College News and Notes: Fall 2020



COE hosts diversity dialogue 

Diversity Dialogue Fall 2020About 35 teacher education students joined face-to-face and remotely for Diversity Dialogue to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in relation to educator preparation. Common threads emerged through small group breakouts, such as interest in resources for both students and educators; how to handle difficult conversations and cultural competency, in general; and how to be a part of change in curriculum as future teachers. “I was thankful that we had a group of students who were willing to take some time and join in the discussion—I think we got some great feedback!” says Stephanie Schmitz, associate dean. Schmitz plans to continue the dialogues as part of an overall effort to engage and connect with students in coming semesters. 

Virtual visits to the forefront with prospective students

TransferTeachTransform Fall 2020Though on-campus tours remained available by appointment, the usual fall open houses and visit days all went virtual this year. For College of Education, that included TransferTeachTransform, a visit day attended by about 25 prospective transfer students interested in elementary or early childhood education; one-hour, evening “Be a Teacher” and pre-health virtual events this fall, and COE-specific events including preview days hosted by postsecondary education: student affairs. Admissions, college faculty, advisers, current students and alumni joined in the efforts to keep prospects informed and engaged. 

Be a teacher at UNI 

Be a Teacher websiteLooking to help a son, daughter or friend find their path to teaching--at the University of Northern Iowa? You can now turn to, a new introductory web page to help students explore where to turn, depending on their interest.   




New leader for Jacobson literacy center named

Lori Norton-MeierLori Norton-Meier began her duties as the director of the Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy in August, replacing interim director Deborah Tidwell. She also serves as a professor of literacy education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the College of Education. 

The Denver, Iowa, native, is a literacy specialist with a focus on early childhood. She has previously served in several positions within the Department of Special Education, Early Childhood and Prevention Science in Louisville, most recently as director, Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Research Center; director, Kentucky Reading Project; and professor, literacy education.  She previously worked at Iowa State University, Kansas State University and Wichita State University. 

“I’ve focused on the study of the language and literacy practices of children, adolescents, teachers, and families as they engage in the act of inquiry. My goal is to disrupt the deficit narrative to transform teaching and learning environments,” Norton-Meier says. In doing so, she looks to what learners can bring to the learning environment to enhance their learning. 

Norton-Meier has been busy laying the groundwork for her vision for the center. Turn here for more on the center or read her new blog

Associate deans Grybovych Hafermann and Schmitz confirmed

Two associate deans were selected for two-year positions with the UNI College of Education, Dean Colleen Mulholland announced in summer 2020. 

Oksana Grybovych HafermannOksana Grybovych Hafermann is the new full-time associate dean for academic affairs. A faculty member with the College of Education since 2004, Grybovych Hafermann served as head of the Department of Health, Recreation and Community Services since 2018. Her experience covers teaching, administration and consultation, with a particular emphasis in participatory tourism planning, community development and economic impact analysis. She has authored or co-authored numerous publications and remains an associate professor with HRCS. As associate dean, she provides support for academic programs and strategic initiatives for all undergraduate and graduate levels, including the Ed.D. program, and also works with the COE centers of excellence. 


Stephanie SchmitzStephanie Schmitz, who served as interim associate dean of graduate studies and faculty affairs since 2019, was appointed to the half-time position of associate dean, research and faculty excellence. A faculty member since 2011, Schmitz is a nationally certified school psychologist with expertise in child development and response to intervention and has contributed to numerous publications in her discipline. She remains a faculty member in school psychology with the Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies. In her redefined role, she serves as a liaison and lead for scholarships, professional development including the Bill and Linda Tubbs Teaching Connections and Carlton-Mellichamp Lecture series, and advising and student success services.

Scholl heads health, recreation and community services 

Kathleen SchollKathleen Scholl, professor in recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership, was named head of the Department of Health, Recreation and Community Services. With the college since 2001, she has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels and is well published. Her current research focuses on how built and natural environments affect a broad spectrum of human well-being. She has previously served as division chair from 2009-2011 and interim division chair in 2015. 


