3 Questions for André Denham, Associate Dean at the University of Alabama

3 Questions for André Denham, Associate Dean at the University of Alabama

André Denham and I connected through our mutual friend, Sean Hobson of ASU. Given André’s background as a professor of instructional technology and his current role as associate dean for postgraduate academic affairs at the University of Alabama, Sean thought that he and I would have a lot to talk about. .

As usual, Sean was right. I am always fascinated by peers who move into college leadership roles from disciplines related to education and technology. (André’s PhD is in educational technology.) To better understand his career and future goals, André generously agreed to answer my questions.

Q: How does someone do a PhD? in educational technology to end up as associate dean of postgraduate academic affairs? What was your career path to this point, and how does your academic background and scholarship relate to your current position as Associate Dean?

A: That’s a big question, Josh. Well, I’ve been teaching instructional technology at the University of Alabama since the fall of 2012, right after completing my Ph.D. in Educational Technology at Arizona State University. Alabama’s instructional technology program is in a department that only offers graduate degrees, so apart from a few service courses we teach for our undergraduate teacher training program, everything we are dealing with postgraduate students.

I entered the administrative side of postgraduate education when I served as the professor responsible for leading the launch of a new master’s program in educational technology. We enrolled in our first cohort in the fall of 2018 and served as the program coordinator / advisor. We’ve seen significant growth in our enrollment, and it’s inspiring us to think of an Ed.S. and / or Ed.D. program to go along with our current PhD. program.

I was also very active on college and university committees during that time. For example, I served as co-chair of the faculty’s academic affairs committee, chair of my university’s recruitment and retention committee, and co-chair of the general education working group. These leadership opportunities combined with my time as a graduate program coordinator laid the groundwork for my transition to an administrative role.

Q: It seems uncommon for academics in disciplines related to education and educational technology to ascend to university leadership roles. Above all, it seems as if university leaders seem to be drawn from the ranks of more traditional academic disciplines. As a person trained in the field of educational technology, what perspectives and experiences do you think this type of discipline can bring to academic leadership roles?

A: I think my training and experiences make me a unicorn when it comes to the traditional administrative profile. For example, the last two faculty members to hold my position were from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. This trend continues with the rest of the current management team of the graduate school (dean and associate for the recruitment of graduates) whose academic headquarters are also in the arts and sciences. Therefore, being in this position allows me to offer a different perspective when it comes to thinking about all facets of graduate education.

From admissions to student support programs to thinking about how students navigate their journey to graduation, I’ve tried to take advantage of what we know works to create efficiencies, optimize processes, and drive innovation. In addition, my training and background provide me with a toolbox that is probably more diverse than I would normally find in an administrator in terms of instructional design, educational technology, curriculum development, and assessment.

Q: When you think about how higher education will change over the next decade, what do you see as the big trends that we should pay attention to? How has the pandemic changed your thinking about the medium- and long-term future of higher education?

A: This is another great question and something that has been especially thought of in my role at the Graduate School. I believe the pandemic will accelerate the growth of enrollment in online graduate programs. I anticipate a similar increase in demand for unqualified credentials (certificates, micro-certificates, etc.) in both online and face-to-face mode.

This would lead to an increase in the number of universities that allow students to convert undergraduate jobs into postgraduate credits and the “stacking” of certificates leading to a master’s degree. Finally, I see more universities moving toward interdisciplinary graduate programs focused on meeting the acute needs of the workforce.

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