Dr. Sue Rieg began her tenure as the Interim Dean of the College of Education and Communications this semester.
Earlier this week, Dante Zottoli spoke with Rieg about her new role and her responsibilities to the IUP student body.
Rieg comes to IUP as a very experienced professional in the world of public education.
Here is what she had to say:
Zottoli: “What was your academic and professional journey that led you to where you are today?”
Rieg: “I started, actually, as an elementary school teacher.
“I’m a proud IUP alumna from the elementary education program and I was a first-[generation] college student, so I got my degree, went into teaching [and] got my master’s at IUP in elementary math.
“While I was in the math department program, they offered me an assistantship and I taught a class for one of the professors in the elementary math department, and she's the one that planted the seed for me to be a professor someday.
“So, at that time, I only wanted to leave and teach elementary school, so I taught for 17 years.
“I was a principle for two years at East Pike Elementary School and then I got my doctorate [at] Duquesne University.
“After my doctorate, I applied to IUP as a professor, and, sure enough, I got hired, and I worked my way through the ranks from assistant to associate to full professor.
“I was a department chair, an assistant chair, I was a director of professional development schools and the position that was most closely related to the dean position. I was the Dean’s Associate for Educator Preparation, so I had that role for four years, so I worked very directly with the provost.
“I retired as a professor in June, and President (Michael) Driscoll invited me back to this role as interim dean.
“I'm really humbled and honored that President Driscoll had that much faith in me to lead the college of education.”
Zottoli: “What goals do you have for yourself and the communications and education departments?”
Rieg: “My No. 1 goal is to provide leadership to the academic departments here in the college and to support them, and administering a high-quality education for our students.
“We want to make sure that all of our students have the foundational knowledge for practical experiences and the expertise for any relevant fields that they will get when they leave IUP.
“My main goal is obviously to provide that leadership and support to the departments and, also, those people who know me know that I'm a huge advocate for students; that's always been my bottom line in any leadership position and any decision that I have to make.
“I gather the facts and then I do what I know in my heart and in my head is what's best for students.
“One of my main goals is to advocate for students and to support the initiatives, recruit and retain students here in our college and, also, we've been trying to diversify our student body we know in the fields of education and communication media. You know, all of our fields, they're looking for diverse candidates to assume position so that's definitely a goal.
“Support our current partnerships; a lot of the work that I did in this office before I became dean was making partnerships with mainly the school districts and school entities, but I think there's a lot of opportunity I just actually talked about with the counseling that my friend shared possible opportunities this morning as well as more partnerships in that area.
“So, I do want to make sure we try to expand those partnerships because I really feel that not only does it help our students get more in-depth experience in fields where they will be, but it also helps our community because I know with our literacy program, our graduate assistance program with our local school districts, not only our literacy graduate assistants (GA) working in the schools but they're also serving the substitute teachers and that's a huge need in school districts right now.”
Zottoli: What makes IUP’s Colleges of Communications and Education different from those of other universities?
Rieg: “The top partnerships that we have are really strong both in [communications] and education, and we are really blessed with alumni that are supportive to us on our programs and welcome us. When they go out and get hired in the field, they welcome our interns and our student teachers and they know our graduates back into their places of business or their schools or whatever entity there and so that kind of speaks to both as far as our education side of it.
“We have professional development school programs that some schools don't have and that's where our teacher candidates spend their entire capstone or senior year in the public schools so in the fall semester that is here on campus, they're taking classes, but they're also making those immediate connections that are going into the classroom.
“They’re taking the foundational knowledge and the theoretical, and they're applying it to practice immediately and then, those candidates in the yearlong placements, they get to stay in that placement during student teaching, so they already know the school policy is the district students they already know.
“Those partnerships have been really positive, and I mentioned our GA program before. Universities are hiring our Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) graduates, school districts are hiring our literacy GA's and paying for their tuition or paying them a stipend to work for them.
“With them, I should say, in the schools that's been a win-win situation for both our students and the school districts that are hiring them.
“A few years ago, we were one of only a few schools that received close to $1 million in Pennsylvania Department of Education's Teacher Innovative Teacher Residency grants.
“We were able to actually pay those candidates who were doing the yearlong residencies and we paid them a stipend because a lot of our students as you probably know have to work, you know, to survive, so we were trying to find ways that if they did this yearlong experience how can we help them financially so that they don't have such a financial burden.
“That grant money went out to the students mainly, but we also work closely with the teachers, and we have teachers from local school districts, we have teachers sometimes for Pittsburgh public schools because they're great partners with us.
“We had the urban and the rural experiences for our students, and just that branch bringing in that much money really made us stand out in the state, so that was good, and also several years ago we had our National Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation review, and we were one of very few colleges and universities that came out of that review with no areas for improvement and no stipulations.
“That's something we were really proud of that kind of sets our education programs, you know, ahead of the game.
Zottoli: Is there anything that you would like students to know?
Rieg: “I love to hear from students.
“I don’t prefer to sit in meetings all day, every day.
“The students are welcomed to invited to their meetings and organizations to come and meet with them and talk with them.
“I just want incoming students to know that we are very highly committed to providing strong quality education for them.”