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October 29, 2015

Forum provides input for education dean search

“We have a school we could describe as being in transition,” a School of Education alumnus and former faculty member told 10 members of the search committee for the school’s next dean. The panelists were presiding over a public forum about the search on Oct. 14 in the William Pitt Union ballroom.

“Our population doesn’t look like your panel any more,” C. Dianne Colbert said, referring to the all-white group at the head of the room. Two of the three absent members also are white. “We need to look at urban education” — including improvements in racial, ethnic, gender and economic diversity in city schools — “and how we close that academic gap we’re always talking about” between black and white students in grades K-12.

“So many of our superintendents and the leadership of the school districts of southwestern Pennsylvania are graduates of the School of Education and that can be both a blessing and a curse,” she added. “We’re doing potentially some intellectual inbreeding. It doesn’t allow us to open up to the fact that we have some diverse populations growing in the area.”

Committee chair Charles A. Perfetti, distinguished University professor of psychology and director and senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center, agreed that “we certainly need a strong emphasis in the teacher training” in making diversity work in the classroom.

Committee member N. Tanner Wallace, of the education faculty, said a new school leader must demonstrate ease with discussing what diversity means to the school’s mission. “I really think we need a dean who is comfortable working in that space, who will not shy away from having conversations” concerning this subject.

Fellow faculty member Jennifer Russell, also on the committee, thought such discussions had become “deeper, richer, more prominent” in the school in her eight years there, but added: “We’re poised to take that to a deeper level.”

Only 20 people, mostly associated with the School of Education, attended the forum, which is one of the University’s first steps in finding candidates to replace retiring Dean Alan Lesgold.

Any dean, said Vice Provost for Graduate Studies Alberta Sbragia, representing the Provost’s office on the committee, should be expected to:

• Be successful at recruiting and retaining faculty and staff;
• Develop training programs for faculty to create student success;
• Foster diversity at all levels;
• Manage finances;
• Continue to improve core programs;
• Continue the school’s impact at the state and national level; and
• Have a history of scholarship.


Suggestions for candidate qualifications from forum participants were diverse as well. Allie Quick, senior executive director in principal gifts and University leadership engagement in the Office of Institutional Advancement, as well as a student in the school’s inaugural EdD class, pushed for a dean who deals well with external relationships. “This dean will be part of the next, biggest campaign for the University of Pittsburgh,” Quick said, and must be comfortable with fundraising and with increasing the school’s emphasis on teaching educational administrators.

Fundraising and investment knowledge, said Rosa Morris, a principal with the search firm Korn Ferry International, which is working with the committee, “is a must-have now for a dean in any institution.” Morris added that the committee will be looking for candidates who demonstrate persuasive communication skills as well as the ability to tell the school’s story and build relationships with potential supporters.

“And somebody the faculty will like,” Sbragia said.

“A tall order,” Morris responded.

Scott Morgenstern, director of the Center for Latin American Studies in the University Center for International Studies, told the committee “there’s a lot of enthusiasm for this search” at UCIS and produced a four-page document listing the ways in which UCIS and education already collaborate. Nonetheless, he urged the panel to consider a dean who would create even more of an international emphasis in teacher education.

He also hoped that the new dean would consider making it possible for the school’s undergraduate students to earn teacher certification.

Sheila J. Conway, education faculty member in the special education program within the Department of Instruction and Learning and co-director of teacher education with Michelle Sobolak, explained after the meeting that Pitt currently does not offer teacher certification at the undergraduate level. “The undergraduate major provides deep content knowledge and then School of Education coursework and clinical experiences provide the pedagogical skills for effective teaching. Upon successful completion of a pre-service teacher program, students are eligible for certification.” In addition, five graduate programs in the school include teacher certification.

Amanda Godley, another education faculty member, told the panel she hoped the school would partner with more school districts “where social justice is at the forefront of teachers’ minds.”

After the meeting, she expanded on the idea of creating more collaborations with diverse and urban school districts: “Many other top schools of education across the country have partnerships like these, often called professional development schools, that benefit from embedding student teachers in urban schools in which the staff and teachers focus on social justice and equity.

“The partnerships are two-way: Often, the master teachers at the schools teach courses at the university to share their expertise, they use innovations that are developed together with faculty members, and they engage with university faculty and students in conversations and research on educational equity. Professional development schools have positive results for both the university and school partners and can promote new teachers and schools to work toward social justice.”

Jorge Delgado, a PhD graduate of the social and comparative analysis in education program and an adjunct faculty member in the school, said the new dean should relate not only to K-12 teachers but to policy analysts, government officials and others involved in education. He also pressed for more emphasis on teaching the social foundations of education.

