UNI Welcomes New Dean of the College of Education

Dr. Dwight WatsonOn July 1, Dwight C. Watson became the University of Northern Iowa's dean of the College of Education. Watson was formerly the associate dean of the Teacher Education Program, chair of the Department of Education Studies and professor in the College of Education and Human Services, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

University Relations had an opportunity to ask Watson a few questions as he gets acclimated to life at UNI.

What is your first impression of UNI?

The faculty and staff are very eager to meet and share ideas. They want to know how we are going to move forward with vision and planning. This is a place where faculty and staff want to know how their opinions and thoughts are connected with the university's priorities and our professional programs.

What are you most looking forward to about joining UNI?

I am excited about helping UNI reach its goal of being a premier undergraduate university and a leader in pre-K through 12 education. I want to see how our students take what they learn in the UNI classroom and apply it to their work with pre-K through 12 students.

What is your first priority on the job?

I plan to hit the ground listening. I want to understand our legacy, our reputation and to speak with individuals who are viewed as leaders in education on-and off-campus. I want to honor our heritage as we launch our future.

What do you think are the most important aspects of the dean's role at the university?

An important role is eliminating barriers and resistance so students can learn. I plan to foster an environment where faculty can teach, conduct scholarship and engage in service-oriented activities and outreach.

What role do you feel our faculty and staff have in advancing the university's leadership in pre-K through 12 education?

We need to be sound in our teaching practices, current with today's classrooms and focused on performance-based teaching and learning. One way of achieving this is what I call authenticity checks. For example, before faculty teach a new assignment to UNI students, they could visit a pre-K through 12 classroom and teach the lesson. This will allow for optimal learning experiences for our UNI students and benefits the professors with current practices as well.

If you could name three characteristics that describe yourself, what would they be?

I am highly reflective -- when I say something it's because I truly believe it and there is action tied to it. I'm intentional and approachable.

What would you say to aspiring future teachers?

You have the opportunity to affect tomorrow; it's a lot of hard and heart work; what you do matters; and the best teachers take risks and make mistakes.

What is your favorite memory of teaching at the pre-K through 12 level?

I have several years of teaching at the elementary and middle school level. The most powerful teaching moments were when I taught in an inner city school in North Carolina. I taught the same group of students in grades three to five for two consecutive years. This was referred to as a family model approach to teaching. The purpose was to develop family relationships and foster learning in- and out-of school. Hearing from the students and families of the positive impact I made in their lives was very rewarding. It's that connection and feedback from children that makes teaching a great profession.

What made you decide to transition into higher education?

I wasn't necessarily propelled to leave but rather compelled to new challenges. I always want to be doing something where I know I'm making a positive impact. I ask myself if I've mastered all of my skill sets. A good balance for me is when 70 percent of my job is comprised of things I've mastered, and 30 percent is still a challenge. I continue to feel that I can affect change in professional education programs and with aspiring teachers.

What is something that people would be surprised to know about you?

I used to be a disc jockey. I own 1,500 vinyl records and 2,000 CDs. I'm a purist when it comes to music. I don't like downloads, I like the graininess of the vinyl.  I used to be a singer in a punk rock band.