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University of Iowa’s Sasso named Dean of Lehigh’s College of Education

Gary M. Sasso

Gary M. Sasso, Ph.D., chairperson of the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Iowa, has been named as the next dean of Lehigh’s College of Education.

The appointment was announced on Friday by Lehigh Provost Mohamed S. El-Aasser.

Sasso has led a distinguished career at the University of Iowa’s College of Education, where he’s built a national reputation among the special education community for his research in social and behavioral disorders. He’s been a member of its faculty since 1985 and has served in his current leadership role for the past seven years.

“Faculty at Lehigh’s College of Education are leading scholars who contribute greatly to their students and to the education community,” says Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh University. “Gary is a scholar, highly respected faculty member and leader, who brings to Lehigh the kind of experience and leadership qualities that will help the college continue to excel. We welcome him to Lehigh’s leadership team.”

Sasso’s passion for scholarly research and his long-standing commitment to Iowa impressed Lehigh’s dean search committee and, in particular, El-Aasser, who launched the committee nearly six months ago.

“It was clear from day one that Gary had a firm understanding of the educational landscape,” says El-Aasser. “He’s quick to recognize excellence in others and will be a strong and personable role model for his colleagues. He’ll be a great fit for Lehigh.”

“A strong sense of academic community”

At Lehigh, Sasso will lead a college well positioned to take a leadership role in the changing educational environment. The college, an early champion of Global Lehigh, has aggressively built international components into its curriculum, particularly through the newly-formed comparative and international education program and the college’s Office of International Programs. The latter extends the college’s curriculum to educators and administrators in more than 40 countries.

The college continues to integrate its curriculum, giving students a cross-disciplinary education designed to address the issues that administrators and educators alike are facing in today’s K-12 schools. Its two research centers—the Center for Promoting Research to Practice and the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders—are helping to lead that charge.

Sasso is a prolific researcher, co-authoring nearly 100 scholarly publications and over 125 conference presentations. He’s also been honored on numerous occasions by his peers, most recently with the Award for Outstanding Leadership in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders from the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavioral Disorders.

Sasso comes from a program considered to be among the nation’s elite. Last year, U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Iowa’s College of Education 19th best among public schools granting doctoral degrees and 28th overall.

According to Sasso, Lehigh’s graduate program has a well-earned reputation itself and is in a strong position to take advantage of a variety of important research and teaching initiatives.

“Everyone at Lehigh shares the same core values and goals. That is, a rigorous insistence on quality teaching and research, combined with a strong sense of academic community,” Sasso says. “This core philosophy regarding higher education is exactly what I was looking for in a college of education—and a university.”

A distinguished career

It’s a philosophy long practiced by his academic colleagues at Lehigh, says Anne Meltzer, dean of the College of Arts and Science and chair of the College of Education dean search committee.

“Gary has a strong commitment to teaching and research and a clear understanding of the issues facing pre-K-to-12th-grade education and human service delivery,” she says. “He is truly interested in supporting a community of scholars, and his collaborative management style will help faculty to achieve success both within and across programs.”

At the University of Iowa, Sasso was recognized for his ability to balance his research initiatives with his teaching priorities. He’s been honored as his college’s distinguished teacher and was nominated for the University of Iowa Outstanding Teacher Award by the Iowa Board of Regents.

His personal research interests include the areas of special education, emotional and behavioral disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and applied behavior analytic models of learning. He is a member of such professional associations as the Council for Exceptional Children, Autism Society of America and The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps.

Sasso will take over the reins from J. Gary Lutz, who has served as interim dean since July 2007.

“Gary has really done an admirable job at the helm of the college over the past academic year,” says El-Aasser. “He’s been an accomplished member of the Lehigh community for nearly 38 years, and I join my colleagues in thanking him for his service and commitment to Lehigh.”

Created in October 2007, the dean search committee members included Ed Shapiro, director for center for promoting research to practice; Arpana Inman, assistant professor of counseling psychology; Mary J. Bishop, associate professor of teaching, learning and technology; Lee Kern, professor of special education; Roger Douglas, associate director of international programs at the College of Education; Lisa Kensler, graduate student and research assistant in educational leadership; Diane Hyland, chair and professor of psychology; Robert Thornton, professor of economics; and Charles Smith, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics.

In addition, Annette McCans from the CAS dean’s office provided staff assistance and Debra Nyby, administrative director to the provost, provided support from the provost’s office.

--Tom Yencho

Posted on Friday, March 14, 2008

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