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Teachers College dean wins ASU achievement award

May 20, 2010

Mari Koerner, dean of Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, has received a 2010 Outstanding Achievement and Contribution award from the university’s Commission on the Status of Women. Koerner was one of four recipients honored at a recent breakfast on the Tempe campus.

Created at ASU in 1991, the commission annually honors individuals, groups or teams at ASU whose efforts mirror and further its mission – to identify, advocate for, and increase awareness of needed change in the university in order to enhance opportunities for women.

“As a woman who has taken great pride in each role I have had through my life, and as one who understands that each role has added to my experiences and knowledge, I greatly appreciate that I am seen as a success,” said Koerner, whose leadership has garnered a number of national education awards for Teachers College. “I hope I can be a role model for women who want to take positions in leadership and support them in their growth.”

Koerner’s direction in her fourth year as dean is highly regarded among her peers.

“Dean Koerner has led the college through an extraordinary year, providing the inspiration and leadership to accomplish great things,” said Sally Hurwitz, associate dean of student affairs and communications for the college. “She promotes an inclusive environment by having all staff and faculty participate in annual summits and tasks forces to shape the work of the college.”

An alumna of the University of Illinois at Chicago where she received her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, Koerner has held a number of leadership positions during her career in education. She was associate dean of the College of Education at Roosevelt University in Chicago and director of Teacher Education and chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston before being appointed dean of the College of Teacher Education and Leadership at ASU’s West campus in 2006.

During her tenure at ASU, Koerner has focused on creating partnerships between the college and neighboring school districts while also enhancing the college’s public reputation by highlighting its exemplary faculty and student teaching programs. Her success over the past 12 months has led to a recent $33.8-million Teacher Quality Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The award supports the work of the college’s flagship Professional Development School model that trains new educators in their communities in the Valley, throughout the state and on Native American reservations.

She has tried to remain in the background as the college’s success has been hailed locally and nationally.

“I think that anyone who is in a leadership role should be invisible and really provide an environment where faculty and staff can contribute to the success of the entire enterprise,” she said. “I came to ASU because I was so impressed with the faculty and the staff of the college, and I continue to admire and respect them and their work.”

Most recently, Koerner’s leadership attracted the attention of entrepreneur and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who invested $18 million – the largest such commitment in the history of the college. The investment, announced in January, will be used to establish the Sanford Education Project, an innovative collaboration with Teach For America to attract, prepare, support and retain highly effective teachers.

“Dean Koerner serves as an inspiration to students, faculty and staff,” Hurwitz said. “She provides a clear vision, communicates it well and, most importantly, models it; she sets a positive and inspirational tone.

“Since she has been here, the college has established and continued to strengthen school-university partnerships with organizations such as Teach For America, Phoenix Teaching Fellows and with the Professional Development Schools that now have programs in nearly 20 urban and rural schools in the Valley and around the state.”

Elizabeth Langland, ASU vice president and dean of the West campus-based New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, provided the keynote remarks at the awards breakfast and drew on her own experience while stressing how important support is to great leadership.

“Make no mistake that what you can accomplish at any level depends on those to whom you report – their vision, their commitment, their support," she said.

“The support of others is critical. And that support for me has often come from surprising directions and surprising sources. As Dean Koerner has so often demonstrated, in leadership positions collegiality is critical. In order for any institution to work well, the leaders need to be pulling together.”

Others recognized by the commission were Margaret Coulombe, media coordinator, School of Life Sciences; Robyn McKay, staff counselor, ASU Polytechnic campus Student Counseling Services; and Maureen Daly Goggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin, professors in the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.