Introducing Lynn M. Gangone, President and CEO
Today, AACTE welcomes Lynn M. Gangone to the position of president and chief executive officer. Gangone graciously took time during her first day on the job for this introductory interview for Ed Prep Matters:
Q: Your career has spanned a variety of higher education and association roles. What attracted you to AACTE?
A: AACTE’s mission is the first and foremost attraction. In my opinion, educators are the most important professionals in our society, and the opportunity to serve an organization dedicated to their preparation is unparalleled. Not only have educators made a difference in my life, but I have had the extraordinary fortune to “pay it forward” through my career as a faculty member and a dean. AACTE aligns so many facets of my lifelong work as an educator with service to and advocacy for educator preparation programs.
Additionally, the member leaders who comprised the search committee had such infectious energy and enthusiasm for the work of AACTE – their dedication and commitment spoke volumes to me as a candidate. Knowing that the AACTE membership is actively engaged in the work makes this position incredibly exciting, and I am thrilled to be here today!
Q: What do you see as the biggest current opportunities (and/or challenges) for AACTE as an organization, and for our members’ educator preparation programs?
A: As an eternal optimist, I see opportunities first, although I understand that there are challenges in every opportunity (that’s the pragmatist in me). If you don’t mind indulging me on my first day, I will just focus on the opportunities for now!
The primary opportunity to me is not just current but constant and inherent – the charge to prepare educators for the nation’s children, which constitutes the core of our democracy. There is no more important opportunity. From an advocacy perspective, AACTE has an opportunity to represent the profession at the federal and state levels, allowing us to put the collective wisdom of over 800 institutional members to bear on federal and state budgets and policies. AACTE’s Quality Support Workshops are an exciting new opportunity to provide essential support for assessment, accreditation, and continuous improvement as we reinforce the high-quality, evidence-based preparation programs that are the hallmark of our work. Research matters! Our Journal of Teacher Education is exceptional, and our opportunity to grow its content and its readership is key. As we prepare for Washington Week, meetings with our state chapter leaders, and our Holmes Program students, we lift our mission, our members, and our students, always keeping our commitment to quality, partnerships, diversity, and inclusion front and center to our efforts.
Q: Looking into your crystal ball, how might your previous answer be different 5 years from now?
A: I believe our opportunities will remain the same and will be expanded. Right now AACTE is embarking on a significant member survey, which I know will yield the data we need to both meet current needs and grow our assistance and service to members. AACTE is beginning its exploration of international work, and there is great opportunity to continue to meet our member needs while considering partnerships throughout the world. Strengthening partnerships will allow us to grow and change in as yet unanticipated ways . . . more to come!
Q: What will you focus on during your first year in your new position?
A: Listen and learn. Be in conversation. Engage with members in person, through webinars and podcasts, and in writing. Build esprit de corps within the AACTE team and our volunteers. Collect the right data and partner with the Board and staff to make decisions that will continue to position AACTE as a strong, member-focused association.
Q: You have a long career as a campus and association leader – you even wrote your doctoral dissertation on the life span and viability of higher education associations – and you bring a great deal of experience and perspective to AACTE. Can you talk about a few things you’ve learned along the way that you will bring with you as president & CEO?
A: Having just finished tenure as the vice president of ACE Leadership, where my focus was on leadership development for higher education leaders, commitment to the team and team-building was a focus for me and, increasingly, in the leadership development work. The days of the “great man” theory of leadership are gone. Team leadership is critical, as is the capacity to build and maintain diverse teams. I do believe individuals can and do exercise leadership from wherever they are in the organization. I know to look to the AACTE team, the Board, and other members to express collective and shared leadership.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that diversity and inclusion matter – always. An essential task for AACTE and our members is serving all learners and moving more underrepresented individuals into the teaching profession. Throughout my career I have been an advocate for and an ally to those underrepresented in the academy. AAC&U coined the phrase “inclusive excellence” – to be inclusive is to achieve excellence – and I firmly believe that we are at our best when we invite all to the education table, so to speak. As president and CEO, I will continue this advocacy work and, candidly, the importance the Board places on this commitment to inclusive excellence was part of what attracted me to AACTE.
As both a campus and an association leader, I understand and appreciate both environments. Especially after my 8-year dean’s tenure, I know just how rich and challenging the deanship is for sure! I will also tell you that moving to Colorado in 2007 from Washington, DC, after a life lived on the east coast, finally taught me there is a “Beltway Bubble.” Moving to the center of the country illuminated new perspectives that exist outside of DC, and I am glad to still have a Colorado home – the sense of place and the open sky allow me to hone sensibilities I think are important. I also am an avid traveler and love the immersion in a culture other than that which I know. My experience as an ambassador of sorts, who can “translate” and facilitate between associations and campuses, and between the coasts and the center of the country, will no doubt be useful in my new role as well.