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Four Deans, four disrupters, four different challenges

Deans lead a panel at #AACTE20

During the AACTE 2020 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, I had the pleasure of serving on the panel of the “Disruptive Deans” Deeper Dive Session along with three fellow deans. Our challenges are disrupting the one-teacher one-classroom model, closing the uneven admissions pathways between community colleges and 4-year institutions, breaking the traditional mindsets of hiring practices, and questioning the biases of traditional learning environments. These are no small tasks.

During the Disruptive Deans Deeper Dive session, the panel covered the following topics:

  • “Building the next education workforce”—(I presented this topic.)
  • “Designing a clear transfer model in the state of Oregon for community college transfer and increasing the number of teachers of color and bilingual students,” presented by Cecilia Monto, dean, Education and Humanities, Chemeketa Community College.
  • “Hiring and retaining faculty of color,” presented by Don Pope-Davis, dean, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University
  • “Promoting understanding of the social justice imperative of educating teachers to educate all learners including those who are neuro-divergent,” presented by Kimberly White-Smith, dean, LaFetra College of Education, University of La Verne

Our moderator, (also a disruptor) Wanda J. Blanchett, dean, Rutgers University, has led a distinguished career promoting equity and inclusion for all.

Four Deans, four disrupters, four different challenges

Each leader is committed to being disruptors of the status quo and fundamentally changing existing antiquated and inequitable systems. As educational leaders, we are not just talking about equity, inclusion, and diversity, but doing something about it.

Each of us discussed the conditions that caused them to take stock, examine root problems, and design solutions that were institutional and sustainable. Each is tired of the old narrative, too many excuses, and continuing to see students, particularly students of color not achieving.  All four deans presented asset-based solutions such as applying teams and distributed expertise, clear guidelines and policy, hiring practices that provide incentive and reward, and curricular development that includes mindfulness and healing.

Four Deans, four disrupters, four different challenges

None of us did it alone. We consulted and collaborated with internal and external constituents including school personnel, students, faculty, business leaders, policy makers, non-profits, and others—recognizing that both perspective and context matter. We all had significant challenges but overcame them by building a culture of creativity and empowerment, investing in human capital, coalition building, and allowing people to fail fast. Each of us cultivated champions who could tolerate ambiguity, ask the right questions, and delve deep to find the principled solutions. We learned that you don’t need everyone to like you, that you need to invest in what you want and give people time and space to work, remove obstacles, provide a clear vision, stay with that vision, and repeat it early and often.

Four Deans, four disrupters, four different challenges

As deans, each of us is beginning to see outcomes that matter, mindsets shift, and capacity for moving us closer to inclusion and equity for all. No more isolation. No more being left out or left behind. No more excuses. No more tradition. All of four of us are disrupting with vision!

 Carole Basile is dean, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University.


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