Mary Ann Danowitz became dean of the NC State College of Education in April 2016. Danowitz, who served as interim dean since July 2015, joined the college in 2012. We sat down with Dean Danowitz to talk about her first year as dean, and her vision for the college’s future.
What lessons from your first year as dean will inform your decision-making and engagement with faculty, staff and students in the coming year?
From my time as interim dean and dean, I’ve become even more convinced that we have the best educational professionals and pre-service teachers anywhere in the country. Their dedication to providing high-quality education to all North Carolinians is inspiring, and something that continues to motivate me moving forward at a very fast pace. Our interactions have proven that collaboration is (and will be) key to solving the state’s most pressing educational issues, and these internal and external partnerships will continue to be a major influence on my leadership this year.
I’ve also learned the importance of being a leader who is deeply involved in the day-to-day life of the college. When I am able to get out and meet with faculty, students and staff, I learn more about their needs and how they hope to realize our vision. That kind of input is invaluable as a dean and directly impacts how I carry out the charge to make the College of Education a state, national and global leading educational influencer.
What success(es) are you most proud of from your first year as dean?
Our vision is to lead the way in North Carolina in increasing opportunities for success in education and reducing achievement gaps. I’m very proud of the way we have incorporated this vision into each class, initiative and educational experience, and there are several of these that really stand out.
Over the past year, the College’s Friday Institute developed the North Carolina Digital Learning Plan. This plan will accelerate the state’s progress in providing the personalized, digital-age education that K-12 students need to be successful in college, in careers and as engaged citizens. Linking to the plan, our faculty are now preparing our teachers and educational leaders to effectively use technology to improve teaching and learning. Our faculty collaborated to reorganize three of our doctoral programs guided by the concept of “The Scholar Leader Ph.D.” These degrees will produce graduates who are broadly educated, with deep content knowledge in at least one specialty area and skills in research, policy, equity and diversity, technology and innovation, global understanding and impact, and multimodal communication. I am very excited our first PhD students will begin this semester. We also enhanced our commitment to build diversity within the college through the formation of the Multicultural Young Educators Network (MYEN), with a goal of promoting unity among diverse groups of students in the college and in the university. These achievements and many other successes from the past year have put in place a strong foundation for the success of all our faculty, staff and students over the coming years.
How do you plan to build on the success of last year?
Over the past year, we have built tremendous momentum toward achieving our goals. I plan on building on our past success by further promoting our strengths: leveraging digital education, promoting literacy, STEM education and leadership, forging inter-departmental collaborations, and building vibrant, supportive external partnerships.
During the coming year, we will continue to align all our activities and initiatives in these areas with NC State’s strategic plan. Through course design, research and clinical experiences, we will prepare leaders who positively transform learning environments to increase engagement, equity and performance. We will leverage our digital resources, including those provided through our Media and Education Technology Resource Center, to support technology-enhanced teaching and learning across the lifespan. Additionally, we will focus on community engagement and valuing diverse cultures and perspectives to promote inclusive learning and development. Through each effort, we plan on sustaining and increasing our educational success from year to year.
What is your role in creating a dynamic and high-achieving college?
In our college, we have 150 full- and part-time faculty, 100 staff members, and 1,000 graduate and 500 undergraduate students. As dean, I must work to establish and guide relevant programs and services that ensure each person associated with the college has full access to resources to help them succeed. It is important for me to be an active part of the college and model the kind of leadership I want to pass on to our students, as they are the country’s future teacher and administrative leaders. I advocate for recruiting and retaining the best teacher educators, as they not only prepare our pre-service teachers for the classroom, but also conduct research that helps us uncover new methods for effective education and achieving educational equity. This is a wonderful time to be a part of the College of Education, as we are achieving new levels of success and becoming one of the most dynamic colleges of our kind in the entire nation.
As dean, how do you support faculty and students in their academic careers?
Being dean means having an opportunity to direct the college’s future, with a focus on faculty and students, but it can’t be done alone. I am fortunate to work with and guide a talented team within the college who share the college’s mission and vision of success.
We prepare students to become innovators in the modern classroom by focusing on their individual educational needs whether they are working in K-12, community colleges or four year colleges and universities. We have a 14:1 student-faculty ratio, so we have the focus of a small college that we combine with the academic support resources offered by a major university. In addition, we offer our students access to new methods of digital learning and teaching, along with outstanding professors who encourage experiential education. We’re reaching out to students outside of campus, meeting them where they are with excellent educational opportunities like our Northeast Leadership Academy for school leaders in rural, high needs areas.
We also support faculty through research support and numerous professional development opportunities. The college believes strongly in cultivating outstanding professors from the start of their academic careers, so we have developed a guide to strengthen the mentorship that is provided to our assistant professors. The college has increased its asks and proposals submitted to individuals and foundations to fund faculty research, with 77 percent of our tenure-track faculty being grant active. From pre-service teacher education to research funding, faculty development and more, we’re building our infrastructure to ensure academic success for everyone in the college.
Learn more about the College of Education’s efforts to promote the development of professionals, the advancement of research and the educational success of all North Carolinians.