College News & Notes

A review of selected highlights of activity within and at the College of Education since August 2022. 


COE leadership expands

A full complement of associate deans and department heads greeted faculty and staff upon their return in fall 2023. Newly announced members of the team over the past year include:

  • Amy Nielsen, EdD, interim associate dean, graduate studies, and professor, special education. She will support more than 12 graduate programs and liaise with the Graduate College and Online & Distance Education. . 
  • Sohyun Meacham, PhD, interim associate dean, research, scholarship and faculty excellence and associate professor, literacy education. Her duties include oversight of the four Centers of Excellence (Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy, Iowa Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education, Child Development Center and National Program for Playground Safety) as well as elevating scholarship and external funding. 
  • Ron Rinehart, PhD, head, Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies, and associate professor. He replaces former interim head Robert Boody, PhD, professor, who continues as associate head of EPFLS and coordinator of the Doctor of Education (EdD) program. 
  • Curt Nielsen, EdD, head and associate professor, Teaching, replacing the retiring Lyn Countryman. 
  • Benjamin Forsyth, PhDwill continue to serve the college in a redefined associate dean role for undergraduate studies and teacher education, including his role as the campus point person for teacher education and supervising the COE Advising & Teacher Education Success (CATS) Office. 

Health departments join new school

With a newly named School of Health and Human Sciences in place as the new academic year started, several long standing programs within the College of Education transitioned to a new home within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. New departments with previous COE programming include: 

  • The Department of Kinesiology and Athletic Training, which includes the former kinesiology department and its undergraduate and graduate programs, including the renamed kinesiology and exercise science degree (replacing movement and exercise science); and programming of the athletic training section of the College of Education’s Department of Health, Recreation and Community Services (HRCS). This included programs and faculty associated with: the athletic training and rehabilitation studies undergraduate major, the Master of Athletic Training (MATR) degree, and Athletic Training Services, whose faculty includes licensed athletic trainers who both teach and support UNI Athletics. 
  • The Department of Nursing and Public Health, including the undergraduate public health degree, the school health education minor and faculty. 

HRCS remains a COE department with undergraduate and graduate programs in recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership. This programming continues to extend nonformal education to the outdoors and the community.

$2.5 million grant further boosts school psychology/AEA ‘grow your own’ effort 

Nicole Skaar, Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies, and her School Psychology team were awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to further advance a major “grow your own“ effort to increase school psychologists in Iowa in partnership with several Iowa area education agencies. 

This is a second influx of funding following an initial grant secured by Green Hills Area Education Agency in 2019 to develop the initial phase of the program, in collaboration and consultation with the UNI School Psychology Program. The new funding – this time submitted by Skaar on behalf of the AEA partners – supports three new cohorts over the next five years of five students each (total 15) in collaboration with Central Rivers, Northwest Iowa and Great Prairie AEAs. The first of the new cohorts started in summer 2023. 

Since the beginning of the grant program, four students have completed their studies and five more are in progress, Skaar says. 

TEACH Project for a ‘new IRTS’ presses forward

Planning is near completion for a new hub for teacher preparation and classroom experimentation within the Information Resources and Technology Services space on second floor of Schindler Education Center  

The project, dubbed TEACH for “Teacher Education and Collaboration Hub” is a partnership of IRTS, Rod Library and the College of Education to eliminate duplication within the Youth Collection, maintain a unified space for teacher preparation faculty and students who engage with the collection, and ensure a flexible and contemporary school library media center. Efforts have focused on merging the youth collections, adding new materials in the Enrichment section while keeping curricula and teacher-led materials available in IRTS during this transition. 

As part of these efforts, faculty, staff, students and local K-12 educators purchased hundreds of children’s and young adult books, plus LP records, CDs and music scores during a special book and media sale in December at Schindler Education Center.  

Teacher referral program launches 

Teacher Referral ProgramA new teacher referral program kicked off during National Teacher Appreciation Week in May. For alumni and all other friends of UNI, the effort is intended to grow the pipeline of future Panther teachers. Anyone submitting a referral will receive a thank you and memento, with teaching alumni receiving special mementos of a Panther t-shirt and teacher education lunch tote. In addition to social media, groups of alumni are receiving direct mail postcard reminders until the end of May. Know someone made to teach? Refer today! 


