Five questions for Tom Smith
Tom E.C. Smith is dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas. The College comprises five academic departments with more than 191 faculty members, the university’s intramural and recreational sports department, and 21 research and service units. The College of Education and Health Professions enrolls more than 5,275 students, making it the second largest college at the University of Arkansas. The Department of Curriculum and Instruction is the academic unit primarily responsible for teacher and school administrator preparation.
What was your first role working in education?
Special education teacher in West Texas.
What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
When I realized that every teacher whom I helped prepare, over the course of their careers, could directly impact between 400 and 2,000 students and that, therefore, I had an indirect impact on that many K-12 students for every teacher candidate in my class.
Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
I felt like the field of educator preparation had to make some dramatic changes in order to better prepare educators for working in schools today. Too much of how we prepare educators is simply re-doing what we have been doing for decades without any evidence that it is effective. Deans for Impact wants to know what works and then implement changes. It is a group of individuals who think boldly and are brave enough to face criticism from the establishment.
What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
To be part of a group of deans who are open to change and to focus our discussions on the best ways to prepare educators and change programs accordingly.
What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
Not too surprising, but some of my faculty disagree with my involvement in Deans for Impact believing that they are already preparing educators using the very best techniques. Many of my faculty think that the only good teachers and principals are those who come through a traditional educator-preparation program, and many of these faculty are unwilling to make any changes to their programs. We also have an entire endowed department of education reform (six faculty) as well as the Arkansas Teacher Corps, which is our replication of Teach for America.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring Q&As with all the member deans of Deans for Impact.