Brand Initiative: Leaders. Scholars. Innovators.

by Melinda Pradarelli | May 03, 2013

Our world-class faculty and alumni are changing the face of education by inventing new apps, shaping educational policy, providing expertise in distance learning, and leading a $1.2 million project to create a new GED assessment.


As you enter the Lindquist Center building at the heart of the University of Iowa’s campus, you don’t have to go far to find an expert on nearly any issue impacting the field of education.

For more than 165 years, the College of Education, its faculty, staff, students, and alumni, have been at the forefront of national and global initiatives such as standardized testing, gifted education, assistive technology, special education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, online learning, cross-disciplinary literacy, rehabilitation counseling, educational leadership, student affairs, counseling psychology, and more.

As the College articulates its new strategic plan, Interim Dean Nicholas Colangelo says one of the goals is to strike a balance between embracing the College’s deep heritage and communicating its strengths in new areas of education and research.

computer display“We’ve been through an extensive process to get to know who we are as a College,” he says. “We are educating outstanding teachers, and we are doing so much more. Our Rehabilitation Counseling program is ranked number two in the nation, and we have notable alumni on the faculty of nearly every college of education in the United States. Our reach is far and wide and we are proud of that.”

When Colangelo talks about the College’s vision moving forward, he is quick to point out that from the beginning the College has been a place where scholarship, leadership, and innovation have flourished.

“The College of Education has a rich legacy and at the center of the legacy are faculty members and alumni such as Helen Lemme, Ernest Horn, E.F. Lindquist, Albert Hieronymus, Leonard Feldt, J.B. Stroud, Beatrice Wright, Larry Griswold, Mildred Lavin, C. Esco Obermann, and so many others,” Colangelo says. “What these educators share in common is that they were all leaders, scholars, and innovators — a unique combination in the world of education. At their core, they were educational entrepreneurs who epitomized the idea of not only improving educational practice but also advancing the field of education.”

College of Education bannersListing faculty and alumni accomplishments is a little like working your way through a “Who’s Who” list. Lemme (BA ’28) devoted her life to the rights of African Americans and women. Horn founded the University Elementary School and his work in spelling brought national recognition. Stroud created what is now the UI Center for Disabilities and Development and was known as the father of special education in Iowa. Obermann (BA ’27/MA ’31/PhD ’38) wrote the definitive text and first code of ethics for the field of rehabilitation counseling. Wright (MA ’40/PhD ’42) is the architect of rehabilitation counseling in Iowa. Lavin (PhD ’71) created the University’s first Saturday-and-Evening program. And Griswold (BSPE ’32) and fellow Iowa student George Nissen (BSC ‘37) invented the first modern trampoline in 1936.

Other graduates have gone on to become U.S. ambassadors; write the Americans with Disabilities Act; direct ministries of education for entire countries; found bilingual, charter, and alternative schools; lead community colleges, universities, and international think tanks; write state and national curricula; start international business consulting firms and battered women’s shelters; become campus recruiting managers; establish international peace institutes and advocate for globalism; serve as directors of affirmative action offices; direct museums; and work as higher-education policy analysts for nonprofits dedicated to post-secondary education access and success around the world.

They were educational entrepreneurs who epitomized the idea of not only improving educational practice by also advancing the field of education.

Today, faculty members such as Allison Bruhn, an assistant professor of special education, are working on innovations that reflect the changing face of education. Bruhn is collaborating with a team from Vanderbilt University to design two computer applications she believes will help K-12 teachers better manage behavioral issues in the classroom. William Liu, a professor of counseling psychology who is ranked as the nation’s third most-published scholar in the psychology of men and masculinity and sixth most-cited  multicultural scholar, directs the highly selective program. His expertise and work at the local homeless shelter is rewarding for both Liu’s graduate students as well as the homeless population. And Professor Ernest Pascarella, the Mary Louise Petersen Chair in Higher Education, whose award-winning book, How College Affects Students, helped him to have one of Google Scholar’s highest citations records with over 22,000 references to his important text and research.

