Spears to oversee PhD program in education

by Emily Fletcher | 8/18/11 10:00pm

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by Aki Onda and Akikazu Onda / The Dartmouth

Spears will oversee faculty hiring, curriculum development, marketing and recruiting for the program, Hallock said. Spears will also act as an academic advisor for all students in the doctoral program, primarily before each is assigned a dissertation advisor.

"We're thrilled to have her, and she's really hit the ground running, picking up the planning," Hallock said. "She was able to jump right in and get the students very motivated to do their doctoral work."

Spears has been "warmly welcomed" at NEC and is looking forward to starting full-time at the end of August, she said in an email to The Dartmouth.

"The position offers a wonderful combination of faculty and administrative responsibilities," she said. "The opportunity to launch a new doctoral program is also very exciting. I have found New England College to be a vibrant educational community that is engaging innovation in a number of areas."

The first class of 24 students in the doctoral program which offers doctorate degrees in both higher education leadership and K-12 education leadership will begin taking classes in September.

The "hybrid delivery format" program is designed for students who have experience working in education, according to Hallock. Students meet for classes once a month, attend intensive summer workshops and complete coursework online and in groups when not at NEC.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredited the program in April, at which time a nationwide search for a director took place. Spears heard about the position when she spoke to a class of NEC students from the school's master's of education program who visited the College in the spring, Hallock said.

The NEC search committee which was chaired by Hallock and included two education professors, a political science professor, the NEC dean of students and the NEC vice president for enrollment and marketing chose Spears largely because of her experience as a faculty member and administrator, Hallock said.

The search committee sought a director who could develop, recruit for and market the new program, Hallock said. Spears understands the worlds of both K-12 and higher education and has experience working with students on research, according to Hallock.

"My primary goals at this point are to successfully launch the first cohort of doctoral students and to assist institutional leadership in making progress toward their strategic goals for the institution," Spears said.

As assistant vice president for academic initiatives, Spears will work in the Academic Affairs Office on NEC's strategic planning, Hallock said. Last year, NEC underwent a strategic planning process to establish long-term goals. Spears is an "excellent match" to continue working on this process at NEC, Hallock said.

At Dartmouth, Spears was a member of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and restructured the Dean of the College Office by integrating departments and dividing the office into sections focused on campus life, student support services and administration, The Dartmouth previously reported.

Spears is also serving as an associate professor and will begin teaching courses in both the doctoral program as well as NEC's master's of education program when classes resume in September, according to Hallock. Spears said she will be teaching a class about contemporary issues in higher education in the fall and may teach a course focused on organizational leadership and change in the spring.

Spears and her family will continue to live in Hanover and her son is "especially enthusiastic" about starting classes at Hanover High School this fall, she said.

"I am very fortunate to have met many students, parents and alums during my time at Dartmouth," she said. "I expect that many of them will be lifelong friends of mine. I hold many of my experiences while at Dartmouth very close to my heart."

Spears announced in January that she would not seek the permanent deanship at the College. She stepped down on June 30 when her two-year appointment as acting dean of the College ended.

Spears received a master's degree in human development and family studies with a specialization in student affairs from the University of Rhode Island in 1994. She worked as a personnel director and then tribal administrator in the Narragansett tribal council in Charlestown, R.I., during the early 1990s, overseeing 15 departments and millions of dollars in federal grants and contracts allotted to the tribe, The Dartmouth previously reported.

Spears left the tribal council to work in multicultural student services at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I. She later returned to URI, where she served as the school's director of affirmative action and equal opportunity. At URI, Spears made the transition from student services to teaching, joining the department of human development and family studies as a lecturer and later as a professor. Spears taught graduate courses in diversity in higher education and undergraduate courses in counseling, The Dartmouth previously reported.

During her time as a faculty member, Spears also pursued a Ph.D. in education from URI. In 2007, she left URI to become the director of the Office of Pluralism and Leadership at Dartmouth. Spears became the acting dean of the College when former dean of the College Tom Crady announced his resignation in 2009.

Charlotte Johnson, former vice president and dean of Colgate University, became dean of the College on July 21.

College President Jim Yong Kim's chief of staff David Spalding declined to comment on Spears' appointment at NEC.

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