‘Best thing that ever happened to me’
Prof. Young: A legacy of commitment to public education
Thirty-one years ago Dr. Jon Young came to Winnipeg for a one-year appointment at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education.
He admits it was primarily the lure of work that first drew him and his then-young family westward from Toronto, but the Prairie community quickly grew on him. “Manitoba is a great place to raise a family, and coming to Winnipeg was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“Manitoba was a great place to be a university professor in education because this province has maintained a strong commitment to public education, and the educative purposes of schools,” Young said.
In 1985, Dr. Young had just earned his PhD in university administration at University of Toronto, and during his first year in Winnipeg, Young successfully landed a tenure-track position.
Thus began Young’s accomplished career in education. Although, Young characteristically shies from the spotlight, his record speaks for itself, a C.V. six pages long (and that’s the abbreviated version).
Among his accomplishments:
- Developing an academic link with the University of Nottingham, England in the late-’90s where faculties of both institutions collaborated on research and teacher education. During the partnership, lasting until 2005, Young was appointed special professor to the University of Nottingham.
- Overseeing the merger of the Education Administration and Foundations, and Educational Psychology departments, and
- Establishing and delivering graduate-level cohorts first in Winnipeg school divisions and then expanding the offering provincewide, including remote First Nations communities.
In acknowledgement of his extensive work in education, Young was awarded the MERN 2015 Research Achievement Award, recognizing “innovative, excellent, effective and participatory Manitoba-based education research.”
“It was a humbling and pleasant experience. I was honoured and happy to receive it,” Young was quoted as saying at the time.
In reflecting on the impact of his career in Manitoba, Young puts it into the context of working within a faculty whose commitment to public education focuses on equity and social justice.
“It’s not about privileging social interest groups or the rich. It’s that attempt to provide high-quality schooling for all students with public involvement that is broadly educational.”
By educational, Young means: “It’s not just about being number 1 in PISA scores, it’s about the well-being of children, and their development.”
Whereas, other jurisdictions have narrowed their focus to job training, literacy and numeracy at the expense of arts, Manitoba has maintained a strong commitment to a broad, well-rounded educational purpose, Young says.
Because education is still governed in part by relatively small, strong school boards, Manitoba has also maintained a strong commitment to public participation in schooling, he says, a cornerstone of public education.
“People can participate somewhat in the education of their children and the decisions related to that,” he says. “I think that will remain an important contribution that department will make to the well being of the public school system and the kids in Manitoba, for sure.”
Looking forward, the outgoing acting head of Educational Administration, Foundations and Psychology sees this stage of his life as a “transition” into a new role as senior scholar, continuing his research, writing and working with some 20 graduate students.
But Young’s semi-retirement won’t be all work.
“I play a lot of tennis, so I am looking forward to playing more tennis, and going to the gym so I can play better tennis,” he said.
His wife, Nancy Read is also “somewhat” retired, and he looks forward to travelling “when we want to and not waiting for holiday time.”
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Young was one of four faculty and staff honoured at a recent reception.
Jennifer Campbell is also retiring as school placement coordinator. Campbell joined the faculty in 2011 after a lifelong career as a teacher in Winnipeg School Division, 1975-2007.
“She took on a lot of responsibilities when she came to the School Experiences office and instantly formed a bond with (Associate Dean) Melanie Janzen and established a strong presence. Those of you who know her, know she is a hard worker and since she started, she has moved the placement program so much further along,” said Dean David Mandzuk during the reception, noting passion for sports, particularly as a soccer referee at the national and international levels, fencing and golf.
Campbell will stay on as a faculty adviser in the fall and will be succeeded in August by Katie Maloney-Buchanan, formerly of UCN, as the faculty’s school placement coordinator.
Jennifer Katz, associate professor in EAF&P, has accepted a position with University of British Columbia after serving seven years with the Faculty of Education.
Dean Mandzuk praised her for her “instrumental” contributions to the Inclusive Education program, working toward better inclusion for persons with disabilities in schools and communities.
“In particular, she was a founder for the Manitoba Alliance for Universal Design Learning. I think this will be her legacy during her time in Manitoba,” Mandzuk said, “in particular, the three-block model that she has presented. She has definitely left her mark.”
Librarian Donna Masson is also retiring after working for the University of Manitoba since 1988. She worked in a number of libraries before she accepted a position in the Elizabeth Dafoe Library in 2007 as liaison librarian for the Faculty of Education, a position she has held ever since. As Education librarian she assumed responsibility for collections management, reference and research services, instruction services, and liaison with the Faculty.
“Donna has been a true ally of the faculty,” said Mandzuk. “She has always had a strong presence because of her work and her commitment to students—both graduate and undergraduate students—to find the time to help them to hone their research skills.”
Over the course of her career at the University of Manitoba, she has also served as liaison librarian for other subject areas, among them Women’s and Gender Studies, Anthropology, Psychology and Religion. She has been active in teaching research skills to undergraduate and graduate students in her various subject specialties.
She lists among her ongoing research interests: information literacy, adult education, diagnostic and remedial reading.
“I want to acknowledge what a positive impact you have had as our librarian,” Mandzuk said. “I will really miss her positive energy and her constant optimism.”
Dr Jon Young’s longstanding commitment to “multicultural education” led to him inviting people from diverse cultures as speakers in teacher training classrooms. His goal-to advance teacher preparation in working effectively across diverse populations of students. His recognition of the “community’s voice” helped positively shape community stay-in-school efforts and transformed student outcomes in Manitoba schools. Today, for example, there are numerous youth (now adults in diverse professions) who credit the work of the Black Youth Helpline-Manitoba in helping them remain and succeed in area schools. Dr. Jon Young’s contribution was at the core of such accomplishments.