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Conversation with Lynch School of Education Dean Maureen Kenny

Maureen Kenny (Photo by John Gillooly)

By Ed Hayward | Chronicle Staff

Published: Jan. 16, 2014

How do you describe the mission of the Lynch School?

Over the past year, the faculty, staff, and administration of the Lynch School have engaged in a series of discussions to refine our strategic vision. Throughout this process, we have been building on the mission statement we developed more than a decade ago. As a professional school of education and applied psychology in a Catholic and Jesuit university, we have long endeavored “to enhance the human condition, to expand the human imagination, and to make the world more just through excellence and ethics in teaching, research, and service.”

How does the school go about fulfilling its mission?

The 2014 strategic visions and strategies validate our mission and achievements of the past decade, while also articulating a revised set of benchmarks that are intended to further strengthen our impact and be responsive to the complex challenges of a changing society. The preparation of undergraduate and graduate students to be leaders in the fields of education and applied psychology remains central in our vision. We do this through our rigorous, innovative, and evidence-based programs linked to practice and through the dissemination of scholarship with a focus on promoting equity and social justice.  While Lynch School faculty are known as top scholars in their respective fields, we want to make sure that the scholarship produced through Lynch School extends beyond professional publication to impact public policy and educational and psychological practice at the local, regional, national, and international levels. 

What are some of the school’s immediate goals?

In the short term, we are working to increase the research support for faculty so that they can secure the level of external funding needed to carry out research that informs solutions to educational and social problems. We also believe that we can strengthen the impact of our research through enhanced faculty collaborations across departments of the Lynch School and across the university, as well as with critical stakeholders locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. We are also working to increase the visibility of our effort within the university and externally and to more fully engage our alumni network in education and policy initiatives. We are also reviewing our academic programs and professional development offerings to ensure they meet the most pressing educational and social needs. We are seeking to enhance the marketing and branding of our programs to enable us to continue recruiting the most capable and committed students who represent diverse communities.

In the long term, what major projects and priorities lie ahead for the Lynch School?

We are working to focus the international efforts of the faculty and increase opportunities for graduate students to acquire the knowledge and skills to work as effective professionals in a global society. This will likely mean the development of strategic partnerships with select universities across the globe in research, clinical practice, and educational exchanges. A long-term priority also focuses on the development of certificate and professional development offerings that complement our degree programs. The best ways to effectively integrate technology and the hybrid learning opportunities to complement our current instructional technologies are also under consideration.

What kind of balance does the Lynch School seek to achieve among the areas of teaching, research and service?

Teaching, research, and service are integrally related in the Lynch School.  Our research focuses on developing solutions to problems of practice and policy, is grounded in social justice, and is valued by multiple communities, including scholars, policy makers, and practitioners. Many of our research projects are carried out with practitioners in schools and community agencies. Undergraduate and graduate students work with faculty in their research and the findings from research inform faculty teaching. Many faculty are active in service at the professional and community levels that are directly related to their research interests.

The expectations for tenure-track faculty for scholarly productivity in terms of publications and grant acquisition are very high, and those faculty are also expected to be excellent teachers and advisors and to be good citizens within the university and in their profession. In the context of those demands, it can be challenging for faculty in a professional school to remain immersed in professional practice. For that reason, we have hired several “professors of the practice,” who play an integral role in fostering the links between our professional training programs and the world of practice in education and psychology. These non-tenure track faculty carry a larger teaching load and are not expected to publish research, although they are often involved in applied research and inquiry that informs their teaching and practice.

Describe the importance of the Lynch School's work with the Boston Public Schools.

The work of the Lynch School intersects with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) with regard to professional preparation, professional development, and research. This work is carried out in a way that is mutually beneficial. In preparing student teachers in practica across BPS, we are developing a pipeline of highly qualified teachers and school leaders for work in BPS and other urban centers across the country. We are refining our professional development offerings to better meet the needs of practicing educators. Through partnerships with school leaders and teachers across the city, we have been collaborating in developing and implementing research that responds to the needs of the local schools, while also publishing and otherwise disseminating the findings to inform theory and practice on a national level.

Likewise, how important is it for LSOE to work in partnership with schools of the Archdiocese of Boston?

The Archdiocese of Boston is one of our local education stakeholders. As the leading Catholic school of education nationally, with strengths in applied psychology and research, we are uniquely positioned to collaborate with the Archdiocese. The vision and resources of the Roche Center for Catholic Education and a recent gift from the Warmenhoven family to support research and teaching collaborations between Lynch School faculty and Catholic schools strengthen our capacity to serve the schools of the Archdiocese.

The Lynch School faculty brings cutting-edge knowledge in education and applied psychology to Catholic schools. Catholic City Connects, the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps, our partnership with St. Columbkille School, and research at St. Rose School with a focus on the education of English Language Learners are only a few examples of recent collaborations between the Lynch School and the Archdiocese.

Are there particular accomplishments in these areas you'd like to point out?

The Lynch School sponsors a number of signature programs that work with local schools, including City Connects, the Lynch Leadership Academy, Urban Catholic Teacher Corps, Donovan Scholars, and College Bound, along with robust school partnerships for teacher preparation, school leadership, and faculty research in science and math education and bilingualism. Currently, we are seeking to more effectively document and coordinate our efforts in specific schools. A number of these efforts are often operative in the same school, which gives us the opportunity for a transformative impact in a single setting, and we are working with our partner schools to deepen our work and positive effects.

What's a surprising fact people may not know about the Lynch School?

The Lynch School is very proud of our high quality programs in teacher education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, our partnerships with local schools, and the important educational research produced by our faculty. I have found that people across the campus are less aware of the programs that extend beyond teacher education. We have very strong graduate programs and faculty in quantitative research methods, higher education and student affairs, educational leadership, and applied psychology.

In the applied psychology area, we have a very selective American Psychological Association-accredited PhD program in counseling psychology, a very strong doctoral program in Applied Development Psychology, and masters programs in mental health and school counseling and applied developmental psychology. Approximately 60 percent of the undergraduates enrolled in the Lynch School are majoring in applied psychology and human development. While some of these students are also majoring in elementary education, applied psychology is the sole Lynch School major for 44 percent of our undergraduates.  Undergraduate enrollment in applied psychology and human development has been growing and is one of the 10 largest undergraduate majors in the University.

Read our next "Conversation" with Arts & Sciences Dean David Quigley