By Olivia Krauth–
After multiple rounds of interviews and approval from the U of L Board of Trustees, Ann Larson has been selected to be the next dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
Starting as an assistant professor at U of L in 1996, Larson has worked her way to her current position of Vice Dean of CEHD, which she has held for six years. Larson believes her experience at the university and as vice dean will benefit her when she starts as dean.
“I’ve learned a great deal about the academic affairs and programs side of the work,” said Larson. “I’ve learned a lot about working with central administration and the other associate deans on campus.” Larson says she also plans on using her knowledge of U of L’s strategic vision in her new role.
The CEHD is home to more than 3,000 students and six departments, which include the teacher education and health and sports science programs.
“We have a very good reputation with community engagement working in schools and community venues,” said Larson. “Our students get a lot of applied experiences with internships, practicum, and critical work. We’ll continue to build on that, that good work, that reputation that we’ve built.”
Larson will begin in the position on July 1. She says that having a strategic vision is important, and that she will work to develop one as one of her first acts as dean.
“We’ll be doing some strategic planning, building upon what we’ve been doing that has been working well, but adding some new priority areas.”
Specifically, Larson says that the CEHD will work on, “continuing to build our high-quality teacher and student service areas; working in authentic and engaged research; working in areas of diversity, sustainability, collaboration; and building on international opportunities for students.” She will also work with training new faculty and replacing retiring professors.
Larson cites nationwide budget cuts to higher education as the biggest challenge facing the CEHD.
“That can be a threat, but it can also be an opportunity to look carefully at what you’re doing and make sure that your programs are very strategic – that they fit in with the mission of the university, that they serve the community and the commonwealth,” said Larson, adding that the programs should be made “efficient and effective.
“With tuition increases, students want to know their program will be high quality. They want to know that they will be employed. They want to know that they will be successful in their employment and be able to compete for jobs.”
The strategic layout of the college is evident in the majors’ flight plans. Some education majors expressed discontent about not having a lot of room for electives due to their strict requirements for their majors. Larson cited both national and state accreditation standards for the lack of leeway.
“The reason for having a pretty prescribed curriculum is that it’s similar to medical school,” said Larson. “If you’re going to work in practice…there’s a certain knowledge base that you have to have. But we don’t see that as a negative.” Larson said that the college tries to assist students that feel like they need additional experience outside of their major.
Larson says that no immediate, drastic curriculum changes are planned, although the college is “always about continuous improvement.”
“The answer is, you’re always doing some of that, and that’s just part of the natural evolution of a unit,” Larson said on curriculum changes. “We want to do more with distance education. We want to do more with international experiences. We want to continue our focus on diversity equity, inclusion and access.
“It takes a little bit of time for a new dean to listen, and learn, and lead and so I look forward to doing that. In good time, I’m sure we’ll be making some changes, but not anything drastic at this point.”