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SMU welcomes new dean of Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Stephanie Knight is an expert on best practices in education, research and collaboration

April 25, 2017

Stephanie L. Knight
Stephanie L. Knight

DALLAS (SMU) – Stephanie L. Knight, a nationally recognized education leader, researcher and professor, has been named dean of SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. The current associate dean and professor of education in the College of Education at Pennsylvania State University will assume her new duties at SMU on August 1.

"Stephanie Knight’s impressive background of scholarly excellence and outreach to the education community will enable her to deliver visionary leadership to propel the Simmons School toward even greater visibility and impact," said Steven Currall, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Stephanie will continue to amplify the school’s commitment to evidence-based scholarship, external research funding and the preparation of exemplary professionals in education and human development.  Her history of partnerships with urban and suburban schools equips her to further elevate the school’s contributions to K-12 education in the North Texas region and beyond.  Furthermore, Stephanie is deeply committed to collaborations with other academic units on the SMU campus to advance interdisciplinary academic programs and initiatives.”

"Dr. Knight is joining a dynamic school, which will continue its trajectory as an innovative leader in education research and practice under her leadership," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "She understands that education is key to change, from lifting individuals from poverty to opening minds to new understanding, and that will strengthen SMU's impact on individuals, schools and the world."

Knight began her education career as a classroom teacher of Spanish and French in Texas, Saudi Arabia and Pennsylvania. She received her doctorate in Curriculum and instruction at the University of Houston before beginning a 20-year tenure at Texas A&M University, where she was professor of educational psychology and teaching, learning and culture. In addition, she held the Houston Endowment, Inc. Chair in Urban Education at Texas A&M, received the University Distinguished Teaching Award and was named a University Faculty Fellow. Knight joined Pennsylvania State University in 2009 as professor of educational psychology, where she taught courses in educational psychology and effective learning. In 2013 she became associate dean at Penn State, leading the College of Education's undergraduate and graduate studies programs.

Her scholarly interests demonstrate a dedication to bringing the results of evidence-based research to the K-12 classroom. Her research into relationships between instructional strategies, classroom processes, learning environments and student outcomes; teacher professional development, and the use of observational techniques to study classroom processes has been published in hundreds of professional journal articles, book chapters and books and presented at numerous professional conferences.

In addition, Knight has directed university and national research centers, including serving as associate director of research into practice for the National Science Foundation Information Technology in Science Center for Teaching and Learning and director of evaluation and assessment for the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement in Washington, D.C.  She recently concluded five years as co-editor of the Journal of Teacher Education and also served from 2004 to 2006 as co-editor of the Teaching, Learning and Human Development section of the American Educational Research Journal. She currently serves as associate editor of the Review of Educational Research.

"Dr. Stephanie Knight stood out from a large pool of highly qualified candidates due to both her administrative experience and her tenure at tier-one research universities," said Marc Christensen, chair of the Simmons School dean search committee, and dean and Lyle Professor of Innovation of SMU's Lyle School of Engineering. "I look forward to working with her on the Council of Deans to advance the University’s academic and research missions.”

Knight earned her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) in romance languages and literature at the University of Kentucky, her Master's degree and certification of secondary teaching at Lehigh University, and her Ed.D. in educational curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston.  

"I am honored, and very excited, to have the opportunity to serve as the next dean of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development," said Stephanie Knight.  "Simmons has already established an impressive foundation in its first decade and I look forward to working with the very talented and productive faculty, staff and students in the school to further their ongoing mission of excellence in research, teaching and community outreach.  SMU provides an ideal context for the success of this mission: Location in a dynamic urban context; commitment to academic excellence; support for interdisciplinary approaches that encourage innovation; and a climate of collaboration across and within units that enhances the process and outcomes of our very important work in education and human development.  I look forward to becoming an integral member of the SMU and Simmons community."

The Simmons School recently has added four new doctoral programs, three new endowed chairs and one new endowed professorship. The school occupies two new buildings on the SMU campus, complete with teaching labs, offices and media centers. The school was founded in 2005 and named in 2007 in recognition of a landmark gift from Harold C. and Annette Caldwell Simmons of Dallas. More than 900 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in its five academic departments, including counseling and dispute resolution; teaching and learning; education policy and leadership; applied physiology and sport management; and graduate liberal studies. These academic programs offer doctoral and master’s degrees, graduate-level certifications, and undergraduate programs. The school also includes research institutes and community engagement centers with public school districts and private schools in the region.

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