Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs



Christine Sorensen
Christine Sorensen

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

May 4, 2007

Dean of NIU College of Education accepts
dean’s position at University of Hawaii at Manoa

DeKalb — Christine Sorensen, dean of the Northern Illinois University College of Education since 2002, will leave DeKalb at the end of July for a similar position at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The largest and oldest UH campus, Manoa offers undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees alongside its strong and vital research program. Sorensen will serve as dean of its College of Education, which houses two significant research centers with considerable grant funding.

Sorensen guided the NIU College of Education through years of lean state funding and tightened budgets into more prosperous times of partnerships, innovation and improved assessment.

“My life’s philosophy always has been, ‘You’ll be where you’re supposed to be,’ ” Sorensen said. “Hawaii is a place my husband and I have always wanted to be.”

NIU President John G. Peters places Sorensen “among the nation’s most knowledgeable leaders in the areas of teacher preparation and K-12 school partnerships.”

“She has provided invaluable leadership for our P-20 (pre-school through graduate school) task force, working closely with deans from four other colleges to create seamless transitions for students as they progress to each new level of education,” Peters said.

“Her legacy at NIU also includes a local school district partnership that created a jointly-run elementary school where new teaching methods are tested and pre-service teachers receive hands-on classroom experience well before their student teaching placements,” he added. “Chris Sorensen has made a difference at NIU, and we will miss her energetic leadership.”

Climbing the ladder

Sorensen’s NIU career began in 1996 as an assistant professor in the curriculum and instruction department.

Her star rose quickly.

The Iowa native became an assistant chair by 1997 and was named associate dean in 2000. She stepped in as acting dean eight months later and permanently assumed the top job July 1, 2002.

Since then, Sorensen has built a legacy of partnerships across departments, colleges and
school districts.

The university’s P-20 initiatives took a national stage in 2004 at the Association of Teacher Educators Summer Conference in Cambridge, Mass. Sorensen and four other deans presented the project, and their healthy collaboration became “the talk of the conference.”

“People can’t believe a group of deans gets along so well,” Sorensen said at the time. “We have a lot of respect for one another, and we trust each other. We’ve learned the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.”

Sorensen also wrote the $5 million federal grant that funds Project REAL, a partnership between NIU, the Rockford Public Schools and Rock Valley College to enhance teacher quality and student performance in Rockford’s District 205.

Faculty, staff and administrators in five colleges have become extensively engaged in the project, which among its many developments is a week-long summer experience on NIU’s campus for Jefferson High School students who are not necessarily college-bound. The goal is to engage them in math, science and technology experiences in hopes of changing their aspirations.

The dean also participates on the coordinating committee for the Wright School project, a partnership school between NIU and the DeKalb Public Schools.

Shaping the future with PRIDE

Inside the walls of her own college, she long has promoted a mission of “Shaping the Future with PRIDE” to the faculty and staff. Progress is good on all fronts: partnerships, research, innovation, diversity/development and evaluation.

  • The college is a partner with the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois Resource Center in a federally funded initiative to recruit and train bilingual teachers.
  • Working educators can earn doctorates through alternative deliveries taken into the school districts where they work. Students with associate’s degrees can complete their bachelor’s degrees in elementary education through their community colleges.
  • All of the college’s classrooms were remodeled into technology-rich environments. State-of-the-art laboratories were developed, and money was invested in adaptive technologies to serve students with special needs.
  • First-year faculty are required to attend a semester-long course on incorporating technology into their curriculum, and all faculty can take advantage of professional development opportunities regarding technology.
  • The College Leadership Educational Opportunity, which will begin this summer, is a year-long program for as many as a dozen senior faculty. The participants will interact across department lines, learn more about college and university operations and discover potential opportunities for faculty leadership roles.
  • David Walker was hired as the college’s assessment director. Walker is setting a priority on creating a consistent flow of data and assembling an implementation team comprised of faculty, staff and administrators to assist in gathering, reviewing and depositing programmatic data.

“I think I’ve moved the college along,” Sorensen said. “Every day we’re a little bit further along.”

Looking to the future

She hopes her successor will “encourage new ideas and try to build on our strengths.”

Among the challenges: the upcoming NCATE accreditation process, scheduled for 2009, and assembling a solid leadership team during a time of many new faces.

Associate Dean Carol Logan Patitu arrived last month. Paul Kelter, new chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning, is coming in July. Lemuel Watson, chair of the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education and former acting associate dean, is leaving. Wilma Miranda, longtime chair of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, is retiring.

“There are wonderful people here. They care about what they do and they work hard to serve the students,” Sorensen said. “We have a wonderful team, and they work together extremely well. The new person is going to have to build a new team.”

In Hawaii, Sorensen will head a college known as the state’s largest preparer of teachers.

The College of Education at UH-Manoa is the only nationally accredited teacher preparation program in Hawaii and is ranked among the top 100 graduate schools in education in U.S. News and World Report.

More than 1,500 students, two-thirds of whom are graduate students, are enrolled in programs at the baccalaureate, post-baccalaureate, master and doctoral levels. More than 500 collect degrees each year, about half of which are graduate degrees. About 100 post-baccalaureate certificates in secondary and special education are awarded annually.

The college also is home to about 250 students from neighboring islands who are targeted specifically by statewide teacher preparation programs.

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