The College of Education's Dean
You learn so much from being around people who are different from you; that’s the really important learning that isn’t in the book. Diversity enriches every individual and forms the unwritten curriculum that teaches us how to live in the world.
Andrea Evans, Ph.D., is the Dean of the College of Education (COE) at Governors State University (GSU). Before joining the administration at GSU, she was an associate professor of educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and prior to that she was the departmental chair of educational administration and higher education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Evans is a native Illinoisan who has lived, learned, and taught in the Chicagoland area for almost her whole life.
GSU Newsroom: What made you want to take this position at GSU?
Dean Andrea Evans: It’s a combination of location—I live nearby in Chicago Heights—and the people we serve, and the place itself. GSU is like a well-kept secret. I first found out about it when I brought my kids here for fieldtrips to the Center for Performing Arts, and even then I wasn’t aware of how much was going on here and how important it was.
GSU Newsroom: When did you start here, and what was your plan for establishing yourself?
Evans: This is year three. I’m very fortunate that the previous Dean of the COE is still here—that’s Dr. Deborah Bordelon, who’s now the Provost—so there’s some continuity.
There were definitely some things I wanted to get my hands on right away. Teacher Education was one of them, diversifying the Teacher Ed pool was another. I’m the kind of person who comes in and picks two or three things that I really want to get at, but the other really important thing about coming in to a new place is getting to know people. And them getting to know you. So I spent a lot of time, at first, just meeting and getting to know people. I did one-on-one meetings with every faculty member in the College, and I still do them.
Also, I really wanted to do right by the new faculty members and provide support for them right off the bat. So I started a new faculty mentoring arrangement. It’s not really a program, but we have mentoring meetings, quarterly meetings with the new faculty and the department chairs and me. And we talk about teaching, and the department chairs talk about research and publication and writing and service and all those things that make up an academic career.
Teaching is the only profession where there’s a required test at the undergraduate level, and it’s a barrier to entry for people who would probably be excellent teachers. It seems unfair to have a hard cutoff that keeps people out, when it might just be that they don’t perform well on standardized tests.
GSU Newsroom: What are your areas of responsibility, and what are the challenges you’re facing?
Evans: I’m responsible for the Education program, which means Teacher Education, and also the Division of Psychology and Counseling. Enrollment right now is about evenly split between Teacher Ed and Psychology/Counseling. That wasn’t always true; Teacher Ed used to be the driver for the whole university in terms of enrollment. But Teacher Ed has taken a big turn. Statewide, over the past 10 years, there’s been about a 50 percent decline in enrollment.
Teaching is the only profession where there’s a required test at the undergraduate level, and it’s a barrier to entry for people who would probably be excellent teachers. Gifted people, talented people. It would’ve been a barrier for me! So it seems unfair to have a hard cutoff that keeps people out, when it might just be that they don’t perform well on standardized tests.
There are definite challenges for teacher education in Illinois, and in the whole U.S., and I want to rise to meet those challenges head-on.
GSU Newsroom: Are there similar challenges in the Division of Psychology and Counseling?
Evans: Not in terms of declining enrollments or a shortage of trained professionals, no. This is an area that, while it isn’t represented in my own educational background, is very close to my heart. It’s about people helping people, one person helping another person to reach their potential.
And this is true for both Education and Psychology/Counseling: we have a magnificent group of faculty. It’s a privilege to be the leader of such a talented and accomplished group of people. I know they do an excellent job in the classrooms, and also in the other areas of the profession—their research, their service—they do fascinating and meaningful and really cool stuff.
GSU Newsroom: You mentioned diversity earlier; why is diversity important?
Evans: First, let me say that I think it’s essential that we have diversity both in our student population and in our faculty. Second, it’s important because it means everyone is being given the opportunity to do what I just mentioned: to reach their potential.
And then there’s the part of it that’s just what you know is right, deep down. I was educated in a setting and academic culture that was diverse. You learn so much from being around people who are different from you; that’s the really important learning that isn’t in the book. Diversity enriches every individual and forms the unwritten curriculum that teaches us how to live in the world.
GSU Newsroom: What’s your goal or goals for the future?
Evans: I’ve already mentioned some things that definitely require immediate attention and resources: The situation in teacher prep, where there’s a decline in people seeking to join the profession and a shortage of teachers. And the challenge of increasing diversity, not just in terms of race but also gender and religion.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is planning. The COE was well into a strategic planning process when the budget crisis erupted, and the planning effort had to be put on hold. If we can just get past the budget problem with the governor and the legislature, then we can get back to the strategic plan we worked so hard on, and move from planning into implementation. That would be glorious.