Dr. Susan Brandenburg-Ayres, who has been a faculty member at the University of North Georgia (UNG) since 1994, has been named the new dean for the university's College of Education.
"My goals include focusing on student learning through ongoing data-informed program improvement at the undergraduate and graduate levels, supporting faculty, serving our region, and expanding internationalization through both curriculum and exchange experiences for students and faculty," Ayres said.
Ayres had been serving as interim dean of the college since July 2014; she previously had been associate dean. During Ayres' time as an administrator, UNG's College of Education has been at the forefront of innovative program creation, while maintaining an awareness of the college's responsibility to the communities it serves.
"The College of Education has a social responsibility for improving the lives of the children and families who will be served by the teachers and health and physical education professionals that we prepare," Ayres said. "The commitment to advocacy and service is a key tenet in the newly developed conceptual framework of UNG's College of Education."
Ayres helped develop the highly successful professional development communities (PDC) model based on increasing the length and intensity of field experience for student teachers. Student-teachers in the program take their college courses at the public school, providing a more integrated experience that includes pre-planning activities and parent-teacher conferences.
"Research indicates that this model is significant in supporting teacher retention, a critical issue in a profession where half of all teachers leave the profession by their fifth year of teaching," Ayres said. "UNG's future teachers graduate with a strong commitment to making positive contributions to the schools, students and families they serve as a result of extensive experience working as contributing members of school communities."
UNG's teacher preparation program was commended in fall 2012, when the College of Education earned full accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for its undergraduate- and graduate-level programs. The national accreditation includes a seven-year review of its programs and effectiveness measures, as well as a site visit.
Ayres also helped develop UNG's undergraduate program with dual certification in early childhood and special education – the first in the state. The program was designed to prepare teachers to support student achievement in a diverse classroom.
UNG also recently added a new master's concentration in instruction and curriculum and Ayres' plans for the college include increasing the college's international partnerships and opportunities.
"We are developing short- and long-term plans for embedding international baccalaureate (IB) content and certifications into our new graduate program in curriculum and instruction," she said. "This initiative would support our goals in providing students with international awareness and serve many IB programs in the region and also result in UNG being the only university in the Southeast to provide such certification."
The College of Education is among the first academic units at UNG to work with Alumni Services to create a shared interest group (SIG), which will hold its first informational meeting Saturday, April 18 at 9 a.m. in Young Hall on the Dahlonega Campus. SIGs are communities of UNG alumni who share a common affinity or bond based on shared experience, academic affiliation, background, profession or other UNG-related interest.
Ayres earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education from the University of Florida and earned a doctoral degree from the University of Northern Colorado. She has published and presented extensively on education topics such as special education, collaborative teaching of general and special education students and teacher education methods and programs.