It’s August and the start of a new school year in the Northern Hemisphere. As I’ve written before, new beginnings are both energizing and daunting. The first 20 years of the Belin-Blank Center resulted in several programs, services, and events that brought us to this point. Much has happened; yet, there is more to do.
This sentiment captures the state of the Center as we entered Phase V (2008 – 2013) of our 30-year anniversary retrospective.
Not every year has a theme, but 2008 did, and The Time is Now seemed perfect as we marked our 20th anniversary. All of our programs were mature and strong and we were able to add new opportunities, services, and student programs.
In 2008, we hosted the 9th Wallace Research Symposium. It was extra special that year because we brought in 79 international educators from 44 countries Originally, we believed that we were bringing international educators to the University of Iowa to enhance their experience. We quickly learned that, although they were very enthusiastic about the opportunity, it was we who benefitted the most through the increased diversity and the broadening of our perspectives. To this day, we have maintained our connections with these international educators, having most recently visited with a few during the August 2018 European Council for High Ability Conference in Dublin, Ireland.
A few months later, we welcomed our first group of China Scholars, which expanded a few years later to include students from Hong Kong. From 2008 – 2017, we welcomed multiple cohorts of high school students from China or Hong Kong, several of whom eventually attended and graduated from the University of Iowa.
The year 2008 also brought devastating floods to Iowa, and the UI campus, in particular, where more than $1 billion dollars in damages were sustained. Still, the Center – indeed, the entire university — continued to serve students and educators and to strengthen our research agenda throughout this trying time.
The early part of Phase V, saw additional resources added to the Acceleration Institute, which features two seminal reports on academic acceleration (A Nation Deceived and its follow-up report, A Nation Empowered) , access to the Iowa Acceleration Scale (published in 2009) and a free download of Guidelines for Establishing Academic Acceleration Policies (also published in 2009). Both publications are scheduled for an update in 2019.
Our student programs took on a new dimension in 2011, when we were invited to be the administrative home for the Junior Science Humanities Symposium (JSHS) and the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP). In particular, SSTP would become the model for future summer residential pre-college programs that include UI credit-bearing courses.
In 2012, we co-hosted, with the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), a special summit related to policy on academic acceleration. This was such a successful event that it precipitated additional co-hosting of events. Specifically, we have since co-hosted the Wallace Symposium with NAGC (2014) and with Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt University (2018).
The final years of Phase V were important transition years with the Center’s founding director, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, retiring in mid-December 2012. I was honored to become the second director of the Belin-Blank Center and to continue to build our programs and services with the superb team of professionals who comprise the Center.
Phase VI, the final chapter in this 30-year retrospective, is characterized by additional growth, as always, built upon the foundation established by philanthropists and co-founders, Myron and Jacqueline Blank and David and Connie Belin, and enhanced through the Center’s amazing staff and faculty. Stay tuned for our October newsletter, where I am pleased to be sharing all the recent work we have been doing to move into the next 30 years of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence in talented students.