Wolves don’t crow, but as Dr. Mike Dishman sees it, the University of West Georgia has every reason to be proud.
And he’s honored to have joined the Pack as the new dean of UWG’s College of Education (COE), home to the 13th largest graduate education program in the United States.
“As a department chair in Kennesaw State University’s College of Education competing with UWG for faculty and students, I knew the UWG College of Education offered outstanding programs, was well-known for quality in educator preparation, and was a formidable competitor,” said Dishman, who began his new role on June 1 after spending 17 years at Kennesaw State University (KSU).
Dishman began his career in law representing school districts. With a juris doctorate from the University of Mississippi, he concurrently taught graduate courses in school law, politics and ethics at the University of Alaska in Anchorage before moving back to his home state of Georgia. He eventually decided to make the switch to full-time academia and earned his Doctor of Education in Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University.
Despite encouragement to accept a professorship at an institution focused heavily on research, Dishman chose the comprehensive university route, the transformational aspect of which deeply resonates with him.
“On my father’s side of my family, I’m in the second generation of men to be literate,” Dishman shared. “My father was in the first generation and had tremendous opportunities in life because of public education. He so regarded the effect of education in his life that he, despite having degrees in botany and zoology, became an educator, spending 44 years as a teacher and administrator primarily serving historically marginalized communities.”
As a professor, Dishman co-authored six books on education law, leadership and change. Although he originally had no desire to go into higher education administration, he accepted the invitation to serve as interim chair of KSU’s educational leadership department while a search for a permanent placement was conducted. Within six months, the faculty asked him to apply for the permanent position.
“It was amazing what sort of positive changes one could make as an academic administrator, particularly in supporting the faculty, staff and students in making partnerships,” Dishman observed.
Dishman served as chair for three years. Through implementing new programs and building robust partnerships, departmental enrollment increased 350 percent.
In 2014, he was invited to serve as the first associate dean of KSU’s Graduate College, later being appointed interim dean in 2015. Following a national search, he was hired as dean and KSU’s first associate vice president for research policy and compliance. During his tenure at KSU, the university’s graduate enrollment increased 19 percent. Dishman concluded his administrative service at KSU serving as the university’s inaugural associate vice provost.
When Dishman was invited to apply for UWG’s COE dean position, the prospect of joining one of the largest colleges of education in the state was invigorating.
“UWG’s College of Education is deeply committed to what I believe is a college’s most fundamental role – a focus on meaningfully serving professions and transformational teaching improving students’ present and future,” he explained. “Relevance is baked into the DNA of the College of Education. The faculty engages with what is happening in the field, and their teaching is influenced by it. Schools and districts are viewed as desired and robust partnerships rather than existing in a purely academic context.”
As dean, Dishman said he will be collaborative, service-oriented, and will look at how the college delivers outcomes to students in service to UWG’s overall strategic plan.
“My goal as dean is to make UWG a place so wonderful that everyone – faculty and staff, students, and our partners – don’t want to be anywhere else,” he described. “UWG should be everyone’s first choice, and I can promise this is achievable.”
It requires, however, everyone’s participation and a joint mindset of seeing opportunities, not problems.
“We serve a wonderful institution that is definitely a university to watch,” Dishman concluded. “If we can see just how unique and incredible UWG is, we have an unmatched opportunity to continue to innovate and serve, building on our historical strengths to become something even greater.”