Named dean following a recent nationwide search, Carolyn Nelson said her approach to leading the College of Education and Allied Studies won’t alter noticeably compared with her tenure as interim dean over the past year. A full roster of goals and projects underway, however, are expected to direct CEAS’ path in coming years.
“She has done an excellent job in leading the college through particularly difficult times, and has worked effectively with faculty leadership in positioning the college for the future,” said James Houpis, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
Next on the to-do list for Nelson and CEAS faculty will be completion of a five-year strategic plan. She is working with faculty and staff on a committee that has gathered input from the college community to develop a plan that will be completed by the end of the academic year.
“We needed to create an updated strategic plan that reflects and articulates our college identity now, particularly in light of our budget situation,” said Nelson from her office, where congratulatory bouquets of white tulips and hydrangea and balloons crowd her credenza and meeting table. “I want it to be a living, working document from which we can assess our growth and direction.”
A balanced budget counts as one of the most notable accomplishments for the college in the past year, said Nelson, who was appointed interim dean in summer 2009, in part, based on the strength of her science education and university administration background, including 20 years of service at San Jose State University.
“My first year here was all about budget cuts and getting to know faculty and staff,” she said. “It was quite remarkable. We had the budget cuts, and we had the layoffs.”
She acknowledged that it was a challenging period for Cal State East Bay and CEAS, which comprises the departments of educational leadership, teacher education, educational psychology, kinesiology and hospitality, recreation and tourism. The experience, however, provided an important opportunity for Nelson and faculty members to get to know one another, she observed.
“We were all thrust into a situation where we could appreciate each other more,” Nelson said. “Our department chairs and faculty demonstrated they were willing to do what needed to be done. It spoke well to their character … They are really committed to the college and its students.”
As members of CEAS work to crystallize their objectives for the next several years, one tradition is expected to continue: community engagement. In any given quarter, approximately 700 CEAS students are at work in the community and participating in community service learning. Through the Community Counseling Center, for instance, CEAS graduate students and faculty supervisors provide counseling services to area residents from ages 6 months to 76.
“We want to become a place where people come to tap our resources in a way that’s of use to our community,” Nelson said.
Teacher training is another area in which CEAS has long made a strong contribution to the region. As one of the top producers in the CSU of science and mathematics teachers, CEAS annually educates about 90 teacher candidates in the in-demand subjects. It’s a trend Nelson will continue supporting as part of the CSUEB-wide commitment to becoming a more STEM-centered (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university. CSUEB’s treatment of “science as the 21st-century literacy,” she said, is a visionary approach to higher education.
“It’s a very powerful vision for workforce development in our area,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s conversation with President Mo Qayoumi about STEM at CSUEB is available online.
Prior to her move to CSUEB, Nelson served as associate dean in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education at San Jose State University from 2007 until 2009. She previously chaired the Department of Elementary Education at SJSU for seven years. Her service to SJSU began in 1990 when she joined the university as a lecturer, becoming an associate professor in 2000 and a professor in 2006. At SJSU, she taught courses including the “Sociology of Education” and “Science for an Inclusive Classroom.” Additionally, she spent 15 years teaching in K-12 systems in San Jose and in Illinois, Nebraska and New York.
Nelson earned an Ed.D. from the University of San Francisco in 1992 with major emphases on organizational change and leadership, crosscultural communications and science education. She also received an M.A. from USF in 1984. Her B.S. is from the University of Nebraska, Omaha.