Dr. Debbie K. Mercer has served Fort Hays State University in multiple roles since arriving just eight years ago, and now her service will enter a new era with her permanent appointment as dean of the College of Education and Technology.
"I am honored to be selected for the position of dean for the College of Education and Technology at Fort Hays State University. I take great pride in the college," said Mercer, who had been serving as interim dean since 2005. "That pride is grounded in several essential elements. I continually tell people that Fort Hays State University is a great place to be. Good students choose FHSU, quality faculty provide personalized instruction and there is a true sense of community on campus."
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said he knew that the provost, Dr. Larry Gould, had been working hard to assemble a senior leadership team that could empower, motivate and respond to the needs of faculty, staff and students throughout the Division of Academic Affairs.
"Larry has told me that this eight-year effort to get the 'right people on the bus' is now complete with the appointment of Deb Mercer," the president said. "I agree and look forward to working with the Provost's Council and Deb Mercer as they set the context for establishing our new strategic objectives, devise action plans and help FHSU strike out toward new educational frontiers. The College of Education and Technology is a vital part of that effort, and we now have the leadership to promote an environment that will meet the needs of our academic quality improvement initiative, expand our efforts to internationalize the curriculum and the campus, enhance our marketing goals, adapt mobile learning to the world of K-12 teacher education training, and bring student learning assessment to new levels at FHSU."
Mercer earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Kansas State University in 1999, majoring in curriculum and instruction, and a Master of Science degree from K-State in 1996, majoring in elementary education. She also earned two bachelor's degrees from K-State and holds teaching licenses in early childhood education, elementary education, middle-level science, K-12 library science and K-12 English as a Second Language.
She has served a variety of roles at FHSU. Most recently, she was interim dean of the College of Education and Technology from 2005 to the present. Before that, she was assistant dean of professional services, the accreditation coordinator for the college and an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education.
"I'm a great believer in past performance as the best predictor of future performance," Provost Gould said in his introduction of Dean Mercer. "If my principle has validity, the future of the College of Education and Technology is in good hands. Debbie Mercer has distinguished herself as a fine leader and a person who knows how to get things done, yet carefully allow input and direction from those who have a stake in education, not only in the college and university but from across the state and at the national level. She understands and appreciates the challenges facing the college and possesses the vision, agility and strategic skills to address its mission and the continually emerging market environment in K-12 and postsecondary education."
In accepting the appointment, Mercer said she recalled the words of the other deans at their news conferences. "I listened to words of partnership of heart and hand. How true those words are," she said. "I heard the words touting excellent programs and thanking those close mentors and supporters. I echo the thoughts and feelings expressed by those before me. Collaborations and partnerships, both internal and external, are critical for the College of Education and Technology as well."
She said the college could not be successful without collaboration and partnerships. "With 36 programs spanning all four colleges, teacher education truly is a campus-wide initiative," she explained. "Multiply this by the number of interns, student teachers and practicum students within education and industry related programs, and a picture emerges of the impact our students have on the communities in which they live, work and teach. Opportunities to foster a shared responsibility for improving teaching quality are critical as we prepare teachers to educate productive and contributing citizens in a participatory democracy."
Mercer noted that the College of Education and Technology has as its mission to prepare quality educators for western Kansas and beyond. "We are beginning to feel the teacher shortage, not only in our immediate geographic area, but across the state and nation as well," she said. "While searching for more innovative and efficient ways to prepare educational professionals, the challenge is upholding our own standards of excellence. Quality preparation is perhaps more critical now than at any other time in our history. Effectively preparing our students with the skill set that educators must know and be able to do is key to their future success."
She pointed out that the college had received national and state recognition for its elementary education program, and its technology students consistently have received national honors for demonstrating their knowledge and skills. "The College of Education and Technology is building a positive reputation and is poised to be a state and national leader in the preparation of school and industry professionals," she said. "I am proud and humbled to be working for and with the college faculty to address challenges, think innovatively and continue positive momentum."
"Although Debbie has a focus on action, she knows a dean does not 'run' a college," Gould said. "Rather, she recognizes it is her responsibility to foster the work of faculty, staff and students while serving as a part of a senior administrative team that will continue to bring new opportunities to those at FHSU who are ready to make ongoing improvements in student learning and organizational innovation. I am most delighted that Debbie has accepted my offer to lead the College of Education and Technology in these turbulent but exciting times in higher education."
Mercer has numerous publications and presentations at the local, state, regional and national levels. She has served the Kansas Reading Association on the Editorial Review Board of the Kansas Journal of Reading, chaired the Bill Martin Jr. Book Award Selection Committee, and currently serves as vice-president. She maintains a close relationship with the Kansas State Department of Education, serving in a variety of capacities including reading assessment reviewer, reading excellence grant reviewer, program reviewer and accreditation board examiner. She has participated in a variety of service-learning activities while in the FHSU classroom and has served on the service-learning committee since its inception. She also has been heavily involved in accreditation activities.
At the national level, she has been involved with the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, including the special interest group regarding service learning, proposal reviewer and recent completion of the New Dean’s Institute, as well as annual conference presentations.
Her professional awards and honors include Fellow, Center for Civic Leadership, 2006; Faculty Member of the Year, College of Education and Technology, Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council, 2002; Advisor Honoree, 2004, 2005; Mortar Board “Top Prof,” 2000, 2001, 2002; Advisor 2003, 2004, 2005; Navigator Award (advising), 2001; Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award, 2001; Outstanding Faculty Advisor Nominee, College of Education and Technology, 2001; Outstanding Teaching Innovative Award, 2000; Teacher/Scholar/Innovator of the Year, 2001; Phi Delta Kappa Induction, 1997; Reader’s Digest American Heroes in Education Nominee, 1996; and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.
"I appreciate her past success as a leader in the college and know she will do an outstanding job as a member of the senior academic administrative team," President Hammond said.