These faculty members and alumni say they came to the College to follow in the footsteps of great educators who came before them — educators whose pioneering enterprises changed the field of education such as Lindquist  (PhD  ‘27), a member of the faculty until his retirement in 1969 and for whom the College’s building is named. He established the Iowa Testing Programs, where his contributions have been felt throughout Iowa with the spinoffs of ACT and Pearson (recognized as one of Iowa’s largest technology transfers) as well as by introducing standardized testing to millions
of students in all 50 states and around the world.

Lindquist created the Measurement Research Center to develop new scoring methods in educational testing. The center later spun off from the University of Iowa and ultimately became a unit of Pearson, the largest test-scoring and processing corporation in the world.

He also developed an armed-forces testing program into what is now known as the GED, providing a route to a high-school diploma for adults who were unable to complete the usual high-school program.

Feldt (PhD ‘54) came to the College to work under Lindquist and developed the first American College Testing entrance exam that spun off into ACT. Today, the ACT test is administered in the United States to more students than any other college admissions test and internationally to students in 126 countries.

Hieronymus (MA ‘46/PhD ‘48)  then worked with Lindquist and the University of Iowa College of Engineering to develop the optical scanner that revolutionized test scoring and helped to make Iowa City a world-renowned center for educational testing. In the late 1950s, he collaborated with Lindquist, U.S. space pioneer and longtime distinguished professor of physics James Van Allen, and others on the design and assembly of the campus’s first computer.

"People don't always think of educators as innovators, or even inventors, but there is no doubt that our faculty and alumni are just that," Colangelo says.

While some of these innovations started years ago, faculty and students continue to build on them and take them in new directions. In March 2013, Iowa Testing Progams and the University of Iowa entered into an agreement with Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, to collaborate on a new assessment of high-school equivalency and readiness for postsecondary education and training programs. The new test will be an accessible and affordable option for candidates nationwide pursuing a high-school credential.

The project carries an initial budget of approximately $1.2 million for three years. Catherine Welch (BBA ‘80/MA ‘84/PhD ‘90), professor and director of the Iowa Testing Programs statewide testing programs, and Stephen Dunbar, the Hieronymus-Feldt professor and director of the Iowa Testing Programs, are leading the project

“People don’t always think of educators as innovators, or even inventors, but there is no doubt that our faculty and alumni are just that,” Colangelo says.

To this day, testing programs developed at the College have a significant impact on the University and the state of Iowa. Thanks to an agreement with the University of Iowa, Iowa schools pay just $4 per student to take the Iowa Assessments, tests that cost students in other states about $15 per student. Since roughly 360,000 Iowa students took the assessments during the 2011-2012 school year that means Iowa pays about $4 million less annually than other states. Multiply that times dozens of years and it’s easy to see the enduring economic impact the College’s scholarship and innovation have had.

As interim dean, Colangelo understands what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the area of education. After all, he built the internationally recognized Belin Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development from the ground up. Today, the center serves more than 5,000 academically gifted and talented students and their teachers from pre-K through college level each year. Those who know him well say that Colangelo has brought a mix of business acumen, expertise in gifted and counselor education, and strong doses of compassion and commitment to the field of gifted education and talent development. He has built a center that is recognized as one of a kind in the world for its comprehensive approach to gifted education research, service, and advocacy.

"We are proud to have graduates all over the world with a strong track record of not only understanding the field of education but helping to further it," Colangelo says.

Today, as in the past, students come to the University of Iowa College of Education because they want to make a difference in this world. They are students who excel both academically and professionally. They have high GPAs and ACT scores; they start international philanthropies and lead national professional organizations; they actively participate in cutting-edge research; and they master new technologies. They come to the College to be mentored by some of the field’s best leaders, scholars, and innovators — faculty who have earned degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Penn, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Michigan, and more.;

In addition to being attracted to world-class faculty, students say they come to the College because of the flexibility they have to explore new ideas. For example, Tina Vo, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in science education, said she looked at Berkeley and the University of California–Davis before selecting Iowa. “My dream job would be to create and implement programs in a science and technology museum,” she says. “More importantly, I would like to help schools, teachers, and students, find technology to use in tandem with science education that does not overshadow the content, but instead allows for a more in-depth understanding.”

Colangelo says Vo is representative of the College’s outstanding students and alumni worldwide.

“We are proud to have graduates all over the world with a strong track record of not only understanding the field of education but helping to further it,” Colangelo says.