Adrea Lawrence, an educational historian, has been named dean of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education at the University of Montana. Lawrence has served as interim dean for the past 17 months; she will official move into the permanent position on July 1.

“Dr. Lawrence already has spearheaded transformative changes at the college, such as completing the expansion of the Phyllis J. Washington Education Center and leading multiple efforts to drive excellence and innovation in teaching, learning and research,” UM Provost Jon Harbor said. “Through thoughtful collaboration and inspiring vision, we expect her to build on the college’s legacy of excellence in shaping generations of future educators in Montana and beyond.”

A self-described agent of change, Lawrence has developed extensive networks of stakeholders across the state and region. She is co-founder and president of the Montana Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and served on the statewide Rural Education Taskforce last year.

“I appreciate the opportunity to lead one of the best education colleges in the Pacific Northwest,” Lawrence said. “This is a college with a history of excellence, we just completed another amazing expansion to our building, and we have some exciting things planned for the future.”

Her success in working collaboratively was highlighted by the recent awarding of a third $1.5 million grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation focused on 21st century teaching and learning. With the grant, UM and Missoula County Public Schools will continue nine different initiatives, ranging from Universal Design for Learning to Arts Integration.

Lawrence already is leading her college through internal changes. Earlier this year, as a result of UM reorganization, the departments of health and human performance and speech, language and hearing sciences moved their administrative homes to UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences. As a result, the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences became the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education.

Lawrence said she intends to:

  • increase support for early childhood education through the creation of the Montana Early Childhood Institute and the expansion of UM’s Learning and Belonging Preschool – the hands-on training center for UM’s early childhood education majors.
  • focus on instructional design opportunities so future educators excel at teaching online as well as face to face. “It’s a skill that’s critical in a rural state like ours,” she said.
  • expand the use of technology such as videoconferencing, robots and virtual reality to give more learners access to the college’s programs.

In addition, Lawrence will help the education college play a critical role in the University’s Teaching Excellence Initiative, which is designed to support UM students and their learning.

Born and raised in rural Colorado, Lawrence earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Indiana University, and a master’s degree in secondary social studies instruction and curriculum and bachelor’s degree in American studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

She launched her career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Colorado. Her doctoral research focused on the implementation of educational policy within a Native American community in New Mexico in the early 1900s, and her interests in history and policy led her to focus on how people learn and how they apply what they learn. Her research also explored how education policy affects people over generations and how scholars communicate their research and discoveries.

Lawrence served on the faculty of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and American University in Washington, D.C., before joining UM in 2013. She earned tenure and promotion to full professor within the Department of Teaching and Learning and served as department chair before accepting the position of interim dean. She is the founder, curator and co-editor of the online journal Education’s Histories.