Five questions for Kenneth Coll
Kenneth Coll is the dean of the College of Education at the University of Nevada-Reno. UNR’s College of Education offers comprehensive education, human development, and counseling degree offerings, and is the only post-secondary institution in Nevada accredited by both the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP). In addition to offering traditional majors, the College of Education is also committed to community engagement and collaborative research, in part through its direct service centers, which serve more than 1,000 youth and adults and throughout the year.
What was your first role working in education?
My first significant role in education was as an academic advisor in a community college.
What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
I worked at an alternative middle and high school for many years. Many of the students were in trouble with the law, drug abusers, prone to violence, and angry. Most, by their own admission, hated school and were two or three grades behind, and some could not read or write. It was not individual or family counseling or extracurricular activities that turned them around, although those functions helped; it was excellent teaching. Time and time again, I observed clear evidence that engagement in academics was the single most important variable for their success, and that competent and caring teachers were the key to that engagement.
Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
I have worked for many years as a College of Education (COE) Dean and Associate Dean. During that time, I found myself searching for others who wanted to engage in teacher-education reform honestly with transparency, to focus on quality improvement and collaborative efforts –and to do it without defensive posturing. I frankly struggled to find other like-minded professionals. When I read [the piece about Deans for Impact and Ben Riley] in Education Week, I hoped I had found a potential home. Now I know I have.
What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
What is most exciting to me is that we are in a time where, with strategic action, we can make real movement in the necessary philosophical and structural shifts to become a truly clinical profession, much like what nursing and counseling have done.
What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
While most Colleges of Education scuttled their direct-service mission years ago, at UNR’s COE we are going strong. For example, we operate one of the top 10 Head Start programs in the country, serving over 200 children; we deliver an experimental grades 1-3 classroom every year in cooperation with our local school district; and we annually tutor over 300 grade-school-age struggling readers. Most of this activity occurs in our COE Building, providing a dynamic atmosphere for teaching and research, and perhaps most importantly, reminding us daily of why we are here.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring Q&As with all the member deans of Deans for Impact.