Dr. Holly Smith Accepts District Dean Position at Pierce College

Dr. Holly Smith (Ph.D. ’10, Higher Ed. Admin.) has accepted the position of District Dean of Arts and Humanities at Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington.  Dr. Smith previously served as the Instructional Chair of Liberal Arts at Colorado Mountain College.

She writes, “After moving to Florida to teach English at Lake City Community College (now Florida Gateway College), I decided to begin a Ph.D. in the UF College of Education Higher Education Administration program.  The ability to work full-time and attend college part-time allowed me to combine theory and practice on a daily basis.  It enriched my classroom interactions and my workplace interactions. It also kept me motivated along the way.  I strongly support UF’s option to allow students to pursue their Ph.D.’s part-time.

While I was teaching Lake City Community College, I was promoted to the Coordinator of Liberal Arts and the Chair of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Accreditation.  During this time, I was recognized for my instruction at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development in 2008 and I was recognized for my scholarship with the Wattenbarger Fellowship in 2009. This combination of experience and education allowed me to pursue a promotion to Instructional Chair of Liberal Arts at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I completed my Ph.D. in 2010, after moving to Colorado. Shortly thereafter, my husband and I welcomed our daughter into our family. Following the guidance of my mentors, I began looking at Dean’s positions, and was thrilled to accept the position of District Dean of Arts and Humanities at Pierce College in Lakewood and Puyallup, Washington for August of 2012.

I rely upon my training and my education from UF regularly, as well as the professional and personal connections that I have made through the University have been more than helpful over the years.  This truly is a Gator Nation, with a new outpost in the Tacoma, Washington area.”

Former UF COE Alum, Dr. Adelbert (Bert) J. Purga, dies

Dr. Bert Purga passed away on Thursday, August 9, 2012 at Cape Canaveral Hospital at the age of 62.  The Merritt Island resident was provost of the Palm Bay campus from 1994 until 2007.  During his tenure, the campus underwent numerous expansion projects.

The New York native started his career as a teacher at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, NY.  He later earned his doctorate degree in education from the University of Florida in 1979.  Dr. Purga was recognized by the University of Florida as an Institute of Higher Education Outstanding Graduate.   He also served as dean and president in the Eastern Iowa Community College system.

His surviving immediate family includes: his wife, Margaret, and his son, Jonathan.  Funeral service will be held at 11:00 am, Tuesday, August 14th at Divine Mercy Catholic Church, Merritt Island, to celebrate his life.

Higher Ed Alum is VP of Academic Affairs at Arizona College

Dr. Russ Rothamer (MED ’93, Social Studies Ed.; EDS ’97, Curriculum & Instruction; PHD ’03, Higher Ed. Admin) has been hired as Vice President of Academic Affairs at Coconino Community College based in Flagstaff, Arizona.

According to an article in the Flagstaff Business News, “Rothamer will help plan and execute institutional initiatives and policies.  He will assist in developing long-term organizational goals and plans, managing human and fiscal resources, establishing liaison relations with community organizations, and evaluating the performance of the college’s operations.”


Says Rothamer, “Throughout my professional career, I have maintained a passion for helping students meet their learning goals by establishing initiatives that enhance the value of the educational process.”

Rothamer has dedicated more than 25 years to higher education as an administrator and professor.  Prior to this appointment, Rothamer most recently served as Dean of Business, Community Services and International Programs at Northcentral Technical College based in Wausau, WI.  From 1999 to 2006, Rothamer held education leadership positions at Walt Disney World Resorts.  He was the Disney University Segment Learning and Development Manager, College Educational Partnerships Manager and Team Lead of the College and International Learning Programs. Rothamer has also held a number of positions with UF including Director of Student Services, Associate Director of Student Services, University School Instructor and Interim Director of Admission and Student Services, according to the article.

To read the full story on Dr. Russ Rothamer in the Flagstaff Business News, please follow this link.

Hollingers are founders of new academy


Randy (BAE ’96 & MED ’98, Elem. Ed.) and Amy (BAE ’93 & MED ’94, Elem. Ed., EDS ’02, Ed. Leadership)  Hollinger, longtime educators at P.K. Yonge, are now bringing their love of teaching to Santa Rosa Beach.