Nearly 800 attend teacher education convocation 

Made to Teach 2023In a first for the tradition of the Teacher Education Convocation and Celebration, students newly admitted to UNI Teacher Education were honored during induction ceremonies held during Family Weekend on September 30.

With Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center unavailable, this year’s celebration featured two induction sessions Saturday morning in the Lang Hall auditorium. An estimated 800 attended the two sessions, with about 210 students participating along with family and faculty. Dean Colleen Mulholland served as this year’s guest speaker. 


2+2 Convocation 20222+2 convocation held in fall 2022

Last October, a special, smaller convocation was held at the UNI@DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College Urban Campus to celebrate the induction of elementary education students in the 2+2 program. About 70 students and family members participated in person and online. 


Made to Teach visit days draw prospective teachers 

Made to Teach 2023UNI Teacher Education is consistently drawing future teachers to UNI and its Made to Teach visit days. On October 27, 2023, 224 students and a total of 430 guests joined in this special day to explore UNI and teacher education. That was a slight uptick from the prospects and family members who were on campus in October 2022. 

“It's always exciting to see the passion that the next generation of teachers will bring to the profession, and I'm confident that UNI will be the best place for them to start their fulfilling careers as educators," says Benjamin Forsyth, associate dean for undergraduate studies and teacher education. 

Among the 2022 registrants, about 30 percent were elementary education majors and another 25 percent self-identified as potential early childhood education majors. Nearly 20 were transfer student prospects. In total, students interested in 18 different areas of teaching, along with exploratory majors, participated in the day’s events. While the majority were from Iowa, registrants also came from Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 

International student teaching returns

Fall 2022 saw the first two students in an international student teaching placement since COVID-19. They learned and lived in Ecuador, says Carrie Elser, out-of-state and international student teaching coordinator.  

Cassey Bly, a TESOL/Spanish teaching major, and Emmalee Fannon, an elementary education and communication disorders major, landed in Ecuador on August 1. After a trip to the Galapagos Islands before reporting to school, they prepared for the start of the school year at the Interamerican Academy in Guayaquil, Ecuador. 

“That was the first time we had student teachers at this school and I was so impressed with how welcoming the entire staff has been for our students. They have treated them like family,” Elser says. 

Additional students were placed last spring in Guayaquil and for the fall, new students are in Ecuador as well as Bangkok, Thailand.  

RTNL graduate students take the lead with outdoor adventures 

A newly re-focused Outdoor Adventures program – now part of the recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership programming within the Department of Health, Recreation and Community Services– brings learning and healthy engagement with the outdoors together. The trips provide built-in opportunities for graduate students to coordinate and lead the adventures which attract students from across campus. 

In the first year of stewardship by RTNL graduate assistant Drew Abrams ('23, MA), six trips included cross country skiing,  ice climbing and rock climbing in Iowa and Wisconsin. This fall, graduate assistant Courtney Johnson is leading the effort, coordinating trips to locations in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky and Arizona (Grand Canyon) for canoeing, biking, hiking, rock climbing and backpacking adventures. Read more. 

Past year brings new faces, expertise to COE faculty and staff

Since the last Premier e-news, these full-time faculty and instructional staff have joined the College of Education: 

Other key staff additions have included: 

  • College of Education Advising and Teacher Education Success (CATS) Office: Jenny Connolly, director of advising; Tami Powers, clinical placement administrators and licensing advisor, Mike Tate, academic advisor. 
  • Child Development Center: Maria Ackerson, director; Stephanie Wallen, child development specialist.  

Faculty welcome new journeys upon retirement 

By the end of the 2022-23 academic year, six UNI College of Education faculty with nearly 170 years of experience, memories and impact upon COE undergraduate and graduate students said good-bye to UNI and hello to retirement. Best to all! 

