Administration - The Right Fit

Posted by Paula Paine on May 23, 2011 in "Academic Programs", Arizona, education, Faculty/Staff, "School of Education" It took a few years, but Dr. Paula Wolfe, the new director of education at Ottawa University-Arizona, has finally found the right job that is a great fit. More interested in the administrative side of her field, she was looking for a university “where running the program is my job,” she said. Increasingly uncomfortable in her last position, she realized that she wasn’t motivated by the competitive atmosphere in traditional academia. “You work and publish on your own and people criticize your papers. It was cut throat and I found it isolating,” she said. “Also, OU-Arizona has a commitment to community service and giving access to students who wouldn’t normally go to university. That was important to me. That was what convinced me to apply for the job.” Wolfe is in charge of all education programs that OU™ offers, including 17 concentrations of both undergraduate and graduate programs. She maintains state compliance regulations and quality control and meets regularly with adjuncts and students. She earned her Bachelor of Education, BA in English and her Master of Education at the University of Regina. She went on to earn her doctorate from Arizona State University. While there, Wolfe’s work as an editorial assistant with the TESOL Journal (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) “sparked my interest in working with adolescents who are native Spanish speakers,” said Wolfe. Further experience was gained in positions as an assistant professor, first at California State University and then at New Mexico State University, where she served as assistant professor of literacy, language and culture and was the elementary and secondary program coordinator. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wolfe held positions as assistant professor and secondary English program coordinator. Her award-winning research there focused on a new adolescent demographic. She applied spoken word poetry and hip hop music to better tap the minds of students with diverse backgrounds. “These students do very well in this medium compared to the written word. Their cultures value oral language,” said Wolfe. This research led her to consult on a documentary film about spoken word poetry. Further research led to a grant from the University of Wisconsin Eye Institute where she used an eye tracking machine to study teens reading graphic novels to determine the kinds of processes they used. She will publish the results next year. Wolfe relishes the challenges of her new position. Under her leadership, the school’s psychology program has been entirely revamped, with each course being scrutinized and either rewritten or replaced to meet state and national standards. Money has also been invested to buy testing materials to prepare students. Wolfe said, “It’s going to be a program that OU can be even more proud of when it is done.” With the help of Amy Hogan at The College, Wolfe has also realigned the elementary education program, making significant shifts. “Arizona is starting from scratch. We have all new classes, schedules and philosophies.” Wolfe is very excited by the community partnerships she and Dr. Mary Vanis have been developing in order to refocus the Education Leadership Program to prepare leaders for schools that have high populations of children in poverty. “I believe that is going to be a stellar program,” she said. “Certainly unique in our valley, and I think OU can really serve the community by going that direction.”