All posts by Ann Blackwell

Ann Blackwell

The Influence of J. B. George

On June 14, the J. B. George Building was dedicated in honor of the third president of The University of Southern Mississippi. It was a wonderful event made more special by George family members that attended the dedication. I had the distinct pleasure of visiting with many of them, including President George’s daughters and their children. The word “charming” comes to mind; the George family was engaging and had marvelous stories to share regarding President George and his progeny.
In reflecting on the event, I was struck by the personal and professional influence J. B. George exerted in spite of challenges he faced in life. He was orphaned at age 13, served our country in World War I, assumed his presidency following the Great Depression, and extended his tenure through the end of World War II. Despite the turmoil of the era, the institution survived and thrived under his leadership. In fact, President George was instrumental in expanding the mission of State Teachers College and renaming it Mississippi Southern College. Of particular note, his professional accomplishments were achieved while he was also successfully building a family.
I believe we can glean a great deal from the biography of J. B. George provided at the dedication and can use the information to evaluate our standards and inform our choices. For the College of Education and Psychology, his accomplishments serve to strengthen our commitment to excellence and to fortify our resolve to produce positive changes in our state through quality teaching, research, and service. It is an honor for our Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education to be located in the building bearing his name.

See related story at

Ann Blackwell

Multiplicative Effects

Each spring, two wonderful opportunities are available within the College of Education and Psychology that benefit scores of people. The two events are excellent illustrations and reminders of the impact of individual generosity.
The Lee K. Hildman Colloquium is funded by Dr. Tommie Hildman in honor of her late husband, a former professor in the Department of Psychology. The Colloquium is hosted by the Department of Psychology and features nationally recognized scholars who share compelling research with those in attendance. The Colloquium draws hundreds of participants and never fails to underscore the value and importance of our research mission.
The Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival is hosted by the School of Library and Information Science and includes participants from 46 states. It was renamed in 2001 in honor of Miss Kaigler, a retired elementary school teacher and native Mississippian. Miss Kaigler funded the Kaigler-Lamont Award given annually to a librarian or teacher for distinguished service to children. The Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival effectively undergirds our teaching mission by promoting literacy and excellence in children’s literature.
We applaud the generosity of Dr. Hildman, Miss Kaigler, and many others like them. Perhaps their example will encourage us to produce similar multiplicative effects through our own generosity.

Ann Blackwell

Planning Well and Doing Well

Thinking well is wise; planning well, wiser; but doing well is the wisest and best of all. – Persian Proverb

The academic department chairs, associate dean, and I recently spent the better part of a day reviewing and revising the strategic plan for the College of Education and Psychology. From my perspective, this planning is an invaluable investment of time and energy. We engaged in rich dialogue, enjoyed good-humored banter, and renewed our commitment to the vision, mission, and goals of the College. We reaffirmed high standards for our work that translate into quality educational experiences for our students and faculty/student research that makes a difference for the citizens of Mississippi and beyond.

Our College Statement was expanded to explicitly incorporate support for faculty and staff. The past few years have been challenging; the College and University have dealt with shrinking resources coupled with increasing demands. Faculty and staff have responded professionally, and the College continues to grow. It is appropriate, however, to ensure an environment within the College that fosters personal and professional growth, recognition, and success for our colleagues. Human capital is our most valuable resource; we want to protect that resource in the College of Education and Psychology. In my experience, it is fundamental to doing well.

Ann Blackwell

The energizing aspects of accreditation

These days my thoughts are often focused on accreditation.  In just a few months, USM will host a site visit team representing the Board of Examiners of the National Commission for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).  In preparation for the NCATE site visit in March, we are finalizing the institutional report that is due in January.  Although the report is a tremendous amount of work for faculty and staff, it gives us an opportunity to showcase the quality of our teacher education program at USM. I actually find it energizing to compile the report, because it reveals the many strengths in teacher education at USM.   Perhaps most important, the report documents that teacher education  students at USM  benefit from an educational experience that is measured by standards shared by institutions across the United States.

Earlier in the accreditation process, we learned that all of our teacher education programs at USM are nationally recognized by their respective specialized professional associations.  This past week we reviewed 2010 data on student  performance on national teacher education exams.  We learned that students in our Elementary Education program at USM exceeded the state average of percentage items correct in all areas of the Praxis II exam.  Praxis II measures knowledge of specific subjects that K–6 educators teach.  Additionally, the students exceeded the national average of percentage items correct in five areas of the national exams.  For me, that’s energizing.  We can celebrate the strengths of our program, and at the same time, we can renew our commitment to continuous improvement.