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North Park Welcomes New Dean of Education

Rebecca Nelson, new Dean of Education

CHICAGO, IL (September 3, 2008) – The new dean of education at North Park University, Rebecca Nelson, says she is looking forward to advancing the tradition of the school that has had a major impact on her family. Not only is North Park her alma mater (she earned her bachelor’s degree in music education in 1972), it’s also where her parents, F. Burton Nelson and L. Grace Nelson met, and where she met her own husband, Craig Lindley.

“It’s very special to be able to come back,” says Nelson, whose father was an influential professor at North Park Theological Seminary. A world-renown scholar of the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he taught at North Park from 1960 until his retirement in 1996, and was serving as research professor of Christian ethics at the Seminary at the time of his death in 2004. Her mother also teaches classes at the Seminary.

Nelson says she is eager to continue North Park’s long tradition of encouraging lives of significance and service. In addition to teaching educators how to navigate complex and changing terrain, one of her primary tasks will be to make sure that North Park’s program is tailored to new developments in the field.

The growth of technology is especially significant. Nelson cautions that educators cannot simply add computers to a classroom and expect them to make a difference.

She relates the story of a principal who heard her present a workshop on technology and invited her to give in-service instruction to staff members. The principal told Nelson that the school had purchased 24 new computers and that two hours of training would be sufficient. Nelson advised the principal that the teachers and students would be better served by cutting the number of computers in half and using the money for more in-depth staff development. She never heard back from the principal.

Students’ use of the latest technology presents challenging opportunities, says Nelson, who believes that even cell phones might become an educational tool someday. Still, she notes, “Technology will never replace the human element. There is always going to be a need for face-to-face interaction between teachers and students.”

Nelson earned her master’s degree in curriculum development from DePaul University and her doctor of philosophy from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Loyola University of Chicago.

Since 2004, she was the superintendent of schools in Skokie, Illinois. She previously served in other Illinois districts as teacher, principal, or district administrator.