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Tech Triumphs

Lawrence J. Leonard, Ph.D.

Lawrence J. Leonard, Ph.D.We have great faculty and staff, and we attract students who want to make a difference...

Title: Dean, College of Education

Hometown: St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada (In all North America, it’s the place closest to Europe!)

Now resides in: Ruston

Degree: 1996, Ph.D. educational administration, University of Toronto, Toronto, OT Canada; 1990, M.Ed. educational administration, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS Canada; 1986, B.A. English & psychology, Memorial University, St. John's, NL Canada; 1984, B.A. education, Memorial University, St. John's, NL Canada

What brought you to Tech, and have you adjusted to the heat? Well, actually, I first came to Tech from Canada in 1996 and returned there in 1998. Two years later, in 2000, my wife Pauline and I had the opportunity to come back to Tech -- so this is my 15th year here, overall. I remember when I first came to Ruston in August 1996 and Pauline remained behind completing her Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. It was hot and humid and I had some trouble adjusting to the late summer heat -- and I thought about going back to Canada. When I informed the then dean, Dr. Jerry Andrews, he said, "I know what's wrong with you. You're hot and your wife's in Canada." And, he was right. Luckily, he convinced me to reconsider. We have adjusted to the heat as well as anybody now -- and I can mow the lawn in high 90s temperatures with the best of them.

Talk about your plans for The College of Education: The College of Education has enjoyed a great reputation for many years – and that is due as much to the people who work here every day as it is to our quality programs. We have great faculty and staff, and we attract students who want to make a difference – not just in education as teachers, counselors, and administrators, but also in the other professional disciplines of psychology and kinesiology. We have been nationally accredited for almost 60 years and we will continue to pursue that level of excellence as we add new programs and revise others. More than any other college on campus, the College of Education is publicly scrutinized because of our close association with the P-12 school system and its growing accountability mechanisms. That circumstance may not always make for a pleasant experience, but it does ensure than we stay at the top of our game.

What is it that the college already does really well, and in what areas are we lagging a bit and seeking to immediately improve? I think what we do best in the College of Education is to instill a sense of pride and commitment in our students so that by the time they have completed their program of study they know exactly what it means to be a true professional. That dedication is modeled by our faculty and staff as they hold our students to high levels of expectation. When our graduates leave the College of Education and move on into their careers, they take a sense of pride with them that serves to remind them that they are not just representing themselves and Tech, but they stand for something even bigger: dedication to purpose and professional integrity. Having said that – and as much as we would like to think that this always happens – it may not always the case. Consequently, we need to continuously refine our instructional programs and our field experiences to attract quality students and then provide them with the tools to excel here at Tech and, later, in their professional and personal lives.”

How has the transition been for you, from professor and associate dean of Graduate Studies and Research to dean? Any move up to a higher level of administrative responsibility tends to have its challenges and I would be less than honest if I suggested that assuming the deanship of a vibrant college is an exception. You quickly learn that your time is not always your own and that there are many people – students, faculty, other administrators, community members and so on, who want to meet and discuss with you all sorts of issues throughout the day. And, of course, with the proliferation of mobile communication devices nowadays, there is little time when you are not available on some level. But, it is that same circumstance that allows you to address things in a timely manner.

How can Tech alums help the college? College of Education alumni are special people. They continue to serve as our foundation, people to whom we can point as exemplars of the kind of education and training we provide. They have been generous in their moral support and their monetary contributions. Sometimes, it is only through our alumni that we are able to provide a learning environment that allows our current students to excel. Our teacher education programs would greatly benefit from additional resources for incorporating the new national Common Core standards into our curricula as well as additional Praxis test study guides and performance videos designed to support student-teacher field experiences. Scotty Robertson Memorial Gymnasium has multiple needs – including new tables and chairs for classrooms and the conversion of the old weightlifting room to a sports performance lab. We also need psychological assessment materials for student use in the Psychological Services Clinic as well as travel funds for students to present their research at professional conferences.

Your role will evolve as all jobs do, but what do you see as your immediate duty? I am proud of so many people and things in the College of Education – from our excellent A.E. Phillips Lab School to our popular IDEA Place exhibits and GEAR UP summer camps to our collaboration with other institutions in the University of Louisiana’s System’s new online degree program in organizational learning to our newly expanded Doctor of Education program. If I could add anything, it would be that we could continue to build on our rich tradition of providing effective learning opportunities for quality, motivated  people so that they can serve the changing needs of the people and communities of north Louisiana.

What they’re saying about Dr. Leonard

Dr. Jo Ann Dauzat, former dean, COE: “Dr. Leonard is a highly accomplished professional, with numerous research projects, professional presentations, and publications. His knowledge of the profession at national and state levels enables him to provide expert guidance to the diverse programs administratively housed in the College of Education. He has a deep understanding of those programs, the faculty, students, and needs of the College of Education during heightened accountability and budgetary constraints. His professional knowledge, leadership skills, and work ethic will certainly undergird his success as the Dean of the College of Education.”

Dr. Terry M. McConathy, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Graduate School: “The College of Education faces the same challenges and opportunities we encounter in higher education at the state, regional, and national levels. However, the college has the additional daunting task of staying ahead of the curve in PK-12 education and in the ever-changing landscape drawn by the Department of Education. Programs, concentrations, content, accountability—the dean and the faculty of the college are responsible for ensuring that our graduates are equipped to teach and guide our youth into the future.

Dr. Leonard brings extensive academic, research, and leadership skills to the position of dean. He has played significant roles in the college’s outstanding performance in NCATE accreditation cycles. He has also served as a successful faculty and administrator in the college, bringing important contextual experience to the position and to the University.