Education Welcomes New Dean
Ali Carr-Chellman Embraces Role as Leader
Alison Carr-Chellman has education running through her genes. Her mom was a teacher. Both her sisters are teachers. Her grandmother was a teacher. Her father, although a physician, also taught at Ohio State’s medical school.
“I went into education through the traditional route,” said Carr-Chellman who was hired as dean after Cori Mantle-Bromley retired in June. “I went into elementary education and taught for a couple of years. But I was frustrated by the reliance on structure and lack of innovation.”
Wanting to focus on innovation, change and technology, Carr-Chellman returned to graduate school at Syracuse University to get a master’s in instructional design, development and evaluation. Instead of returning to the classroom, she worked for a couple of years in instructional design for fighter pilots with the job title as engineer.
“My parents were mystified,” she said, but they recognized that it was a good fit and a positive direction.
After a few years, she followed with a doctorate in instructional systems technology from Indiana University at Bloomington. Her first appointment out of graduate school was at Western Michigan University.
“They were really more interested in my corporate training background because of the jet fighter pilot work I’d done, but the doctorate had focused on educational systems design, so it wasn’t a perfect fit.”
After just a year at Western Michigan, she was recruited into a rare position at Pennsylvania State University in educational systems design. Her original work was focused on stakeholder participation and she wrote a text on user design, which speaks to her interest in engaging those within systems to create their ideal solutions to wicked problems. Her recent research focus has been on innovation in education and how to re-engage disengaged learners through technology such as video gaming. She also gave a popular TED Talk discussing how to re-engage boys by bringing their culture into the classroom with video games that teach as well as entertain.
Carr-Chellman spent 22-years at Penn State, where she served for 14 of those years in a leadership position, most recently as the head of the Department of Learning and Performance Systems in the College of Education for six years.
“Like so many, I was initially a reluctant administrator, but I really enjoyed this kind of work. I get to help faculty do what they sincerely want to do by empowering them, supporting them and encouraging them. When their work comes to fruition, there is something really powerful in that experience not only for the faculty member but also the students whose lives they touch.”
She brought that same enthusiasm for supporting her team in Pennsylvania to the College of Education when she moved here this summer with her husband, Davin Carr-Chellman, an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership and Counseling, and their children twin 14-year-old sons, Jules and Asher and 13-year-old daughter, Aila.
“This is a great university in a great town and my family and I are thrilled to be Vandals,” she said. “I feel like people here take community seriously — they want to make sure people in the community are helped, welcomed, connected, engaged.”
While her family is settling in and feeling welcomed by Moscow, and her children are quickly getting connected to the community, Carr-Chellman is looking forward to connecting with faculty members and learning more about their research and work. During this early stage, she is familiarizing herself with the college and, she emphasizes, she takes a trusting approach.
“I’m not a micromanager and like to get out of people’s way as much as possible. If you do that, my experience tells me that they blossom,” she said. “Faculty are extremely bright and trustworthy, and if you empower and support them, and give them the tools they need to succeed they will go above and beyond.”
Carr-Chellman recognizes and embraces the impact a leader of a college can make.
“As a classroom teacher you touch hundreds of lives. As a teacher of teachers you touch thousands of lives. As an administrator you may touch hundreds of thousands of lives.”