Gregory Anderson didn’t want to become a dean.
The former higher education policy officer at the Ford Foundation thought that after his time at the philanthropic institution, he’d go back to the Teachers’ College at Columbia University, where he was already a tenured professor.
“I hadn’t thought of myself as a dean,” Anderson said. “I actually thought I was going to go back to Columbia University, put on my tweed jacket and do my professor thing again.”
But after opening up to the idea, the Canada native took the job at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education. Four years later, he’s in the midst of his first semester at Temple’s College of Education, a change he didn’t think would happen.
Anderson had been approached by search firms in the past for other jobs, which he declined, and he was finally asked what his ideal job was. He responded with a slew of conditions, including that the job must be on the East Coast, in a big city with a large public school district and a public university.
“I felt like I was setting up something impossible so I could justify that I wasn’t going to leave,” he said.
But after being presented with the open dean position at Temple, he found an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“I really believe in the public mission of Temple University,” Anderson said. “I believe in colleges and schools of education making a huge difference in families’ and children’s lives.”
Anderson has undergraduate and graduate degrees in sociology from the University of Toronto, which he attended before leaving the country for his doctoral work at the City University of New York.
Though he was born and raised in Canada, Anderson said moving to New York gave him options that weren’t available in his home country.
“It’s a much smaller academic labor market,” Anderson said. “As wonderful of a county as [Canada] is, it lacks a certain dynamism.”
After receiving his Ph.D. from CUNY and spending six years as a professor at Columbia, Anderson moved to the Ford Foundation as a higher education policy officer in educational opportunity and scholarship programs.
While he said the move “surprised everybody,” it gave him a new perspective on how to make a difference.[blockquote who=”Gregory Anderson” what=”dean of college of education”]As a scholar or researcher, you do your work, try to impact change.[/blockquote]
“As a scholar or researcher, you do your work, try to impact change through your research. But, to be truthful, your audience is much smaller,” Anderson said. “When I was thinking about the work that I care most about, which is to have impact transform how universities and colleges operate to be more equitable and democratic, I was able to move the needle from a different vantage point.”
After receiving his Ph.D. from CUNY and working as a professor at Columbia, Anderson moved to the Ford Foundation as a higher education policy officer in educational opportunity and scholarship programs.
“The dean has a lot of autonomy to change a college and a university from the vantage point of one academic unit,” Anderson said. “I still feel that I’m a dean who, first and foremost, is a faculty member, but I’ve learned to value the administrative side.”
President Neil Theobald said Anderson’s experience in different aspects of higher education played a large role in him becoming the College of Education’s dean.
“He’s a very experienced academic, very experienced in fundraising, very experienced as an administrator,” Theobald said. “All of the pieces are here.”
As Anderson works through his first semester at Temple, he said he’s looking forward not only to shaping leaders in the college, but working with the Philadelphia School District. The district, he said, offers Temple a chance to live up to its mission and help shape a solution for the school system, which is in the midst of steep financial problems.
“We should be facilitating opportunities for kids in North Philly to succeed,” Anderson said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always going to come to Temple, but we should be providing the core competencies they need to be successful in education and in life.”
“If Philadelphia can find out what ails itself, then education reform is possible nationally,” he added.
Sean Carlin is the administration beat writer for The Temple News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.