  • Lyn Countryman, professor and head of the Department of Teaching, 32 years
  • Nadene Davidson, associate professor, teaching, 42 years
  • Deb Deemer, associate professor, educational psychology, foundations and leadership studies, 28 years
  • Michele Devlin, professor, global public health, 27 years
  • Susan Etscheidt, professor, special education, 38 years
  • Sarah Bryans-Bongey, associate professor, instructional technology, curriculum and instruction 

A year of passages

Landri Burgart, student, Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership 

Landri BurgartThe College of Education and UNI community mourned the loss of Landri Burgart,  a senior-to-be recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership major who was killed in an accident in Arizona on August 4. “She was a scholar, friend, mentor, leader; she made the COE Dean’s List for spring 2023 (after transferring to UNI in fall 2022), and was a rising star in UNI’s nationally recognized organization Nonprofit Leadership Alliance,” Dean Colleen Mulholland shared at the all staff retreat in August. 

Through the efforts of COE faculty and staff, Burgart was honored with a posthumous degree which was delivered to her parents in time for her visitation services. 

Gloria Kirkland-Holmes, professor emeritus, Curriculum and Instruction 

Gloria Kirkland HolmesKnown for her advocacy regarding young children and African American children and families, the COE community remembered Gloria Kirkland-Holmes’ passion in her 41 years with UN upon her passing in December 2022. She left her mark in classrooms at the Malcolm Price Laboratory School, with UNI teacher education students in curriculum and instruction, and in the inception and ongoing coordination of the African American Read-In and the African American Children and Families Conference.



Marcia Klinefelter, adjunct faculty, Curriculum and Instruction

Marcia Klinefelter was a long-time K-12 educator and literacy advocate with a master’s in literacy from UNI who joined COE as adjunct faculty. A knowledgeable literacy educator, she taught content literacy, literacy assessment and supported the UNI Literacy Clinic for many years. She was active in the Alpha Upsilon Alpha chapter of the ILA honor society and organized professional book clubs for over a decade.

Ripley “Rip” Marston, professor emeritus, Kinesiology  

Ripley Marston – or “Rip” – coordinated the physical education teaching major and started and oversaw the Panther Play program. He also was a member of the Eleanor A. Crawford and William R. Thrall Hall of Excellence selection and production committee.

Don Carver, former dean, College of Education 

Don Carver, dean of the College of Education from 1981 to 1987, passed away in Florida on August 15, 2022, at age 85. He spent his career in teaching and higher education. An Aurora College graduate, he went on to earn his master’s and PhD from the University of Wisconsin after beginning as a junior high teacher and principal. In addition to his tenure at UNI, he served as dean of the College of Education at Southern Illinois University and head of the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Georgia.

Events draw from across the region 

Numerous events again demonstrated the capacity of the College of Education to serve as a critical resource for professional development and education for both internal and external student, professional and community audiences. Among notable highlights: 

African American Children & Families Conference, 2/17/23 

African American Children & Families ConferenceThe late Gloria Kirkland Holmes’ spirit was evident at the African American Children & Families Conference on February 17, 2023. Dean Colleen Mulholland began with a welcome, her own memories and introduction of a video tribute from UNI colleagues, planning committee members and former dean Dwight Watson, with a final “thank you” from her son (and conference panelist), Corey Holmes. All day, guest speakers and panelists acknowledged Dr. Holmes’ leadership in initiating and maintaining this community-connected conference. Nearly 400 attended at least one session. 

Keynote Kenneth B. Morris Jr. shared how he came to know, value and, in turn, share his lineage that connects the families of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. Morris related how Douglass’ belief that “education is the path to freedom” reflected his journey from slave to free man (and anti-slavery advocate), a philosophy shared by Washington. 

Other presenters included COE faculty Kathy Scholl, Health, Recreation and Community Services, and Oksana Grybovych Hafermann (now UNI Chief of Staff), who shared the work of UNI students who researched and developed 13 narratives of UNI's African American history and activism. The narratives can be read as short stories or experienced as a digital UNI campus tour and will become part of the African American Heritage Trail Project in the Cedar Valley. 

Also presenting were Sarah Montgomery, C&I, who addressed “Trauma-Sensitive Social and Emotional Learning Practices for Racial Justice,” and Shuaib Meacham, C&I, who moderated a Black Men’s Panel on “Decisions Black Men Make.” 

