Dean Kennedy Returns to Research and Teaching

After nine years as dean of the College of Education, Colleen Kennedy will step down in June.


By Kevin Burke

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (March 7, 2012) — Saying she believes she’s accomplished all she set out to when accepting leadership of the University of South Florida’s College of Education nine years ago, Dean Colleen Kennedy has announced that she is stepping down from her leadership position effective June 6, 2012.


She will take a year’s professional development leave in order to “retool for full time teaching and research” and then return to the college as a full professor of Instructional Technology in the Department of Secondary Education.


In congratulating Kennedy on her highly successful tenure as dean, Provost Ralph Wilcox also announced that Harold Keller, currently the college’s associate dean for academic affairs, has agreed to serve as interim head of the college while the university conducts a national search for a new permanent dean. That process is expected to get underway this summer.


“The University of South Florida, students in the College of Education, our K-12 partners and the state as a whole have benefitted immensely from Colleen Kennedy’s service as dean,” said Wilcox, noting that the college is now the nation’s 9th largest public college of education and among the leading producers of teaching professionals in Florida.


“Her passion, commitment and hard work have contributed not only to the enhanced stature of the university as measured in national rankings and increased research dollars, but also to our strategic efforts to promote and enhance diversity on campus — both among students and the faculty, as well as through scholarly contributions.


“Moreover, we should not overlook the tremendously talented leadership team that Colleen has assembled within the college, which provides confidence in continuity as we begin searching for her permanent successor,” Wilcox added.


It will be Keller’s second turn as interim dean of the college, having served previously in that capacity during the search that ultimately brought Kennedy to campus. He said his immediate focus upon assuming leadership of the college once more will be “sustaining the level of excellence we’ve achieved during the last nine years with Dean Kennedy’s guidance.”


Kennedy was appointed dean in June 2003, arriving from the University of Utah, where she served as dean of the Graduate School of Education (now College of Education) and as a professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning. In addition to her responsibilities as dean at USF, she was involved as a professor in the Instructional Technology program, which is housed in the Department of Secondary Education, one of eight departments in the college.


The College of Education also encompasses numerous centers and institutes, including the David C. Anchin Center for educational research and development, the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education, the Center for Migrant Education, and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, among others.


Under Kennedy’s supervision, COEDU became the first college at USF to be ranked in the Top 50 nationally by U.S. News & World Report, and its graduate programs continue to be ranked among the top 25 in the country in terms of external research funding, averaging $22 million annually (which, excluding USF Health, is the second highest average on campus behind only the College of Behavioral & Community Sciences). In January, the college’s graduate education programs added to these distinctions by earning a place on the publication’s first-ever list of the nation’s best online learning programs.


“It’s very gratifying to look back across my time as dean and see all that’s been achieved,” said Kennedy, “but I don’t want anyone to make the mistake that it somehow happened because of just one individual. As we stress frequently here at USF, this was a real collaboration, and I want to give every credit to my outstanding team of assistant and associate deans, chairs, and directors — starting with my close colleague Harold (Keller), who I’m just thrilled will be taking up the reins of the college. The college couldn’t be more fortunate than to have Dr. Keller as interim dean.”


Over the past decade, Kennedy and her associates also increased the college’s enrollment significantly, particularly at the graduate level. That, in turn, has contributed to a sizeable rise in the overall number of graduate degrees awarded by USF each year.


Meanwhile, nearly half of the college’s current faculty were hired by Kennedy, adding to the development of a research culture and infrastructure that she believes “will allow the college to advance on its trajectory with USF” toward eligibility for membership in the American Association of Universities (AAU), a major institutional objective of the university.


Among the outcomes of the college’s student recruitment and faculty hiring efforts under Kennedy has been an appreciable increase in diversity within both groups, with nearly 25 percent of each now coming from traditionally underrepresented populations. Today, the college ranks 12th in the nation in awarding degrees to African Americans and 15th in diplomas conferred upon Hispanic students. Kennedy was awarded the USF Latinos Association’s Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award in 2004.


Kevin Burke can be reached at 813-974-0192.