The Hollingers have a history of being “out-of-the-box thinkers”, especially in education. They are the founders of the new TESLA (Technology Engineering Science Leadership Academy), an alternative learning environment.  According to the website, “students are engaged in learning that provides a balance of technology based and hands on approaches to their learning.”  The school opened more than a year ago with 15 students and has since grown to 33 students, ranging in age from second grade to high school.

Examples of the hands on projects the students at TESLA are involved in include raising Mexican Axolotls, an endangered, water-dwelling salamander, and building their own Tesla coil from scratch.


Randy Hollinger inherited his love of teaching from his parents.  Dr. Tom Hollinger is a retired professor at UF and his mom, Mrs. Sandy Hollinger is Deputy Superintendent of schools for Alachua County.  Says Randy, “My mom and my dad both are not just teachers, they’re really good teachers…I would think of the things people had said about my mom or what they’d said about my dad and think, ‘If I’m going to be a teacher, I want people to say those things about me someday'”. Turns out, he has achieved this goal having received numerous awards from a Scholarship of Engagement Award at UF, to being voted one of Gainesville’s most interesting people.

Amy Hollinger has served as assistant principal of P.K. Yonge’s Elementary School, and as a teacher at J.J. Finley Elementary school.  During her career, Amy has been very involved; leading and coordinating numerous programs, attending professional conferences, chairing committees including the School Advisory Council, and giving professional presentations.

Community college council honors ’08 higher ed graduate

Christopher M. Mullin (PhD ’08, higher education) has received the 2012 Barbara K. Townsend Emerging Scholar Award from the Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC). The annual award recognizes a scholar for writing an outstanding research publication that contributes to the professional body of knowledge about community colleges.

Mullin was cited for a series of articles about the student body and future of community colleges published between October 2011 and April 2012 by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). He is the program director for policy analysis of the AACC in Washington, D.C., where he conducts research and analysis to guide advocacy efforts for the organization.

UF’s Institute of Higher Education also honored Mullin as an Outstanding Graduate earlier this year.

CCSC, a division of the AACC, is a council of university researchers and community college professionals who work to advance the development and scholarship of community colleges. Mullin received the award at the council’s recent annual conference in Orlando.

COE graduate wins AERA Scholarly Award

After submitting a top-rated research article, recent College of Education doctoral graduate Stephanie Dodman (PhD ’11, curriculum and instruction) has been awarded a Special Interest Group Scholarly Award by the American Educational Research Association, a national interdisciplinary research association with about 25,000 professionals in the field.

Dodman, an elementary education assistant professor at George Mason University, was recognized for her dissertation-based paper by the School Effectiveness and School Improvement Special Interest Group (SIG), a division of AERA that encourages members in school effectiveness and improvement specialties to conduct research, evaluate school programs and exchange ideas. Dodman also received a $300 check.

Her dissertation underlined the issue of accountability for chronically failing high-poverty schools, building on previous research findings that without strong internal conditions, schools will not improve. Dodman presented a case study of effective internal reform in an underachieving, high-poverty elementary school and presented a theory of school reform based on her findings.

After receiving her bachelor’s and M.Ed. degrees from UF in 2001 and 2002, respectively, Dodman taught in Florida public schools and worked on a team at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History creating a science-literacy curriculum for Head Start. Dodman joined George Mason’s education faculty last fall after earning her doctorate at UF.  In addition to teaching curriculum and instruction courses, she dedicates time to Westlawn Elementary in Virginia, where she is a Professional Development School university facilitator. She also works with a high-needs charter school in Washington, DC as part of a school improvement partnership effort.

Third-Year EduGator Chosen as Teacher of the Year

Rachel Gross (BAE ’08, MED ’09, Elementary Ed.) has been chosen as Teacher of the Year for her school, the Duval Charter School at Baymeadow, where she teaches third grade. This year Rachel’s students outscored the state and district on the FCAT.  Rachel has previously taught fourth grade at Stephen Foster Elementary and Metcalfe Elementary, where she also completed an internship.

