Coming to Baylor from previous academic leadership positions at Southern Methodist University and Vanderbilt University, McLendon answered a few questions about the challenges ahead.
What is the greatest challenge that students in Baylor’s School of Education face, and how is Baylor preparing them to face it?
Today is one of the most important moments in the history of American education. Teachers and educational leaders face pressures of a kind never before seen. Yet it’s precisely this challenge to professional educators that affords outstanding schools of education the greatest opportunity they have ever known. Schools, such as Baylor’s, that can provide students a high value for their investment — through one-on-one contact with premier faculty, distinctive learning experiences and excellent career placement — will best be able to position those students for success and also position themselves as “lighthouse” programs nationally.
What do you hope students in the School of Education gain during their time at Baylor?
Three things, foremost — first, that they would take full advantage of the opportunities our undergraduate and graduate programs afford them in gaining crucial practical experience. Second, that they would develop a deep knowledge base around the evidence-based practices we know can improve teaching and leadership. Lastly, that they would come to see themselves as no less than moral agents with an imperative to help transform the lives of learners.
How did your experience as a Baylor undergraduate affect your life’s trajectory?
My Baylor experience profoundly influenced me. It was here that I came to view Baylor as having a special role to play among universities everywhere, and it was here that I decided I wanted to teach and lead at the university level. I have returned with an equally profound sense of the privilege that is ours in providing for our students the kinds of experiences that can transform lives.
What do you see on the horizon for Baylor School of Education?
There are moments in the lives of some organizations when gathering currents make great things possible. I believe the School of Education stands at the edge of one such moment. In coming months and years, we will strengthen our already superb teacher education programs, expand the reach of our clinics and centers, launch initiatives in such critical areas as that of educational policy and leadership, and forge even deeper bonds with our alumni and community partners. At the same time, we will build our capacity to conduct high quality research and raise our national visibility. It is truly an exciting time to be involved in the life of our School — and a privilege to serve as its Dean.