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Editor's Note: This presentation covers the ideas from the new dean of New Mexico State University's College of Education

By Mary Alice Murphy

Dr. Donald B. Pope-Davis said he has been in the position as dean of the New Mexico State University's College of Education for about six weeks.

"I will go through a presentation with a different approach from what you just went through," Pope-Davis said. "I will take more of a conceptual and philosophical approach. I came here from the Midwest, after 13 years at Notre Dame and two years at DePauw University. My graduate education is from Stanford University College of Education. One of the reasons I accepted the position is because I wanted to be at a college and in a state where I could make a difference in students.

"Many of New Mexico State's students have a background similar to mine," Pope-David said. "I am one of 12 children, but I succeeded. These are my initial observations at New Mexico State. I took an assessment of what we need to do differently. Mediocrity is not acceptable. I have a list of core values that I want us to follow. They include excellence, integrity, diversity, transparency, leadership and innovation. I developed the core values that should guide everything we do.

"Another piece is collaboration—the way I can enter into collaboration with all of you," he said. "My approach is to consult as needed in conversation."

He showed a list of the College of Education programs. "We do primarily teacher education, but we also do a lot of other things."

The list included teacher preparation, kinesiology and dance, counseling and education psychology, educational leadership, speech and audiology clinic, professional development, community outreach, STEM outreach for students and teachers, Myrna's Children's Village, and research.

"My view as a new job is to integrate all aspects into pedagogy," Pope-Davis said. "Sixty school districts are directly impacted by New Mexico State College of Education initiatives. Statewide we have 3,000 in-service teachers."

He cited the statistics from the various initiatives.

"We have 86 students in the master's degree program, and 36 in the Ph.D. program," Pope-Davis said. "We have opportunities for excellence and distinction. I have ideas and goals for programs. They include a bilingual immersion program, a STEM institute, a Hispanic-Serving Institution leadership program and undergraduate scholarly engagement.

"We have to take care of what came before us," he continued. "And we have to take care of those who come after us."

He said he has begun a review of every department of the College of Education. "I want to take the opportunity to think differently. First, I think we are situated perfectly to develop a bilingual immersion program. A lot of resources take people abroad to learn Spanish. Why not come to New Mexico, where we also speak Spanish? I believe I can raise funds for that program."

In STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) he believes the university is situated to enhance programs around math and science. "It needs national visibility."

As for the Hispanic-serving Institution that New Mexico State the question is, "how do we train future leaders? I think we need to be more proactive and provide leadership for our College of Education students."

"I want a center for undergraduate scholarly engagement in research," Pope-Davis said. "I want to instill the ability in students to ask why."

"We have to be consistent with the mission of NMSU," he said to the legislators. "Communication is key. We have to highlight what we are doing right. I will probably be the first to come to you to say: 'We need to stop doing this.'

"Mediocrity will not be on my walk," Pope-Davis continued. "I am a firm believer in collaboration. You have a breadth of experience, and I want the opportunity to have conversations with you. We will be humble in our disposition, but ambitious in our expectations for the collaboration."

Sen. Howie Morales said he was appreciative of the dean's outlook. Morales said Dr. Karen Trujillo, who sat beside Pope-Davis, "helped me move forward to going for a Ph.D. in your College of Education."

Sen. Bill Soules said he looked forward to working with Pope-Davis. "However I can help and talk about your ideas."

Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard said she was hearing "hopeful language in your presentation. I am looking for more detail, especially in the example of initiatives in these 60 school districts."

Trujillo showed a map with a list of the professional development initiatives. "For instance, the MC2, the mathematically connected communities group. We are partners with Western (New Mexico University) in collaboration on professional development of K-12 teachers. We are building up math content and pedagogy knowledge. We have memoranda of understanding that the districts sign on and pay a small amount for the NMSU continuing initiative. Most programs are offered to all districts. At the high schools, we can encourage those interested in teaching."