Says Rachel, “the University of Florida has truly shaped me into the teacher I am today. The rigorous coursework and wonderful professors taught me to always be reflective, innovative, and meet every students’ need.  I am grateful for my experiences I had through UF, especially the East-side Internship program.  It gave me perspective and taught me the importance of establishing a rapport with students.”

Next year, Rachel will be teaching third grade Cambridge, an advanced studies program offered at Baymeadow.

“I will continue to grow and learn as an educator to hopefully inspire this new group of students.”

Recent Grad Describes Benefits of Her Degree

Truly Hardemon (MED 2012, Curriculum & Instruction) recently shared how her degree from the UF College of Education has impacted her life.

“Though it sounds cliche, going through the M.Ed. program has changed my life and confirmed my passion for life-long learning.  I have met so many interesting educators working with educational technology from a wide variety of perspectives.  The program opened new windows into online teaching and learning in higher education, exposed me to the rich history the military has in distance education and innovation, and gave me a better understanding of the exciting challenges of integrating technology into K-12 educational environments. I have the firm belief that my graduate degree will serve me well, whether I remain in higher education or take a bigger step and move toward K-12 education.”

CEC honors special ed alum for stellar career in teacher education

The Council for Exceptional Children, the world’s largest international organization of special education professionals, recently awarded University of Florida alumnus Fred Spooner (PhD ’80, special education) its prestigious 2012 TED/Merrill Award for Excellence in Teacher Education.

The honor recognizes Spooner for a lifetime of research productivity, masterly teaching and inspirational leadership in the special education field and advocacy for children with disabilities. Spooner, a longtime professor in special education at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, received his Ph.D. degree in special education from UF in 1980 and also was awarded the College of Education’s 2008 Alumnus Achievement Award.

Spooner’s latest honor from the CEC comes from an organization with more than 45,000 members. He is a past president of the North Carolina teacher education division of the CEC. Spooner received the TED/Merrill Award at the CEC’s annual convention in Denver.

During his 31-year career at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Spooner has become known as one of the nation’s leading authorities on teaching students with significant disabilities. He has published six books and more than 90 refereed articles and his work has appeared in influential publications such as The Journal of Special Education, Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities and Exceptional Children.

His academic success led him to editorships at three of the nation’s leading special education journals: Teaching Exceptional Children, The Journal of Special Education and Teacher Education and Special Education. He has also been a pioneer in the use of online instruction to prepare special education teachers—work that has gained Spooner national attention and convinced various state agencies and universities to seek out his advice on online education.

Higher Ed alum named to head new UF Innovation Academy

UF’s new Innovation Academy, one of the nation’s most forward-looking undergraduate enrollment programs, didn’t have to look far for its inaugural director—hiring Jeffrey Citty (EdD ’11), a recent doctoral graduate in higher education from UF’s College of Education.

Citty, whose appointment took effect in March, is responsible for overall administration and leadership of the academy, collaborating with an advisory board.

Instead of taking traditional fall and spring courses, between 400 and 500 students admitted to the Innovation Academy will be on campus during the spring and summer terms, leaving each fall semester free for online courses, studying abroad, internships, creative problem-solving, community service and unique employment opportunities. The first class of academy students will enroll for the spring 2013 semester.

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity for students who want a little more out of their undergraduate experience,” Citty said. “It targets entrepreneurial-minded students looking for a nontraditional college route. The IA model also increases access to UF by expanding capacity during the spring and summer when more space is available.”

Citty was the College of Engineering’s student affairs assistant director in 2011 and coordinated its academic support services from 2003-2011. He oversaw all aspects of the engineering freshman transition program, focusing on recruitment and retention. In 2009, he was recognized by the National Academic Advising Association with an award for Outstanding Advising.

Dale Campbell, professor and interim director at the College of Education’s School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education, called Citty “a passionate, student-centered adviser.”

“I have no doubt that he‘ll be very successful working with other units and colleges on campus to help the Innovation Academy grow and succeed,” Campbell said. “He’s highly prepared to provide leadership for the program.”