Kathlene Holmes Campbell started her new role as dean of the School of Education at the beginning of June. Over the past few months, Campbell has been busy getting the message out about her vision for the school that includes an emphasis on preparing educators to work in elementary and secondary education. Acutely aware of the power teachers have to truly impact students’ lives, Campbell is passionate that every child – regardless of their ZIP code, race or gender – deserves excellent educators. With a commitment to supporting children, Campbell intends on making positive change happen by embracing a collaborative and community-based approach to tackling complex challenges facing education today.

Campbell, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, started her career as a public school teacher in Tampa, Florida. Most recently, she led the clinically-oriented teacher preparation program with the National Center for Teacher Residencies, where she has worked extensively with California State University campuses associated with the New Generation of Educators Initiative.

Here’s what Campbell had to say about coming to St. Thomas, the ever-changing landscape of education and what she thinks about the Twin Cities.

What drew you to the University of St. Thomas and the School of Education?

Last November, I visited the University of St. Thomas and the St. Paul Urban Teacher Residency (SUTR) program with a group of representatives from colleges thinking about creating and/or strengthening their residency program. During my visit, I met numerous faculty and staff from St. Thomas and was impressed with how they were preparing future teachers. Sometime during my visit, several faculty mentioned that they were looking for a new dean. I decided to apply for the position based upon my interactions with the faculty. When I visited the campus as a finalist, I was able to meet the entire faculty and staff and again was encouraged and energized by their commitment to children and families.

At that point, the decision to lead a School of Education focused on advancing the common good was easy. My work has always focused on how to best prepare children for their future endeavors. As dean, I get to lead a group of faculty and staff who are doing just that. We are preparing individuals to teach, lead and, ultimately, positively impact our local community. How could anyone not want to be part of ensuring children flourish?

What did you find when you were researching education in Minnesota?

As someone who is new to Minnesota, I wanted to learn more about how well Minnesota prepared students. Upon first glance, Minnesota appeared to have strong academic outcomes for students, but when you dig a little deeper, the story changes.

This is where I believe the School of Education must intervene. Our role is not only to prepare our college students for their future profession, but also to make sure every child has access to a world-class education.

How is the School of Education helping to make a positive impact on PK-12 education in Minnesota?

We are committed to supporting our local communities and work to ensure the success of our graduates and the students, schools and communities where they serve. We believe that the best (and only) way to close our achievement and opportunity gaps is by working together. We are ready to serve as the education convener and bring all of our community partners together to solve these challenges.

Ultimately, we want to inspire change that results in transformed schools and students’ lives. That is why we’ve partnered with the Minneapolis and St. Paul public school districts through a “grow your own” accelerated degree program to prepare highly effective and diverse teachers. Programs like our Collaborative Urban and Greater Minnesota Educators of Color scholarship strengthen our efforts to increase teacher diversity throughout Minnesota with over 465 recipients who are serving in more than 125 Minnesota schools. We’re leading the way with innovation. And that’s a change we can live with.

In your opinion, how can the School of Education help support future educators?

By preparing future educators with evidence-based practices, we’re ensuring that our leaders of tomorrow are prepared to meet the challenges of the classroom and beyond. We’re proud of our alumni like Latanya Daniels, who was highlighted for improving graduation rates in Richfield.

We believe there is a sense of urgency that is calling for educators to meet the diverse needs of our students, urging us to provide excellent educators for children, and summoning us to reshape our future workplaces and communities. The question is how will we collectively work together to fulfill the vision to teach, lead, and impact all for the common good?

I believe we can start by providing financial support for individuals who wish to become educators, supporting opportunities for our future teachers to work with children in small group settings, and advocating for infusing technology in order to reach educators in Greater Minnesota.

In your short time as dean, how have you observed St. Thomas advancing the common good through the School of Education?

I am proud to say that we have had eight alumni named Minnesota Teacher of the Year since 2000 and we expect to continue to see Tommies highlighted as exemplary educators. In addition, we offer degrees focusing on the shortage areas, such as special education, math, and science and we are making sure each of our students works alongside a strong mentor teacher.

As someone new to Minnesota, what are you enjoying most about the Twin Cities so far?

My transition to the Twin Cities has been quite easy. I appreciate how kind and welcoming everyone has been to my family. I’ve also enjoyed exploring my new surroundings and attending concerts, fairs and sporting events. I’m excited to experience my first full year in Minnesota and look forward to continuing to learn more about the community and how the School of Education can support children, families, and schools.

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