Garcia Richard said the legislators should encourage their school districts to participate. "What about the HSI leadership?"

Pope-Davis said the Hispanic-serving institutions, in context, become eligible for certain funding. "New Mexico State recently received the HSI designation. I think we need to pursue it for federal funding. I see it as an opportunity for a leadership program."

Garcia Richard asked if it would include non-New Mexico State students.

Pope-Davis said the college would want to look through opportunities, but the priority would be for the larger percentage of those participating to be Hispanic.

Garcia Richard asked if Pope-Davis had met with other deans of colleges of education.

"I have met with the other deans," Pope-Davis said. "I am meeting with boards of regents, starting to meet with school superintendents. I spent a day at the School for the Blind in Alamogordo. They have a gem of a teacher, who got his degree at New Mexico State. He will go up in the space shuttle. He developed for the blind a Braille system for physics and science. He just patented it. You will be hearing about him.

"My intent is to visit all the districts," Pope-Davis continued. "I think about how we can develop collaborative models. Let's stop talking to ourselves and engage in collaborative learning on how we can elevate education in New Mexico."

Rep. Tomás Salazar said he likes the word collaboration and that the dean wants to future the land grant mission of New Mexico State University by working with school districts throughout the state. Land grant universities teach ag, science, military science and engineering without excluding classical studies.

"Can you provide details on how your intent to modernize the role of the colleges of education will play in furthering the mission as a land-grant institution?" Salazar asked.

"The challenges with a land-grant institution, while providing us with a foundation, is that the focus now is interdisciplinary studies," Pope-Davis said. "I always ask: 'Will this provide value, will anyone care and is it sustainable?'

"You will hear from me that the mission is the central pillar with auxiliary programs that further the mission," he said. "One of the basic fundamental questions is what should the College of Education look like in the 21st Center, so we don't become irrelevant. We have to come up with a new paradigm. Over time, we will come back with specific ways to do these things."

Salazar said, in reference to bilingual immersion, that he co-sponsored a bill on English-language learners. "It is important that colleges of education reach out to the College of Arts and Sciences. How cooperative have districts been on your initiative?"

Trujillo said the college has strong partnerships with English students and math students. "We go into classes to work with them. Computer Science also has outreach for women. We have multiple partnerships."

Salazar asked for more information on the undergrad scholarly engagement.

Pope-Davis explained that it introduces undergraduate students into doing research, "such as on a social issue. The basis is discovery where a student can become educated in research. We are moving research into the community. Students at my prior university wrote articles and did national presentations. They will begin to exhibit a set of critically inquisitive skills. The purpose is to create a center that puts New Mexico State University College of Education on the national map."

Rep. John Zimmerman said he is a member of the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Interim Committee. "I have had people from industry ask why we are not selling our strengths. We are a state that speaks English and Spanish. Why aren't we at the forefront? Are we also collaborating with other universities in the state? Each and every one has the ability to enhance dual-language students. We should market this strong point."

Pope-Davis agreed and said he did not yet have a plan, which he wants before getting to the reaching-out strategy. "My first question to address is what are the strengths of our colleges of education and why are we not marketing them. As I develop my white paper, I will reach out to collaborate with the colleges and universities, but also to the business community to participate in the program. It has the potential to have a significant impact."

"Americans spend $5 billion on bilingual opportunities in other countries," he continued. "Wouldn't it be incredible if they came to New Mexico? I am open to suggestions about how we can do it better.

"You have only seen four of my ideas," Pope-Davis said. "I'm up to 33 items I think we can do. Four things that prevent changes are tradition, hubris, complacency and self-interest. We have to compare ourselves to national colleges of education. I accepted this job because the president and the board of regents said: 'We want to be better that we are.' I'm great at systems and organizational skills."

Zimmerman said he applauded the effort, because "we always have to ask how can we do better."

The next article will cover the presentation on Approaches and Solutions for the at-risk and habitually truant students.

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