Amy Smith, PhD Dean, School of Education

Amy Smith began her job as dean of Capella University’s School of Education in May 2016.

But her familiarity with Capella dates back several years to when she was a department chair for a graduate school program in Chicago.

“I noticed that the best adjunct professors in our department were graduates of Capella,” Smith says. “There was something about how they performed when it came to teaching and research that stood out. They did both really well. They were great faculty.”

 

A Career Changer

Smith has served as an administrator at several educational institutions, but she describes her entry into education as a “happy accident.” After graduating college with her bachelor’s degree, she embarked on a career as a book editor in Columbus, Ohio. The work didn’t engage her, however, so she eventually quit to pursue a master’s degree in education—a move that proved fateful.

Smith discovered she had a passion for helping students and a knack for teaching. She taught English at a high school in Cleveland for several years before moving to Denver, where she won several teaching awards. Eventually, her passion moved her to seek out administrative roles, where she could impact a greater population by teaching other teachers how to excel.

“Basically, if you look at my career, I was looking for a backup plan and that backup plan ended up being my entire life,” Smith says.

 

Teaching for Impact

What does she like about teaching? “Teaching is a creative endeavor,” she says. “It’s an ever-evolving process. You’re never perfect at it, so you always get to grow and learn new things.”

What’s more, teaching is “mission-driven,” Smith observes. Being a teacher has given her the opportunity to teach the children of Mexican migrant workers and first-generation college students—experiences that enriched her life, she says. “At the core of everything you do as a teacher are human beings. You have the ability to impact lives in a significant way.”

 

A Blueprint for Change

Smith has big plans for Capella. She wants to continue building partnerships with school districts and charter schools to give Capella students more access to real-life experiences and research opportunities. She also wants to further hone Capella’s expertise in educational technology and innovation. “I want us to be leaders in technology from several perspectives—research, service to districts, and degrees offered,” Smith says.

She also wants Capella to be a national leader in closing the achievement gap in K-12 education in America. “We want to teach teachers to teach more effectively, and I think we can influence the entire teaching force across the United States. To do that, we have to build relationships inside of districts, so when leaders in those school districts think about how can they improve, they call Capella.”

Such advances will require hard work and effort by Capella faculty, but Smith has no doubt that the School of Education can meet her expectations. “Everyone here is deeply passionate about learning and growth,” she says. “I’ve been surprised and delighted by the commitment of everyone here, and by their positivity. People at Capella believe anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

 

 

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