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Education Professor Named Next Director of Paideia

  • News Image
    Sherry Adrian
  • News Image
    Sherry Adrian has led several professional development sessions for faculty members to help introduce them to the new concept of Paideia at Southwestern.

Sherry Adrian will guide the program for the next three years as it becomes integral to Southwestern’s academic experience

An education professor who has been involved with Southwestern’s Paideia program since the beginning has been named the next director of the program.

Sherry Adrian, associate professor of education and holder of Dishman Endowed Professorship for Special Education, will serve a three-year term as director of Paideia beginning in August.

“Sherry has a solid understanding of all the components of Paideia and how the various parts fit together,” said Provost Jim Hunt. “She has a clear, detailed vision of where the program has been, how it is currently unfolding, and where it needs to go next.”

Southwestern established its Paideia program in 2002 with the help of an $8.5 million grant from the Priddy Charitable Trust in Wichita Falls, Texas. The program has evolved over the years from one that was optional to one that is now at the heart of Southwestern’s academic experience.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, all students entering Southwestern will be required to select three courses from a cluster of courses that have a similar theme. The courses that students elect to take from these “Paideia clusters” will count toward the core courses all students are required to take. Students will select their Paideia cluster after they have completed their First-Year Seminars.

In addition to taking three courses from a cluster, students will take a seminar their junior or senior year that is related to their chosen theme. These seminars will be team-taught by two faculty members, who will help students place what they have learned in their cluster courses into the context of real-world issues.

Last fall, Southwestern rolled out its first three Paideia clusters – “Mediterranean Mingling,” “Representing Gender” and “Taking the Pulse of Global Health.” About 140 first-year students and sophomores are participating in these clusters on a voluntary basis. Additional clusters will be available for the fall 2014 semester. The first Paideia seminars will be offered in the spring of 2015.

Adrian has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1993 and received the Southwestern University Teaching Award in 2012. She has been involved with Paideia since it began, and led two of the original Paideia cohorts. Last September she began attending the Transforming Paideia committee, and shortly afterward was asked to lead professional development sessions for Paideia faculty.

Hunt said Adrian’s extensive involvement with and interest in both Paideia and Transforming Paideia made her a good fit for the director position.

“Because of Sherry’s role on the Paideia Committee and in faculty development workshops, she is trusted by Paideia faculty and well-positioned to be the next leader of the program,” he said.

Adrian said she was initially unsure if she wanted to apply for the position because it would mean reducing her teaching hours, but she eventually decided to apply.

“I came to the decision that serving as the Paideia director is an opportunity to do my own professional development, to look at the campus in a broader way, and to continue to have these wonderful opportunities to work with all these terrific faculty and students,” she said. “I felt like I had a background that lent itself to the big ideas of Paideia, such as interdisciplinary studies, collaborative teaching, and critical thinking and reflection. That’s my own field. That’s what I do, and that’s what I teach our Southwestern students to do, so I felt like I could really make a contribution.”

Adrian said she hopes to maintain the enthusiasm and energy that Transforming Paideia has already generated among the faculty and staff, and enable faculty and students to take ownership of their Paideia learning experiences.

“Right now my main focus is process − figuring out how can we maintain this process of collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking, and ensure that faculty, staff and students get to shape what happens… and how we can keep everybody’s voice engaged,” she said.

Adrian has a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and a master’s degree from the University of Arizona.

−       Ellen Davis and Elizabeth Stewart