By Laura Pizzo
Q&A with Dean Lauren Lindstrom: New School of Education dean shares her background on what excites her about UC Davis.
UC Davis: You were at the University of Oregon for 25 years. What drew you to UC Davis?
Dean Lindstrom: UC Davis is both a research and land grant institution, which is a great fit with my values. It means we create new knowledge, address really pressing issues, and there’s also outreach to the community. So there’s capacity and support to do the things I want to accomplish in the future.
Also, UC Davis’ School of Education is only 15 years old. I’m the second dean! And we’re already ranked 36 out of more than 280 Schools of Education in the country.
UC Davis: What else makes UC Davis’ School of Education unique?
Dean Lindstrom: We are very focused on social justice and eliminating inequities. Our faculty are concerned about disparities in graduation rates in public schools for kids from low income families and kids who are Hispanic, African American and Native American. In adulthood, these same groups often end up in poverty without any opportunities for future advancement. UC Davis’ School of Education works to address those inequities by creating really great teachers, developing new programs and creating educational leaders who are going to address inequity.
We ask ourselves, “If we are creating knowledge, what is the purpose of that knowledge?” The purpose is to improve outcomes for kids. So our work really translates to making a difference in our region, California and the world.
UC Davis: What originally drew you to the field of education?
Dean Lindstrom: I always loved school. Ever since first and second grade, I knew I wanted to teach, but my goals have become refined over time.
I earned my undergraduate degree in human services. Then, my first job after college was working with adults with disabilities who were in a sheltered workshop setting with other adults with disabilities. So these folks were in their 40s, 50s and 60s, and my job was to help them make the transition to community employment. In that experience, I realized these folks were very competent. They could work, but they didn’t believe they could work. Nobody told them in high school that they could be in the community. That experience made me want to go back to school to get a special education degree so I could work with individuals with disabilities earlier in the trajectory so they didn’t end up in these segregated facilities without any opportunity to engage in the community. You’re a relatively early-career dean.
UC Davis: How did you accomplish so much so quickly?
Dean Lindstrom: Even before I had my Ph.D., I had opportunities to work on applied community research projects. I was part of a number of projects where we were working with public schools in Oregon, training teachers, doing longitudinal data analytics and seeing how we could improve post-school outcomes. I was supporting and developing grants, not really thinking that I would go on to become a professor.
But then I had a professor who said to me, “You should really think about getting a Ph.D.” And I remember saying, “Why would I do that?” It wasn’t in my head that I could or would want to do that. But through mentorship, I had somebody show me that I might want to teach college classes and write my own grants. That experience of receiving support and guidance stays with me when I work with doctoral students and early-career faculty
Now, I have been a research assistant, a professor, a department head and an associate dean. I have an intimate understanding of everything it takes to run a school of education, and I am thrilled to be here.
UC Davis: Does the School of Education have any exciting partnerships at UC Davis or in the community?
Dean Lindstrom: Our varied partnerships help us translate research and knowledge into critical action. We are very connected with public schools and have faculty doing research and working in Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Natomas, Texas, North Carolina and more. We’re also starting to build more international partnerships, such as in Haiti and Honduras.
We have a center called Wheelhouse that works with community colleges, which is one of our emphasis areas. We’ve had 21 presidents of California Community Colleges on campus three times this year to think about leadership and strategic planning. We also had the chancellor of the whole California Community College system here.
I’m also working on a Promise Neighborhood Grant for the Oak Park area, which is where the School of Medicine is located in Sacramento. It’s a collaboration between United Way, the public schools in Sacramento, the School of Medicine, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and us. The purpose of the grant is to look at a very low-income neighborhood and develop the health and education services needed for youth in preschool all the way to adulthood.
These are just a few examples of our important partnerships, and there are countless others.
UC Davis: How is the School of Education engaging alumni?
Dean Lindstrom: Alumni engagement is an area that is quickly evolving for us. We have been partnering with the Cal Aggie Alumni Association to engage our alumni. We have this interesting split because we have a lot of people who got their teaching credentials from UC Davis before we became the School of Education. We used to be a division of the College of Letters and Sciences, and we have a lot of alumni who also earned degrees in math or Spanish or some other discipline. But it’s only been 15 years since we started having alumni who solely graduated from our school. So we’re working on connecting with these different groups of people and are actively looking for ways to keep them informed and provide opportunities to build their careers, volunteer and come back to campus.