental health counseling.

GSE began serving the island city-state of Singapore in 2002 with its school counseling master's degree program, in collaboration with the Center for American Education in Singapore. During its 10 years the program graduated 5 cohorts of students, and demonstrated that an American model of education can be successfully tailored to meet the unique needs of Singaporean schools.

Library education at UB had its first incarnation from 1919–1944, when it graduated approximately 350 students. In 1942, the school found itself at a growth juncture and sought expansion funding prior to its bid for accreditation from the American Library Association. Chancellor Capen was unable to provide university funding and reluctantly decided to phase out the program. The library education program was re-launched in 1966, accredited in 1972, and has spent the past seven years alongside the Department of Communication in UB’s former School of Informatics. In Fall 2007, the Department of Library and Information Studies joined GSE, enhancing the natural connection between education and libraries.

During the 2006–2007 academic year, the dean, chairs, and representative faculty from the four departments met to discuss the future of the profession of education, librarianship, and selected concomitants as reflected by the school’s current disciplinary/departmental emphases. The goal was to identify the purpose, mission, values, and conceptual/intellectual foci that will take GSE forward to 2021, and position it for excellence, prominence, and impact as a school of education. An emphasis on the following areas of inquiry • Institutional and Educational Policy Analysis, • Education for Social Equity, • Family-School-Societal Transitions, and • The Science of Learning and Pedagogy will shape the direction of GSE for the immediate future. These themes build on, and extend existing strengths, as well as create exciting challenges for new areas of cross disciplinary research.

A generous gift from GSE alumna Jean Alberti (Ph.D. ’70, Educational Psychology) established the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention in 2011. The mission of the center is to reduce bullying abuse in schools and in the community by contributing knowledge and providing evidence-based tools to effectively change the language, attitudes, and behaviors of educators, parents, students, and society. The center will be a national resource on the prevention of bullying and other antisocial behaviors among school children, as well as provide research and information that address these behaviors.

In 2013, Jaekyung Lee was appointed the 8th dean in the history of the Graduate School of Education. He is leading GSE as it pursues an ambitious vision for advancing its national and international prominence in research, graduate education, and educational policy.