Message from the Dean

On October 28, 2018, I wrote a letter to members of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education community and to colleagues across the world regarding the violence that took the lives of eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. In that letter, I wrote that I was deeply saddened and devastated, and terribly troubled and horrified, yet again. And, I still am! I remain extremely concerned about how violence and hatred continue to invade, harm, and kill us, even in the spaces and places we retreat for safety, comfort, solace, worship, and love.

In that letter, I also referenced other violent events, including the mass killing of nine church members at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and twenty-six church members, with an additional twenty injured, at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX. This violence, however, is not exclusive to our churches and synagogues. In fact, this violence has invaded our various public spaces (e.g., movie theaters, grocery stories, restaurants, parks, etc.), as well as our schools (e.g., Sandy Hook Elementary School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, etc.). It goes without saying that such violence can have long-lasting and negative consequences for how we operate, function, and join together as members of a “beloved community,” to borrow Dr. Martin Luther King’s phrase.

As a community, as a country, and as individual and collective beings in this world, I strongly believe that we must stand one with the other as we: insist that there is “no room for hate;” find ways to embrace and care for each other; and (re)commit to being part of the ongoing movement for freedom, justice, and equity. There is no other way for us to be in this world, but with love and because of love. It is my hope that we will stand—boldly, firmly, and bravely—with each other as we combat hate and fight for justice.

In light of the mass killing at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Associate Dean for Equity and Justice in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Leigh Patel, wrote: “we remain concerned with how children and young people deal with this trauma, but throughout and beyond this, our task is to ameliorate, heal, and create spaces in which people can literally be with each other and be together.” I could not agree with her more. As we “deal with this trauma,” I ask us to consider the following questions, among others: In what ways do we/must we deeply and lovingly care for each other, inside schools and communities? How can we better support all educators to understand trauma and to identify its warning signs in order to support children and young adults? What are some of the multiple ways that trauma finds its way into (and impacts) our classrooms, our students, and ourselves?

As we consider these questions, I ask that we actively and lovingly create space with each other, wherever we are in the world. Let us pour onto and into every child, young person, and adult an abundance of love, hope, and care. And let’s get to the work of justice and equity…for our kids and ourselves.

Valerie Kinloch is the Renee and Richard Goldman Dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. Since arriving at Pitt in July 2017, Kinloch has dedicated herself to strengthening the school's commitments to urban education, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement, while also enhancing school culture and broadening alumni participation. A highly-respected educator, Kinloch’s areas of research focus on the literacy, language, culture, and community engagement of youth and adults, both inside and outside of schools.