Expanded African American Read-In, 2/16/23

2023 African American Read-InWith invitations extended fully statewide for the first time, a record-breaking 3,000 students were registered in classrooms across Iowa to hear and learn from African American children’s book authors and illustrators. Unfortunately, a winter storm that enveloped the state led to 80 classrooms withdrawing, but an estimated 2,000 first graders still enjoyed the opportunity to listen and learn from Dinah Johnson, author of “Black Magic;” Angela Johnson, author of “Lily Brown’s Paintings;” and Don Tate, illustrator of “Carter Reads the Newspaper.” 



Social and Emotional Learning Conference, 4/7/23

SEL Conference 2023Nationally known speakers Marc Brackett and Gina McGovern combined with local and state leaders in social and emotional learning at the annual conference on topics meant to support inclusive, responsive and trauma-sensitive classrooms and promote educator self-care. 

Brackett, Yale professor and lead developer of RULER, an approach to social and emotional learning, and Gina McGovern, known for her studies that support the development of youth’s social emotional skills and ethnic-racial identity led the day-long conference which saw more than 750 registrants. Outside of a special online track for the two keynote speakers and one breakout session, the day-long conference was again an on-campus event in its second year.

Cortez Watson, MEd, LSMA, founder and president of The Hip-Hop F.I.R.M., joined keynote speaker McGovern and conducted a breakout session. Also speaking was children’s author Pat Zeitlow Miller.  

COE faculty were among those presenting at more than 20 keynote and breakout sessions:

  • Sarah Montgomery, curriculum and instruction (C&I), “The Power of Joy in SEL”
  • Kerri Clopton, Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies (EPFLS), with Darcie Davis-Gage, CSBS, “Educator Wellness: A Necessary Component of SEL Initiatives”
  • Nicole Skaar, EPFLS, “Advocating for Social Emotional Learning and School-Based Mental Health”
  • Stephanie Schmitz, EPFLS, “Mental Health in Early Childhood: Prevention and Early Intervention”
  • Suzanne Freedman, EPFLS, “The Impact of Forgiveness Education on Students’ Social Emotional Well-being” 

Return of Carlton-Mellichamp Lecture in Education, 4/26/23

2023 Carlton Mellichamp LectureThe Carlton-Mellichamp Lecture in Education returned in April 2023 with featured speaker Ebonee Johnson, an assistant professor with the University of Iowa College of Public Health. She spoke on “Utilizing Community-Engaged Research to Build Capacity in Stakeholders to Address Youth Mental Health.”  This was the fourth event in the series, sponsored by COE and an ongoing donation from Suzanne and Carlton Mellichamp. The next lecture is planned for March 2024. 

Tubbs Teaching Connections, 11/30 & 12/1/22 

Tubbs Teaching Connections 2023Virtual attendees at the fifth Bill and Linda Tubbs Teaching Connections examined “A Day in the Life of PreK-12 Teachers in 2022.” Participants came away with true insights for themselves both professionally and personally, as educators, their students and communities continue to emerge from COVID-19. Keynote speakers Renee Heiberger and Vanessa Hardaway shared both serious and humorous perspectives on teacher burnout on Day 1. Day 2 brought a series of guest speakers and panelists -- Iowa Teacher of the Year Sara Russell, Hudson superintendent Tony Voss and several practicing teachers from Iowa, Virginia and Indiana -- who spoke passionately about the impact and learnings on teaching practice, teachers and students. 

Leader in Me, 4/15/23

Pre-service teachers honed leadership skills and earned a certificate with the Leader In Me Workshop. Led by Leader Valley, part of Grow Cedar Valley, and hosted by COE, the workshop gave future educators a look into what it means to be a leader in school and an effective teacher. There are currently 26 Leader in Me K-12 schools in the Cedar Valley.

ACT Hybrid Conference, 10/21-22/22

COE was the on-site host for the Association for Constructivist Teaching hybrid conference, with planning coordinated by Beth Van Meeteren with the Iowa Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education. The event included a special pre-conference honoring Rheta DeVries and her work as director of the IRCEDE. In addition, Judith Finkelstein provided an introduction to the Drs. Melville and Judith Finkelstein Integrative Classroom Studio. 

Keynote speaker was Dor Abrahamson, PhD, a professor at the Graduate School of Education  at University of California Berkeley. Presenters included Stephanie Schmitz, EPFLS, “Classroom Management Using a Constructivist Approach;” and VanMeeteren, “A Constructivist Approach to STEM Learning and Teaching: Stories from the Classroom.”