A Celebration of 10 Years of Leadership and Collaboration 2006 – 2016

Dear all,

I want to begin my last regular message to the College as Dean by expressing great appreciation to all who have been my dear colleagues, staff, students, alumni, supporters, and friends for the past ten years.

It has been my honor to have been for these years, Dean of one of the world’s great Colleges of Education. In distant Australia, from where I came in 2006, the College of Education at the University of Illinois has for decades inspired awe—as the place where so many leading Australian educators had been inducted into our profession; so too in many other parts of the world and of course in the USA.

Over the past decade, we have transformed our culture and what we do – programs, scholarship, planning, organization, branding, financial literacy and outreach. We have harnessed the latest technology for new classrooms and created cutting edge laboratory spaces. We introduced a new undergraduate degree, Learning and Education Studies. We have revamped our teacher education program. We have a new concentration, Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, & Agency (DELTA). We have a recently approved online doctorate in education. Our MOOC offerings are growing as we move towards the iMEd program that will soon stand alongside the University’s pathbreaking, crossover iMBA and data science programs. Our programs remain among the highest ranked in the university and the nation and we also now have one of the nation’s top online programs. Our students remain outstanding and nothing has given me more pleasure than seeing them grow in their journey in our College of Education.

Over the past several years, we have made 18 new faculty hires, remarkably productive scholars who are already winning grants and are making an impact by designing and researching a new generation of learning environments. We have led the campus-wide Illinois Learning Sciences Design Initiative, an interdisciplinary, cross campus, collaboration that has already won significant external grant funding.

Year after year, we have met and exceeded our gift targets – this past year we brought in $2.7 million in new funds for new scholarships. The Advancement team also surpassed their goals in cash gifts by raising over $2 million to support strategic initiatives. We received the largest cash donation to the College ever, to support recruiting awards for our incoming class of 2020. Part of this success is linked to the strategies designed to better engage donors developed by our Advancement, Communications, and Technology teams.

We have developed and maintained strong relationships with the local community via the work of the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities; the Youth Literature Festival; and the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education; the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment; and the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative. The Confucius Institute is also contributing to expanding our engagement with local and international Chinese communities.

Faculty and graduate students in the College continue to do the kind of research that delivers hugely important new findings and understandings in the areas of technology-mediated learning, bullying, social and emotional behavior, special education, educational evaluation, learner diversity, instructional design, math and science education and too many other areas to list here. The evolution of the Graduate Student Conference has been awesome. EPOL has come together into a unified department (formerly three departments), growing ever stronger as an intellectual powerhouse. The administrative centralization of our teacher education program and the expansion of study abroad opportunities have greatly enriched education experiences for our students. Kudos to all involved in these momentous changes!

Personally, as someone who came to work in this country only a decade ago I was proud to have been named last year the second most influential education dean. These have been productive years for me intellectually as well, with two major books, then second editions of both, several dozen articles and chapters, and seven grants from the Institute of Educational Sciences, the National Science Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. None of this could have happened without the remarkable colleagues with whom I have worked.

Now, to round up some more recent news, for which congratulations are in order. Two of our faculty received promotions and tenure effective August 16, 2016. Congratulations go to:

  • Kiel Christianson, who has been promoted to professor, and
  • AJ Welton, who was promoted to associate professor on indefinite tenure and also has accepted the role of Dean’s Fellow for Faculty Development and Diversity Initiatives for a two year term.

We are grateful to Jessica Li for all her work over the past two years as Dean’s Fellow to help lift the College profile and to facilitate the College’s Diversity Initiatives. We also welcome Assistant Professor Woo-jeong Shim, who is joining the Department of EPOL in its higher education division.

We are also about to have some leadership changes:

  • James Anderson, Edward William and Jane Marr Gutsgell Professor of Education, will become interim Dean of the College of Education, commencing 16 August. Having worked very closely with Jim for the past ten years, I cannot think of a more qualified and experienced person to assume this role.
  • Denice Hood will be our new Director of Online Learning, and a search is underway for the Assistant Director of Online Learning (a vacancy created by April Hixson’s departure).
  • Amy Santos becomes Interim Head of Special Education.
  • Yoon Pak will be Acting Head of EPOL while Jim serves as Dean.
  • Chris Span has assumed responsibility the role of Director of Teacher Education, while Sarah McCarthey is on sabbatical.
  • Jennifer Delaney will be taking over leadership of the Forum on the Future of Public Education.
  • An offer has been made to a truly outstanding candidate for Associate Dean for Research, currently subject to negotiations.

The following honors and awards have been bestowed since my most recent blogpost, for which I offer my hearty congratulations:

  • Micki Ostrosky will receive the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Award for Mentoring.
  • Recent doctoral graduate Jenna Weglarz-Ward received the DEC Outstanding Doctoral Student Award.
  • Eboni Zamani-Gallaher was selected to participate in the Big 10 Academic Alliance Academic Leadership Program for 2016-17.
  • Amy Santos was selected for the Big 10 Academic Alliance Department Executive Officer Program.

I am pleased to be able to inform you that the past year was another record year for grant applications and research funding. 13 completely new awards were made to College of Education faculty. Sponsors range from federal agencies (National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Education, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control), to Foundations (Spencer Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, ACT Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), as well as two State of Illinois agency awards (Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Human Services). We recorded 26 submitted proposals during the month of June, 2016 totaling $12,753,716 in requested funding. At the beginning of this month,10 proposals were submitted under the annual Institute of Education Sciences program.

I also want to mention the outcomes of our scenario planning exercise. The fruits of the collective wisdom of the College are to be found in here in which we addressed our challenges and opportunities, and planned scenarios for future strategic action. Thank you to folks in the Dean’s Office and the members of CEC for leading this initiative as well as all who actively participated. The college and I have been fortunate for the deeply committed and progressive members of the leadership teams that have steered our college, always in the interest of the public good.

I look forward to continuing to work with you as a colleague in the College of Education and to serving the university as opportunities arrive. The deep experience, expertise and values of our new Chancellor Robert D. Jones’ bodes well for a more robust and trustworthy campus culture.

Finally, and of utmost importance to me, my Australian 14 year old grand-daughter, Mary, is now in remission after treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and a healthy new American grandson was born at Carle Hospital on the July 29, William Nicholas. I have much to rejoice in.

With sincere gratitude for all we have created together, enduring admiration for our College of Education and complete confidence that its future will be as illustrious as its past.



 I would like to invite you all—faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and your families—to a celebration of the past 10 years, an open house at my home:

       Sunday, August 28, 4.00pm – 7.00pm

   4018 N. Lincoln Ave, Champaign.  

      RSVP: mail@marykalantzis.com   

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