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School of Education announces 2 associate deans

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

LAWRENCE – Professors Kelli Thomas and Lisa Wolf-Wendel will join the dean’s administrative team at the University of Kansas School of Education, effective June 1.

Thomas will replace Sally Roberts as the new associate dean for undergraduate and teacher education programs. Wolf-Wendel will replace James Lichtenberg as the new associate dean for graduate programs and research.    

Thomas, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching, earned her doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in mathematics from KU in 2001, then joined the School of Education faculty in 2002.  Her professional work has focused on mathematics and science teaching, learning and assessment in schools. Thomas began her career in education teaching in public school settings, including in the Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Germany. Her research investigates issues related to teacher education, assessment and program evaluation, mathematics and science education in schools, mathematics teacher development and students’ mathematical reasoning skills.

In her new role, Thomas will oversee 12 undergraduate academic programs, including eight teacher education programs, and also lead the School of Education through program accreditation reviews, serve as a primary liaison with the Kansas State Department of Education as well as foster relationships with PK-12 schools and professional organizations that support health/sport/exercise careers in the local community, the state of Kansas and across the region.

"I am excited for this role and for the opportunity to support our students, the School of Education, the university and the broader professions that our undergraduate programs serve,” Thomas said. “I look forward to working with colleagues in the school as we continue to improve our programs, to cultivate partnerships, to maintain collaboration with outside constituents and to promote our ongoing diversity initiative.”

Wolf-Wendel, professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, earned her doctorate in higher education from Claremont Graduate University in 1995 and joined KU shortly afterward to serve the higher education administration program.

Her research focuses on faculty issues, including studies of the academic labor market, the needs of international faculty and faculty from historically underrepresented groups, and several recent research projects pertaining to the policy response of academic institutions in the wake of demands for dual career couple accommodations and work/family balance. In her new role, Wolf-Wendel will oversee the school’s various graduate-level programs offered among all five academics departments, and she will also serve as the leader in the school’s research efforts. 

“Ultimately, the role of as an associate dean is to provide resources, to minimize barriers and to make it possible for faculty and students to do their jobs – and to do them well,” she said. “Moving from a faculty position in higher education administration, this new opportunity will serve as an ideal chance to see how the theories I teach in class translate to practice.” 

Dean Rick Ginsberg announced the appointment of the two new associate deans earlier in the spring 2015 semester. Both candidates have spent time shadowing their successors and will embrace a smooth transition during the beginning of summer 2015.

“The school is lucky to have two such smart, enthusiastic and well-qualified faculty members stepping into the associate dean roles. Both Kelli and Lisa bring new ideas and energy into the positions after having shadowed their predecessors this spring,” Ginsberg said. “The leadership of the school will continue to perform at a high level in the capable hands of Dr. Thomas and Dr. Wolf-Wendel.”

The School of Education is a nationally ranked school serving educators as well as health, sport and exercise professionals to prepare them as leaders.    


School of Education is 10th among public universities for its master’s and doctoral programs
—U.S. News & World Report
Professor Lisa Wolf-Wendel is president-elect of the Association for the Study of Higher Education
Alumni of the department head higher education institutions, school districts, and schools across the nation
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