College of Education > News and Publications > 2019: 04-06 news > Kimberly Lawless appointed dean of the College of Education

Kimberly Lawless appointed dean of the College of Education

Kimberly Lawless, associate dean for research in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been named dean of Penn State’s College of Education, following a national search. Lawless will begin her appointment on Sept. 1.

Kimberly LawlessKimberly Lawless, associate dean for research in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been named dean of Penn State’s College of Education, following a national search. Lawless will begin her appointment on Sept. 1.

Lawless will succeed David Monk, who announced in October 2018 that he would step down as dean, a position he has held since 1999, to pursue a phased retirement as a faculty member in the Department of Education Policy Studies. Monk will continue as dean through the end of August.

“A robust search process yielded a strong pool of candidates, but Kim emerged as the ideal person to lead the College of Education,” said Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones. “She brings passion and energy to her work, a clear excitement to roll up her sleeves and engage with the college community, and a strong strategic direction that will build on the college’s excellence in teaching and research. I appreciate all of the hard work and insight that so many people put into the selection process, and it is my sincere pleasure to welcome Kim to Penn State. 

“I am equally pleased that Dean Monk has agreed to extend his tenure as dean at the expense of some of his phased retirement, as his steady presence will enable the college to make a smooth leadership transition.”

Lawless has risen through the faculty ranks over a 20-year career at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to her role as associate dean for research, which she assumed in 2014, Lawless is a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, serving as department chair from 2009 to 2013. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois at Chicago, she also held a faculty position at Utah State University.

“I am honored and delighted to be selected as the new dean of the College of Education at Penn State,” Lawless said. “The college is home to some of the brightest scholars and most dedicated academic professionals in the country. I look forward to working alongside students, faculty and staff within the college, throughout the University, and with our community partners and alumni, to advance academic excellence in Pennsylvania and lead the nation in educational innovation. Together, we are poised to address the critically important and serious challenges that face education in our state and across the nation.”

As associate dean, Lawless focused on internal and external communication of faculty research, helping to grow the college’s national reputation and build a greater sense of community and collegiality within the college itself. She put in place a system to support research efforts, which included financial support, research planning, professional development, research dissemination, and a process for providing feedback on scholarly materials. Under her leadership, research productivity in the college increased by more than 40 percent in four years. 

Lawless’ research has garnered more than $30 million in grants and contracts over the course of her career, resulting in the publication of more than 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters. Her current research focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and the need for a scientifically literate citizenry, with an emphasis on leveraging technology to integrate science education into the humanities. Specifically, her research focuses on how teachers can use technology and real-life community examples to keep students, especially those from underrepresented groups, interested in the STEM fields. In 2018, she was honored as a distinguished researcher in the social sciences by the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

An active member of the University of Illinois at Chicago community, Lawless serves as director of the Faculty Assistance Center for Technology; is a member of the university’s Research Advisory Council and the University Institutional Review Board; is an affiliated member of the Learning Sciences Research Institute; and served on the University Faculty Senate from 2000 to 2008.

She maintains professional memberships and service to the American Educational Research Association, Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education, Eastern Educational Research Association, and the American Psychological Society. She has served on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly journals and currently sits on the editorial boards of Review of Educational Research, Reading Research Quarterly, and the International Journal of Instructional Media.

Lawless received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Boston College in 1991, a master of arts in educational psychology from the University of Connecticut in 1994, and a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Connecticut in 1996.

As dean, Lawless will serve as the college’s principal academic and administrative officer, reporting directly to the executive vice president and provost of the University. She will oversee the college’s 11 research centers and clinics and four academic departments, which offer eight undergraduate, 27 master’s, and 18 doctoral degree programs, as well as 12 professional certification programs. Through in-residence, blended, and World Campus online offerings, the college enrolls approximately 1,900 undergraduate and 1,800 graduate students, with nearly 200 full-time faculty members.