May 28, 2002 Vol. VI, No. 17

Eisners Give CSUN Record $7 Million Gift

Donation to the College of Education Will Bring Cutting-Edge Teacher Preparation Program to Campus

The Eisner Foundation-created by Disney chairman Michael D. Eisner and his wife Jane-has given Cal State Northridge a $7 million gift to establish a cutting-edge new teacher training program intended to help improve student learning.

The university's new Center for Teaching and Learning within the College of Education will focus on preparing teachers to support the diverse educational and emotional needs of all types of student learners, said Northridge President Jolene Koester in announcing the gift during a campus news conference on Monday, May 20.

The Eisner gift is the largest donation in the university's history. In recognition of that, President Koester said she will ask the California State University system's Board of Trustees, at its mid-July meeting, to rename the college "The Michael D. Eisner College of Education." The college would become the first at CSUN to be named for a donor.

"Cal State Northridge has always been a leader in preparing California's teachers. The Eisner gift recognizes the high quality of our program and provides additional support that allows us to ensure the men and women who pass through our doors have the skills they need so all our children have an opportunity to succeed," the president said.

Michael and Jane Eisner said they made the gift to Cal State Northridge because they share the university's goal to see that teachers and other education professionals are prepared to serve the diverse needs of children and adolescents.

"Every child should be given the opportunity to succeed. Yet in schools across the nation, children with learning differences are often underserved in traditional classroom settings," said Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co.

"The Eisner Foundation decided to make this gift to CSUN because we know that although teachers understand how important it is to help children learn in their own way, their training does not always give them the tools to address the learning needs of all children," Eisner said.

College of Education Dean Philip Rusche called the university's partnership with the Eisners a natural. "Here we have a family that is intimately involved with a variety of educational activities and a leading college of education leveraging our resources together," Rusche said. "We will make a difference in education here, throughout the state and even nationally."

Cal State Northridge is the leading producer of teaching credential recipients among public universities in California. Northridge also was one of only four universities nationwide recently tapped by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to take part in a landmark initiative to strengthen K-12 teaching by developing state-of-the-art programs at schools of education.

The Eisner gift, to be paid to CSUN over four years, will fund the creation and operation of the new Center for Teaching and Learning and endow the Eisner Chair in Teaching and Learning. The first Eisner Chair and executive director of the center will be Michael Spagna, a Northridge associate professor of special education.

Spagna said Cal State Northridge will be the first university in the nation to add one particular specialized training component to its teacher preparation programs. The specialized training aims to address the diverse needs of the up to 25 percent of the school-age population that are encountering difficulty in the classroom and considered at-risk.

The new CSUN center will incorporate the teachings and philosophies of noted pediatrician and best-selling author Dr. Mel Levine, who founded All Kinds of Minds, a North Carolina-based nonprofit institute for the study of differences in learning. Levine is a pioneer in the field of learning differences.

The group's program for training teachers is called Schools Attuned, which uses a systematic approach to understanding and managing differences in student learning. Levine also is a professor of pediatrics and director of the Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine-Chapel Hill.

"Dr. Levine's work is revolutionary," said Jane Eisner, president of The Eisner Foundation. "The classroom experience of every student will be enhanced when their teacher is skilled in Dr. Levine's philosophies. We are thrilled to help CSUN reach its goal of ensuring that teachers, counselors, administrators and other professionals are prepared to serve the diverse educational needs of children and adolescents throughout the region."

"Without proper training, teachers are often ill-equipped to handle the special needs of children's differences in learning," said Levine, author of the best-selling book "A Mind at a Time." "This center will raise awareness of the effective techniques and teaching practices that can help kids succeed, both in the classroom and outside of school."

The Eisner Foundation, which awards about $7 million a year to nonprofit groups in Los Angeles and Orange County, provides financial support to organizations that undertake innovative and concrete programs designed to enhance and enrich the lives of children who are underserved or who have learning differences and their families.

@csun | May 28, 2002 issue
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