SALEM — Helping students find those “ahah” moments, when the lessons kick in and the lights come on – that’s what Dr. David Dees wants to get back to doing.
“There’s nothing better than watching a student get it,” said the Guilford Lake resident.
Dees has served as Dean and Administrative Director of Kent State University’s Columbiana campuses, Salem and East Liverpool, since June 1, 2017, but is leaving on August 5 and returning to his role at the Kent campus as a full professor at the School. of Foundations, Leadership and Administration at the College of Education, Health and Human Services. He will also teach in one of the doctoral programs, Interprofessional Leadership.“I’m hyped. It’s bittersweet. I loved being Dean, I love Columbiana County. I really miss the class,” he said.
As dean, he didn’t have the same connection to the students that he had as a teacher and he missed seeing those “ahah” moments.“It was a good time to change and return to my first passion of teaching students and being in the classroom”, he said.
Dees got his first taste of teaching shortly after earning his bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Kentucky, spending time as a teaching assistant for an introductory theater class. He then earned his master’s degree in theater at the University of Kentucky and joined Kent State University in 1991, earning his doctorate. in the cultural foundations of education. He previously served as director of Kent State’s Center for Teaching and Learning.
As dean, Dees founded the Rising Scholars program, formerly known as Rural Scholars, which takes in junior high students and follows them through high school, exposing them to educational experiences to prepare to life after graduation. The program also includes scholarships for the Salem and East Liverpool campuses for students completing Rising Scholars.
Dees is proud of the program because of how it is privately funded, involves the community, and supports students. It is now present in all schools in Columbiana County, and this local success has led to the expansion of the program to all KSU regional campuses.
Some of his other successes as Dean include starting the College in a Day program for students to come to campus and learn about higher education, the bi-campus career day program with local Rotary clubs , STEAM Day for K-5 students. and the home of the Columbiana County Envirothon.
He is especially proud of how everyone has welcomed him as Dean and he is proud of the team he is leaving behind.
“We have reconnected with the community” he said. With the return to teaching comes the return to research, which Dees is also looking forward to doing, including researching the impact of the Rising Scholars program. He is also eager to study how students learn and what that means for college education.
Even with the pandemic, the college has continued to reinvest in facilities and stay strong, providing students with scholarships and quality programs. The college continued to find ways to persevere and cut costs. There has also been a focus on security, with improvements to physical space and security and relationships with Salem and East Liverpool Police Departments. There is also a full-time mental health counselor who covers both campuses.
“I always want people to know how awesome these campuses are,” he said.
Dees noted that students at the Salem and East Liverpool campuses receive a quality education in Kent, but with more personal attention in smaller, lower-cost classrooms closer to home. He loved being the dean of Columbiana County campuses, but said “It’s time for a new adventure.”
His wife, Jennifer, is a sixth grade teacher at Southeast School in the Salem City School District. They have two daughters, Haley, an aerospace technology student at Kent State, and Katie, a sophomore at United High School.
Dees will still live in Columbiana County and is already working on the transition.
Brad Bielski, dean of the KSU Tuscarawas campus, will become acting dean of the Salem and East Liverpool campuses beginning August 6 and will continue to serve at the Tuscarawas campus in New Philadelphia. He has already met with faculty and staff as well as local advisory boards.