Welcome new faculty and staff

In addition to welcoming Lori Norton-Meier, departments added faculty and staff members to the College of Education this academic year who brought a range of expertise to the college: 

  • Educational psychology, foundations and leadership studies: Shelley Price-Williams, assistant professor, postsecondary education;
  • Health, recreation and community services: Kaitlyn Maloney, instructor and head athletic trainer, football; Cari Zubke, instructor and head athletic trainer, women’s basketball; 
  • Kinesiology: Kelsey Bourbeau, instructor; 
  • Special education: Whitney Hanley, assistant professor; and, 
  • Teaching: Kelly Rohlf, Southwest Iowa student teaching coordinator. 

Honoring our retirees

The UNI College of Education appreciates the years of accomplishments and the memories shared with these four retirees since mid-summer 2020. Best to all!

  • Carol Bean, 20 years, Health, recreation and community services
  • Brenda Whiteside, 7 years, Center for Educational Transformation
  • Michael Helten, 23 years, HNI Corporation Instructional Resources and Technology Services 
  • Lynn Dykstra, 37 years, Teaching 

Tubbs Teaching Connections adds to understanding of ACEs

Fall 2020 Tubbs Teaching ConnectionsMore than 250 students, educators and fellow professionals from across the state participated in one of the virtual Bill and Linda Tubbs Teaching Connections sessions on November 13, part of “ACEs: Building Trauma-Sensitive Communities.” A full slate of speakers touched on everything from defining adverse childhood experiences and the data on societal impact, to discussing cultural and racial intersections and identifying tools and various therapeutic and educational approaches in response. 

“This was a great day of learning. The speakers all emphasized things that participants can DO in their own communities to create trauma-sensitive environments--in schools and in other spaces. We all have a role in building support and fostering resilience, and the conference presenters emphasized that so well.,” says Disa Cornish, associate professor, public health and education, one of the COE Senate faculty coordinators.

In addition to the speakers, an early highlight was a live, virtual welcome from Linda Tubbs on behalf of her and her husband Bill. Their donation to the UNI Foundation has supported the conference, now in its fifth year. 

Virtuous Educator Speaker Series kicks off

December 2020 Virtuous Educator Speaker SeriesWith the topic of “Integrating Intellectual Virtues into Academic Teaching and Learning,” Jason Baehr, a guest speaker from Loyola Marymount University, helped launch the new Virtuous Educator Speaker Series, a virtual event in December 2020. 

Baehr was the first of seven speakers slated for eight presentations through the academic year. The series is sponsored by the Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies in the UNI College of Education. Go to the Virtuous Educator Speaker Series page for the full schedule. 

The series is an extension of work coordinated by five EPFLS faculty (Benjamin Forsyth, Suzanne Freedman, Anthony Gabriele, Elana Joram and Ron Rinehart) who received a grant from the Kern Family Foundation earlier this year, which partly supported the series. The team is studying the cultivation of moral and intellectual virtue in two core courses in teacher education and expect to make recommendations for curricular change as a result of their review. 

College supports national town hall

Gloria Ladson-Billings was the featured speaker and facilitator of a town hall sponsored on October 13  from 1 to 2 p.m. (CDT) by the UNI College of Education in conjunction with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities (TECSCU). Called “The Part of the Problem We Own: Taking an Anti-Racist Stance in Teacher Education,” the town hall was part of the fall TECSCU conference. 

The topic aligns with efforts by a coalition of these three organizations and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)  to address significant educator shortages and inequities in participation in the profession at the federal level through potential Higher Education Act policy proposals related to financial aid, loan forgiveness and the TEACH Grant. 

Honors and achievements

Leigh Zeitz, assistant professor, curriculum and instruction, received the 2020 International  Society for Technology in Education Global Collaboration Network Award, which recognizes an an educator who promotes global collaboration with social responsibility in mind. 

Six College of Education alumni were named to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier’s “20 under 40.” They include faculty member Kelli Snyder (‘03, athletic training, ‘12 Ed.D., rehabilitation studies); COE Dean’s Advisory Council member Megan McKenzie (‘12, LYHS); current doctoral students Jesus Lizarraga-Estrada, (‘17 M.A., PSE: student affairs); Joyce Levingston (‘17 M.A., LYHS): La Toshia Burrell (‘09 M.A., physical education); and Tara Raymond (‘05, health education). 

ICYMI (In case you missed it)

College of Education faculty, staff, students and alumni are regularly featured on or in College of Education and University of Northern Iowa social media and online. In case you missed it, here are links to the stories of the past few months:

NOTE: Up-to-date alumni notes and donor listings will appear in the next issue of Premier.