Education dean draws from background to enhance Purdue’s strengths

May 20, 2010

Dean Maryann Santos de Barona plans to focus College of Education efforts on critical needs in education, which include helping teachers better understand and use student performance data for planning instruction and working on P-12 pipeline issues. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Maryann Santos de Barona believes the key to running an effective college is understanding the values and skill set the organization possesses and effectively working within that framework.

She has had plenty of practice learning how to do so.

Santos de Barona, dean of the College of Education, has lived and worked in a variety of settings and with diverse cultural groups all over the country. A native New Yorker, she graduated from City College of New York with a degree in psychology before attending graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin.

After obtaining master's and doctoral degrees in educational psychology, Santos de Barona spent the next four years at Texas A&M University as a research scientist in a behavioral research unit. In 1986 she moved to Arizona State University as associate director of University Testing Services. During her 23 years at ASU, she not only taught in the school psychology doctoral program but also served in several administrative capacities, including director of the High School Completion and College-Going Initiative and as senior associate dean for the College of Education.

Santos de Barona's strong background in research, psychology and education pipeline issues coupled with her experiences in different parts of the country have allowed her to adapt to most work and living environments which she has experienced.

"I think it is important to understand the population and the community you are working with and to understand their value system, because that is a good entrée to work effectively with parents and students," she says. "I think my background in psychology and education has been invaluable. Not just in terms of the interpersonal aspects, but also because my training dealt specifically with systems issues in education."

Santos de Barona took office as dean on July 1. Her first nine months have been spent evaluating all aspects of the College of Education.

She is planning to focus college efforts on critical needs in education, which include working with teachers on classroom-based issues, helping them better understand and use student performance data for planning instruction, and working on P-12 pipeline issues, such as school readiness, high school completion and college-going, and improved preparation in science and math so that students have more choices in career opportunities.

"I'm a big believer in leveraging our resources and looking at ways that we can play to the University's strengths," she says. "We are going to focus some of our energies in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering, and math."

Santos de Barona says many activities that her faculty are involved with are partnerships with STEM professionals. Whether it be developing curriculum, partnering on grant-related activities or simply learning how students best learn in the STEM areas, Santos de Barona wants this to be a signature area of the college.

But she also recognizes Purdue as an institution located in a rural area. "We are very interested in developing our online distance learning delivery," she says. "We are increasingly going online, which fits our focus on rural education.

"There are a lot of P-12 educators that are interested in being involved with Purdue, but they can't get here just because of location. We think that this is an ideal opportunity for us to reach more folks."

Despite living much of her adult life in an urban area, Santos de Barona says Purdue is "the right fit."

"I liked the community as soon as I arrived," she says. "I liked the feel of Purdue University. I felt like this was a place I could work well with others and think about the kinds of educational issues and projects I felt were important."