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Lynch School of Education

Marilyn Cochran-Smith Receives Honorary Degree

Marilyn Cochran-Smith Honorary Degree
Photo courtesy of University of
Glasgow Media Relations

Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools Marilyn Cochran-Smith received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. The degree was awarded in recognition of her contributions to the field of teacher education and development.

On Friday, November 30th, Cochran-Smith was honored at the University of Glasgow’s commencement ceremony. The oration describing her work is as follows:  

Chancellor, by the authority of the Senate, I present to you this person on whom the Senate desires you to confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters--Professor Marilyn Cochran-Smith.

Professor Cochran-Smith holds the Cawthorne Endowed Chair in Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College and, if her professional titles are something of a mouthful, it offers only a pale imitation of her achievements. She is undoubtedly one of a small group of elite scholars who have changed the face of teacher education, not only in her homeland of the United States, but across the world. Her influence has been felt in universities and school systems from Aberdeen to Auckland as she traverses the globe in an effort to improve the quality of scholarly reflection and day-to-day practice in teacher education.

Following studies at the College of Wooster, Ohio, where she graduated AB in Sociology with a certification as an elementary school teacher, she went on to teach Language, Arts, and Social Studies for six years. Even in this early period of her professional life Marilyn gave some indication of what was to come. In 1975 she was awarded the young educator of the year in her school district, and indeed anyone who has had the privilege of listening to her will see the still burning passion for education and witness the consummate communicator committed to education as the means for transforming lives. She went on to study an M.Ed. at Ohio State University and subsequently completed her Ph.D. in Language at the University of Pennsylvania; where she graduated from in 1982 and subsequently took up a tenured position.

The author of over 170 scholarly papers and articles and 9 books, 5 of which have received national awards, from the outset of her of her academic career Marilyn has impressed university colleagues and school teachers alike with the acuity of her insights and the passionate determination with which she has pursued the goal of her intellectually sophisticated and ethically committed teaching profession. This intellectual commitment has seen her recognized by colleagues across the globe and she has held some 10 visiting positions including Auckland, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, and Singapore, where she held the inaugural C.J. Koh Endowed distinguished Professorship at the National Institutes of Education in 2006.

In 1996 she joined the Lynch School of Education at Boston College as Chair of the Department of Teacher Education, Special Education, and Curriculum and Instruction, and, in 2005 was appointed to the John E. Cawthorne Endowed Chair in Teacher Education for Urban Schools. During her tenure at Boston College she has held leading positions in American education and, in 2004, she was elected to the presidency of the American Educational Research Association, the pre-eminent research organization, where she was renowned as a gracious and determined leader. Indeed on discovering that I knew Marilyn, one fulltime officer of the Association commented, ‘Isn’t she the best!’ Her commitment to improving education has seen Marilyn to sit on the advisory boards of many national projects and committees, including the New York City Pathways Project, the Ohio Teachers Quality Project, and the UCLA/Center X Urban Teacher Educators Network.

Dr. Cochran-Smith is a member of the Executive Committee and the Leadership Team for Boston College’s Teachers for a New Era project, funded primarily by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Chair of the Evidence Team for this project. She is also a member of the Research Coordinating Council for the Teachers for a New Era national cross-site group. It is in the last respect that she has made a particular impact on teacher education in Scotland being a leading figure in the evolution of the Carnegie funded Teachers for a New Era, which, in turn, has played an important role in the recent government report Teaching Scotland’s Future. Indeed, in this regard, Marilyn has had a direct influence on the development of teacher education in this university. She is currently elected to the American Academy of Education and, too add to this long list of prizes and honors conferred on her, Dr. Cochran-Smith received the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s highest honor, the Pomeroy Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Teacher Education, in 2004. In 2012 she was honored with a Doctor Honoris Causa from Alicante University.

Time and space limit the recounting of Marilyn’s many achievements as a scholar and a leader in the development of teacher education across the globe. More than this, those of us who witness her at work see a colleague of boundless energy and enthusiasm who is perennially questioning and challenging ‘taken for granted assumptions’ in her quest for educational improvement. Her commitment to and intellectual leadership in questions of social justice, racial equality, cultural diversity, and high quality teaching puts her in a select group of educationalists and we, at the University of Glasgow, are privileged to call her a colleague, an ally in our passion to raise educational standards, and a friend.

Chancellor, I invite you to confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters on Marilyn Cochran-Smith.