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It's all about genuine leadership for one new college dean

In May 2015, Chapman University welcomed Margaret Grogan as the new dean of its College of Educational Studies. Grogan has held teaching and administrative positions in Australia and Japan and at top U.S. universities.

Grogan said it was the college's innovative programs, progressive faculty and vibrant student body that drew her to Chapman. It was also the college's tradition of community engagement, which aligns with her primary areas of research: leadership development as it relates to gender, education and social justice.

"Chapman is very much what I would consider forward-looking. It's a school with a great deal of vitality," she said. "There's an excitement that exists on the campus amongst the professors and the students and the board of trustees ... [about] the heights to which they can actually go."

After teaching high school in her native Australia, Grogan worked as a teacher and administrator at an international school in Japan for 17 years. With a PhD in educational administration from Washington State University, she more recently taught educational leadership and policy at the University of Virginia, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and at Claremont Graduate University.

Grogan's previous roles include dean of the School of Education Studies at Claremont Graduate University, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and president of the national nonprofit University Council for Educational Administration. She has also authored, co-authored or edited six books, including "Women and Educational Leadership," published in 2011.

"I was interested in looking at women in the superintendency because when I first came to the United States twenty-some years ago, only 5% of the [school] districts ... were headed by women," Grogan recalled. "I couldn't understand that at all."

Grogan said that the College of Educational Studies' community engagement activities — such as literacy events at its Centro Comunitario de Educación and collaboration with the grass-roots Padres Unidos community engagement nonprofit, both in Santa Ana — dovetail with her vision for a leading college of education that serves local needs. 

"I've joined a very committed faculty and student body ... because of the excellent work done by my predecessor, Don Cardinal, who already committed to social justice principles," Grogan said. "So one of the things that I'm doing is engaging with the faculty in learning about their projects right now to see how I can be sure to support those that have already been put into place and to expand those that will help us be transformative change agents." 

For example, Grogan is looking at reviving the college's bilingual program, to prepare more teachers to work in dual-immersion schools, and perhaps expanding this idea into a better multilingual and multicultural understanding among teachers. 

Grogan regards education leadership as having a role in the fight for social justice, both in the classroom and in the broader community.

"It is about recognizing that policies and practices in schools actually benefit some and not others," she said. "Then I think leadership is about changing the policies and practices to ensure that those who have not previously benefited are benefiting."

Such initiatives even impact the quality of America's democracy, Grogan said, by producing better-educated, informed citizens who are able to debate ideas and exercise critical thinking.

Grogan's leadership philosophies also inform the way she helms the college.

"I believe firmly in collaboration," she said. "The combination and the collaboration of many sets of experiences — the more diverse sets of experiences, the better." 

In addition to the college's crucial overseas research projects, Grogan prioritizes its interaction with, and relevance to, local communities.

"Because of our commitment to equity and justice and because we really value partnerships ... I'm hoping that we will, together, be able to serve those students and their families who have not been well served in the past."

—Paul Rogers, Tribune Content Solutions

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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