Month: August 2016

Welcome new hires!

The College of Education welcomed 15 new faculty and staff members to the team at the recent All College Planning meeting held on Tuesday, August 16th.  As you have the opportunity, please introduce yourself and help them feel welcome.



Gold medals are not the only reason to get youth involved in sport

Written by Paul Wright, Lane/Zimmerman Endowed Professor

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil have given us the opportunity to marvel at the heights of human potential. We have been able to watch amazing displays of athleticism and skill from the most elite competitors on the planet. As inspiring as these athletes and their performances are, they represent an extremely small fraction of the number of people involved in sport around the world.

The vast majority of youth who get involved in sport will never compete for Olympic gold. In fact, many will never compete outside of their surrounding community. So what other reasons are there for youth to become involved in sport? The benefits are too numerous to mention, but include physical fitness, motor skill development, positive social interaction, mental toughness, communication skills, and confidence.

Dr. Paul Wright and his colleagues in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) are interested in ways that youth sport programs can be intentionally designed to promote positive youth development and social change. In particular, how can sport be used to teach life skills (such as leadership and goal setting) that youth can use in other areas of their lives? Research shows sport programs that have this sort of focus help youth to reach their potential in life and to develop a greater sense of social responsibility.

In addition to supporting youth programs locally (including Chicago), Dr. Wright and his colleagues are involved at the international level with youth sport research and program development. For example, in early August, Dr. Wright was in Finland working with collaborators to design a training program for coaches who run after-school sport programs. In June, Drs. Steve Howell, Jenn Jacobs, and Jim Ressler, were in Belize consulting on a three-year project the KNPE team has been operating with funding from the US Department of State. This project has involved training coaches and administrators from over 20 youth sport programs and the formation of the Belizean Youth Sport Coalition (BYSC). Also this summer, Dr. Wright was featured in the British Council’s online magazine, Voices. The British Council supports sport for development programming around the globe and invited Dr. Wright to contribute a piece discussing the importance of social and emotional learning, highlighting ways it can be fostered through sport.

The collaborations noted above and related activities are organized under the Physical Activity and Life Skills (PALS) Group that Dr. Wright and his colleagues operate through the KNPE department. Through research, outreach and academic programming, the PALS Group is committed to bridging the gap between theory and practice to make sure youth sport programs live up to their potential in terms of supporting the positive, healthy development of youth and their communities. While this aspect of youth sport does not receive the same level of media attention as the Olympics, the impact it can have on individuals and communities around the globe is felt every day.



College of Ed names Walker Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

David WalkerDavid Walker has been named associate dean for Academic Affairs at the NIU College of Education.

Currently a professor in the Educational Research and Evaluation program within the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), Walker’s research interests include statistical code and algorithms, effect sizes, structural analyses, predictive analyses and the general linear model.

As such, he has experience teaching undergraduate assessment and graduate statistical and research methodology courses as well as mentoring and serving on master’s and doctoral student thesis and dissertation committees.

His administrative background includes five years of experience as the College of Education’s Coordinator of Assessment, including areas of program accreditation and licensure. Also, he has served on numerous departmental, college and university-level committees pertaining to assessment and curricular initiatives.

In his new role, Walker will champion all curricular activities, work to strengthen and align assessment practices, and oversee student recruitment and retention efforts college-wide.

“I am so pleased to have David take on the associate dean of Academic Affairs position,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper said. “He brings a great deal of expertise with assessment, accreditation and curriculum to the position, as well as his strong commitment to collaboration, mentoring and innovation.”

Prior to NIU, Walker worked as an assistant professor of educational research at Florida Atlantic University. He has since spent 14 years as a faculty member at NIU where he has had a consistent record of productivity including 101 refereed journal publications, one textbook and 144 peer-reviewed presentations.

Moreover, he has held professional leadership posts as the chair of the College of Education’s College Council, editor of the General Linear Model Journal, board member with the Illinois Education Research Council and president of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association.

Walker’s role as an educator and scholar has earned him many recognitions, including recipient of the NIU College of Education Research Award, recipient of the Florida Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award and recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award via the Consortium of State and Regional Educational Research Associations.

“I am extremely honored to be selected and serve as the College of Education’s associate dean for Academic Affairs,” Walker said.

“The College of Education has been a very special place for me, and am I really excited to collaborate with the great faculty, professional staff, leaders and students on initiatives such as assessment, recruitment, retention and curricular innovations,” he added. “I hope to actively engage and learn with colleagues and continue the excellence of the college as a premier place to teach, research and provide service to our collective programs and students.”

Walker earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College; a master’s degree from Iowa State University of Science and Technology University; and a doctorate from Iowa State University of Science and Technology.