Committee member Mike Gunzenhauser, associate dean for student affairs and certification in the school, said later that social foundations “is an area of scholarship in education that uses the tools of the humanities and social sciences to study fundamental problems and questions in education.

“It’s taken on new importance for two reasons,” he added. “One is the increasing diversity of cultures and races among the school-age population, making clearer to us the need for culturally relevant pedagogies and learning environments. The other is the accountability movement, which has highlighted and some would argue exacerbated inequities in capacity across the education sector.

“The social foundations have a crucial role to play in helping educators understand why things are the way they are and helping them imagine how things could be different,” he said. “Across the country, there has been a de-emphasis on social foundations in teacher education programs, because of the pressure to include more and more content into teacher preparation programs.  …  At Pitt, we’ve done a combination of things to increase content but at the same time decrease required credit hours in our teacher preparation programs. It’s a struggle any school of education has to face.”

Although he now calls his comments at the forum “a little overdramatic,” at the time he told Delgado: “The next dean is going to be leading us as to whether we’re going to be strengthening or eliminating social foundations education in the school.”

Mary Beth McCulloch, director of the University Child Development Center, called for more collaborations between her center and the school.

The center supports research and education student placements in its classrooms, she said later. “My hope is that we can become a partner in a more formal sense, supporting each other in special projects that come up, providing technical assistance and professional development, speaking at classes to the students and faculty using our facility for classes.”

Committee member Fiona Seels, a technology department staff member in the Office of the Dean, concluded: “There is a finite capacity to support the things that we do … and we don’t have a clear vision for where energies should be directed. That’s a common topic of conversation.” She hoped the new dean would concentrate on “focusing those energies, using the resources wisely and identifying talent.”

Committee chair Perfetti compared the replacement of Lesgold with the hiring of Chancellor Patrick Gallagher — an opportunity to build on current success.

“There are clearly new things to do and new directions to go,” Perfetti said. “That’s a perfect situation for a new dean. This is the start of a conversation about new directions that will go on, not just during the interview process but after the new dean is installed.”


Over the next few weeks the committee will be creating a job description and advertisement, he explained, based on its own input and that of the forum. The committee now is accepting nominations and will review candidate qualifications until some time in December, he said, when they will cull the list to 8-10 best prospects for very brief screening interviews. Then half of those prospects will be recommended to the provost for campus visits and lengthier interviews in January and February.

“There will be different opportunities to interact with the candidates,” Perfetti said.

Sbragia noted that candidates in other dean searches had been asked to give presentations on campus in the past, but that this committee still must decide whether its candidates will do so.  She expects the post to be filled in March, giving the provost time to negotiate with the selected person and allow him or her to start during the summer of 2016.

Korn Ferry International, a global talent management company, will help identify and contact candidates. Korn Ferry’s Morris, a principal in global education practice, along with co-managing director Paul Chou, are working with the committee to reach up to 450 people initially, she explained.

“We just want every rock to be looked under so it’s truly a national and international search,” she said.

But she warned that the search committee will be putting those rocks back in place until the final candidates visit campus: “Things will be a little dark and quiet for a while [because] confidentiality is really an important part of a search process.”

Candidate nominations and comments should be sent to A campus-wide survey about the dean search is available at

—Marty Levine   


Education dean search committee

Four faculty members on the School of Education dean search committee were elected by the school’s faculty, while the graduate-student member was chosen by students, and additional appointments were made by the provost.
The search committee is composed of:

• Charles Perfetti (chair), distinguished University professor of psychology and director and senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center

• Alberta Sbragia, vice provost for graduate studies;

• Kaitlyn Brennan, education graduate student;

• Sheila Conway, education faculty member in instruction and learning;

• Mike Gunzenhauser, associate dean for student affairs and certification education and faculty member in administration and policy studies;

• John Jakicic, education faculty in health and physical activity;

• H. Richard Milner IV, director of the Center for Urban Education and Helen Faison Endowed Chair in Urban Education;

• Lindsay Page, education faculty in psychology in education;

• Jennifer Russell, education faculty in learning sciences and policy;

• Fiona Seels, staff member in the education school’s technology department;

• N. Tanner Wallace, education faculty in psychology in education;

• Michael Wenger, education undergraduate student;

• Paul Chou, co-managing director, global education practice, Korn Ferry International, which is the firm assisting with the education dean search;

• Rosa Morris, principal, global education practice, Korn Ferry International.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 5

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