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Experienced Faculty Make New Leadership Changes in School of Education Exciting to TEL

Jennifer F. Stafford, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Leadership, brings valuable experience to her new role as chair of the department.

New leadership in the School of Education’s largest department is helping Mississippi College bolster its ability to prepare classroom teachers and educational leaders who will positively impact the nation’s learning community for generations to come.

Jennifer F. Stafford, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Leadership, has been named chair of the department, while Katherine Horlock, an assistant professor in TEL, has been named associate chair. Their appointments were effective June 1.

Cindy Melton, dean of the School of Education, said Stafford – who is heading the TEL Department’s graduate programs – and Horlock – who is leading the undergraduate programs – bring valuable experience to their new roles.

“They’re both servant leaders, they lead by example, and they’ve already created some wonderful energy and excitement for the department,” Melton said. “I’m excited we had the opportunity to reorganize the department leadership to share some of the responsibilities and center our focus.

“We are in extraordinary hands.”

The TEL Department at MC offers collaborative, integrated, professional preparation for classroom teachers and provides specialized work in educational leadership in a well-rounded, Christian environment. The department’s census is split almost evenly between undergraduate and graduate students. The new leadership structure will allow the department to focus on more robust retention and recruitment strategies.

Melton said Stafford, a valued part of the School of Education faculty for the last decade, was the ideal candidate to chair TEL and lead its graduate programs.

“Dr. Stafford brings a wealth of leadership and teaching experience at both the K-12 and university levels,” Melton said. “She has served as the coordinator for the graduate programs and helped lead them through two successful accreditation visits.

“She has a great leadership style and is very kind and helpful.”

MC is a member of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The school has been continuously accredited since initially gaining National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education accreditation in 1960, becoming one of the first colleges in the South to be so acknowledged. Stafford played an instrumental role in helping the University gain NCATE accreditation in 2013. NCATE later morphed into the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and Stafford was actively involved in obtaining the school’s current accreditation with CAEP during the 2020 review cycle.

Stafford said her priority as chair is to ensure all TEL faculty and staff are prepared to provide the most optimum learning environment for students. Nurturing professional learning communities within the TEL Department’s subcommittees is a strong area of focus.

“The subcommittees in our department are tasked with making changes given to us by our Mississippi Department of Education accreditors,” she said. “The subcommittee members will be busy this fall making sure all of our courses and programs are up to the MDE’s standards.”

Before coming to MC, Stafford served as associate dean for instruction and curriculum at Union University. Many of the duties she had in that position mirror her new responsibilities as chair of MC’s TEL Department.

“I had served as associate dean at Union University, so I had been through the accreditation process,” she said. “I had recruited students and faculty, and I had been responsible for faculty online, offline, remote, etc. – sometimes at three different sites.

“When I came to MC, I started as the coordinator of graduate programs, working primarily with graduate students and faculty, with a focus on program development. We were going through the accreditation process, and we just finished it again. I’ve done most of what’s required of this position before – the difference is, at MC, it involves working with everyone in the entire department instead of having a graduate school focus only.”

Stafford said the support she has received in her new role from the School of Education faculty has been remarkable.

“When the dean presented this to me, I was very honored,” Stafford said. “When she shared it in our final departmental meeting in May, everyone applauded. That meant everything. It helps to know that they trust my decision-making, they trust I’m going to come alongside them, and that we’ll all steer the ship together and work together towards the goals the provost, the president, and the dean have.

“Almost everyone in the department has said they are excited about the new academic year and want to do whatever they can to support the department as we move forward. That means the world.”

In her new role, she draws inspiration from her parents, Willie and Bobbie Dubose, who had distinguished careers in the military and in education.

“Besides Jesus Christ, I would give them a lot of credit for me being in this field and for falling in love with education,” Stafford said. “They were advocates for hard work and serving others, putting others before yourself. That has certainly been a part of who I am, and I hope I’m able to share that with others in all that I do.

“I’m constantly thinking of how I can support the faculty and the students’ needs. Education is for everyone, regardless of the field you are in.”

Like Stafford, Horlock receives rave reviews from the dean for her contributions to TEL. The department’s first associate chair, Horlock, will lead the initial licensure and undergraduate programs.

Last year, Horlock helped with TEL’s new Online Instruction and Design Program and taught technology and science method classes. Before coming to MC, she served as chair of the Science Department at Jackson Preparatory School.

“Dr. Horlock is such a delightful person to help welcome new students and families and get to know them in their first classes,” Melton said. “She’s been in classroom teaching for some time, and she brings a wonderful presence and personality to her new role.”

“It makes me feel an enormous sense of encouragement and excitement that Dr. Melton places confidence in me to serve in this capacity,” Horlock said. “I look forward to bringing new ideas and innovations to the program and continuing the professional preparation of classroom teachers associated with the TEL at Mississippi College.”

In her new role, Horlock said she plans to work with Stafford to create opportunities for TEL students to explore ground-breaking ideas and technology, strengthen the sense of community among students and faculty, and increase enrollment.

“Dr. Stafford is an effective leader who advocates for professional development,” Horlock said. “She recognizes the talents of TEL members and uses those talents to benefit the department.

“While Dr. Stafford will focus on the graduate-level programs, my primary focus will be on the initial licensure programs, including the undergraduate education programs and the alternate route program.”

Horlock said her experiences with online instruction and design, immersive virtual reality in the classroom, and hands-on science lab activities will help inform her new role.

“With my previous experiences, I learned to use new instructional methods and innovative technology, which is important in the continually changing field of education,” she said. “Dr. Melton, Dr. Stafford, my colleagues, and the MC future educators have been supportive, inspirational, and encouraging.”

Melton said the Tel department will derive tremendous synergy from Stafford and Horlock’s leadership.

“It’s a unique department with some interesting challenges,” she said, “but they both bring great strengths and complement each other well. We view the department as a team working together, and they have embraced that concept and are leading hand-in-hand, working together to ensure all responsibilities are covered.

“It’s going to be a strong partnership.”

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