Brenau Picks Eugene Williams as College of Education Dean
Following the retirement of Sandra Leslie at the end of the 2015-16 academic year, Brenau University named longtime professor Eugene Williams the new dean of the College of Education.
After a nationwide search narrowed the field of applicants to three candidates, the selection committee recommended the internal candidate in part because of his significant experiences in working with Chinese students. Brenau in August begins the Georgia phase of a long-term agreement with Anhui Normal University in China to provide the last two years of undergraduate studies in early childhood education to dozens of former Anhui students expected in the program each year.
“Dr. Williams’ years of experience as a school administrator and principal makes him an excellent choice for the dean’s role,” said Brenau Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Nancy Krippel. “His knowledge of the education landscape in Georgia and his abiding interest in student success prepares our students to be the best teachers they can be.”
Williams and a Brenau colleague, Bryan Sorohan, spent part of last year in China working with the first group that will come to Brenau this summer, and the two were instrumental in developing, and training Chinese professors to teach, the preparatory curriculum that those students took at their home university in the first year of the program.
“The Chinese students love Eugene,” said Leslie, who has been the College of Education dean for the past four years. “I think it will be a great benefit when they start arriving here in August and see a friendly face that they trust.”
Although Williams is known for his soft-spoken management style, Leslie said he also commands the respect of the faculty and staff as a leader in the College of Education. And his near-decade of experience at the institution, she added, will provide a comforting continuity as the college faces challenges in the coming decade.
Building on the foundation for recovery laid by current Brenau CFO David Barnett when he served previously as interim dean, Leslie helped get the College of Education’s herculean rebuilding program on track. In the early 2000s, education was one of the most sought-after programs by undergraduate students seeking initial teaching credentials and graduate degree candidates looking to bolster their credentials as teachers and school administrators. When the college hit its high-water mark of 745 students enrolled, virtually everyone had jobs when they completed Brenau’s highly regarded degree requirements.
However, the nation’s economic downturn inflicted near-calamitous wounds on cash-strapped school districts, forcing mass layoffs, school consolidations and other job-sapping problems. College of Education enrollments dropped to about 250. Now, that number is on the rise to more than 350 as state and local government have started expanding education emphases again, and the programs will get a significant boost in the next 15 months as the Chinese early childhood education group reaches its full complement.
“I would like to see the college keep going in the direction we are currently pursuing – graduating students who are well-prepared for the classroom,” Williams said. “We have a good reputation in the community, especially when it comes to getting our students ready for the job market.”
Keeping with statewide public education demand, Williams said he would like to emphasize English to Speakers of Other Languages, as well as science, technology, mathematics and engineering education.
He also said he wants to “increase Brenau’s footprint” by collaborating with more local and state school organizations.
“We have great faculty and staff, all experienced teachers and educators, and that is a huge strength for our department,” Williams said. “Moving forward, I would like them to use their talents and expertise to continue to grow as people. As long as they keep doing that, we are going to keep growing as the College of Education.”
Williams, who began his Brenau tenure in 2008, served as both an assistant professor of education and chair of initial certification. He developed the college’s ethics course, and he was heavily involved in expanding math education, multicultural education, classroom management and research curriculum.
Prior to Brenau, Williams gained about 30 years of experience in K-12 public education as both a classroom instructor and administrator in Georgia schools. He taught for almost two decades at Randolph Clay High School in Cuthbert. He then held assistant principal positions at Carver Middle School in Monroe and Loganville High School before moving into the principal’s office at Loganville Middle School, where he “retired” in 2008.
Williams received a B.A. in mathematics and M.Ed. from Albany State University, an Ed.S. from Columbus State University and an Ed.D. from the University of Georgia.