The Bayh College of Education’s new dean, Kandi Hill-Clarke, used personal and innovative ways to get better acquainted with faculty and staff during her first year.
Everyone has a name badge with their title, so putting a name with a face was easy when Kandi Hill-Clarke came to campus last July as the new dean of the Bayh College of Education.
But Hill-Clarke wanted to know more about her faculty, staff and support staff at Indiana State University, and she hit the ground running with what she coined her “LOL (Listening, Observing and Learning) tour.”
“Being a new dean, who was external to the institution and from outside the state of Indiana, I felt it was really important for me to get to know the people, the person behind the name badge and the titles,” she said. “It’s always exciting when you are in a new setting, learning more about the people, the institution, students and faculty. That learning provides a level of excitement for me personally because I consider myself to be a life-long learner.”
Hill-Clarke, who began her career as an elementary school teacher in suburban Memphis, held a variety of faculty positions with the University of Memphis and University of Mississippi prior to joining the Tennessee Board of Regents in 2008.
In July 2013, she came to Indiana State to succeed Brad Balch, who served as dean for seven years before stepping down to return to the college’s faculty — the same group of professionals Hill-Clarke has worked tirelessly to get to know in her first year.
Hill-Clarke broke the ice by sending questions ahead of the “tours,” asking colleagues to be prepared to talk about themselves, offer ideas for growth opportunities in the college and to lay out their expectations of her.
“I ended each discussion with a fun question, asking them to tell me something interesting about Terre Haute, the state of Indiana or about the campus to help me learn a little bit more about the community,” Hill-Clarke said. “Having the opportunity to build those relationships allowed me to established trust. I would say my LOL tour was my biggest accomplishment of this year, because so often in administrative positions you don’t have opportunities like that. Being able to have that time to engage with people in one-on-one conversations was priceless.”
It’s all a part of Hill-Clarke’s leadership style, which involves the “three C’s plus T” — communication, collaboration, connections and transparency.
“In my first opening remarks to the faculty in August, I said this is not about Kandi and what Kandi wants. This is our college and collectively we will think about where we have been, where we are now, and where we want and need to go,” she said. “My job as dean is to facilitate those conversations, help us figure out who we are, and guide a broader vision so we become the College of Education for the next generation.”
In her assessment of the college upon assuming the dean’s position, Hill-Clarke identified five areas she will strive for faculty, staff and support staff to think about in relation to their work — student engagement, retention and success, diversity inclusion and global impact, online distance learning and cohort model, community outreach and leadership development.
As she sees faculty and students starting to embrace “the Big 5,” Hill-Clarke is also practicing what she preaches.
“I’m a big advocate of student voice, because students have wonderfully creative ideas and can contribute to our conversations. So I started going into classrooms to talk to freshman and sophomores about their experiences so far at Indiana State, what’s working well for them, and what are some opportunities for growth for us as a College of Education and as an institution,” she said. “I had a lunch meeting in April with some leaders of the college’s student organizations and came out with great ideas to explore.”
If those ideas help spread the word about the efforts of students and faculty at the Bayh College of Education beyond campus, it’s all the better in Hill-Clarke’s eyes.
“I’m constantly sharing with my faculty how important it is to bring the world to the Bayh College of Education and take the Bayh College of Education to the world,” she said. “That might be through real world or virtual experiences that help our students develop around the concept of diversity, inclusion and global impact.”
Upon recommendations from the support staff, Hill-Clarke also reinstated the college’s support staff advisory council, which met for the first time last fall.
When the group recommended creating a book club and showed interest in learning more about servant leadership, Hill-Clarke ordered James C. Hunter’s servant leadership book for them and threw out a question for them to think about before the end-of-the-year book club meeting.
“I created some engaging activities to reflect on what it means to be a servant leader in their role as an administrative assistant and in what ways can and do they lead,” Hill-Clarke said. “I invited Dr. Ryan Donlan, (assistant professor in the Bayh College of Education’s department of Educational Leadership) to create professional development session around servant leadership for our support staff and feedback from the group was positive. They later designed their own professional development day focused on the new Sycamore e-learning system and University College.”
It’s the third-grade teacher in Hill-Clarke that makes her want to help others be the best they can be.
“The concept of helping people become their best self comes from my time teaching in a third-grade classroom, where it was about how I can help students reach their own educational goals,” she said. “Serving as an elementary school teacher was probably the highlight of my career and has helped me tremendously in every other role I’ve been in in higher education.”
Hill-Clarke’s impact will resonate beyond Indiana State as she begins a five-year term as president-elect of the Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education — the statewide teacher education professional organization she was elected to in April.
“Others from Indiana State have been involved with IACTE and the University has always been a strong partner in the organization, so I’m really looking forward to continuing to provide Indiana State with a seat around the table,” Hill-Clarke said.
“I think it will give me an opportunity to learn, grow and develop and provide our campus with visibility across the state, as I interact and work with other university professors, deans and faculty. It’s always a wonderful opportunity when you can share the exciting things happening in your College of Education or on your campus with others who value and understand that work. I feel in my heart of hearts that Indiana State is where I’m supposed to be and I’m looking forward to year two.”