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Published August 12, 2016
An experienced administrator who has helped lead education reform efforts in Ohio has been selected to direct the University of Wyoming Trustees Education Initiative, aimed at elevating UW’s College of Education to national pre-eminence in preparing K-12 teachers, counselors and administrators.
Rebecca Watts, currently the associate vice chancellor of P-16 initiatives with the Ohio Department of Higher Education, has been named executive director of the UW Trustees Education Initiative. She is scheduled to begin her work at UW Sept. 19.
“This is an incredibly difficult and challenging position, requiring in-depth knowledge of professional educator preparation at the college level as well as a thorough understanding of K-12 education,” says Dave Palmerlee, UW trustee and chair of the Trustees Education Initiative Board. “Dr. Watts bridges this gap in such a way as to give us great confidence in her leadership and abilities going forward.”
Palmerlee says Watts was selected from a strong field of candidates after interviews with members of the Trustees Education Initiative Board, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, College of Education faculty and staff members, and members of Wyoming’s P-12 education community.
Watts has held her current position with the Ohio Department of Higher Education since 2012. Before that, she was the chief of staff to the president of Ohio University, a position she took after serving as deputy to the president of Murray State University in Kentucky. She also worked as the public information officer for the Illinois Board of Education superintendent.
Watts holds a bachelor’s degree from Sangamon State University in Springfield, Ill.; a master’s degree from the University of Illinois-Springfield; and a doctorate from Ohio University.
“Dr. Watts brings a lifetime of leadership experience spanning both higher education and P-12 reform,” College of Education Dean Ray Reutzel says. “She will be an articulate spokesperson for the Trustees Education Initiative, having demonstrated an ability to bring a wide array of stakeholders together to achieve a common cause. I believe she will do just that with this initiative. She has my support and that of the college in moving this agenda forward in a bold way.”
The Trustees Education Initiative was established by the UW Board of Trustees in fall 2014 to “elevate the UW College of Education to national pre-eminent status in professional educator preparation, ultimately to improve and enhance K-12 education in Wyoming.”
The hiring of an executive director is part of the initiative’s strategic planning phase, which also includes hiring expert research consultants to help teams composed of faculty, K-12 personnel and other stakeholders evaluate eight of UW’s existing educator preparation programs by studying pre-eminent programs across the country. The goal of the first phase is to produce a strategic plan to transform UW’s entire suite of educator preparation programs. The plan developed and approved by the Trustees Education Initiative Board and the UW trustees will be implemented by the College of Education in the second phase, during 2018-2020.
Funding the initiative is a five-year, $5 million grant from the Daniels Fund, a major nonprofit organization founded by cable TV pioneer Bill Daniels. One of the Daniels Fund’s core objectives is improving the quality of the K-20 education system to ensure increased student achievement.