Regional Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Martin Tadlock announced Allyson Leggett Watson as the new dean of the College of Education on March 22.
Watson will begin serving as dean July 1, while Olivia Hodges continues to serve as interim dean of the CoE.
Watson is the Assistant dean and professor in the College of Education at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. Even after 20 years of educational experience, Watson still harbors the passion that gripped her when she began.
“When I started my educational career, I was placed in a classroom and the students just drew me in,” said Watson. “The moment I stepped foot in a school, I knew it was the right place to be and never looked back.”
Watson earned both her master’s and a doctorate in Educational Administration, Curriculum and Supervision from the University of Oklahoma. Her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education was received from Bethune-Cookman University.
Despite not being a Pinellas County local, Watson has strong family ties to St. Petersburg. Her granduncle, Dr. Gil Leggett, was instrumental in the city’s civil rights movement.
Much of her career centered on high poverty schools and urban education. As a developer of the Teaching & Urban Reform Network (TURN), a program where teachers in training bring coursework to urban schools for immersive training, Watson believes the key to teaching is experience and compassion.
“Teachers can’t even imagine the impact they have with just a smile, a pat on the back, just believing in students,” stated Watson.
Watson wants to apply the same creativity she used in developing TURN at USF St. Petersburg’s College of Education. Some of her plans involve revamping the existing STEM master’s degree and enhancing the dual degree Bachelor’s program.
“I plan to bring to USF a thought process that we are all wanting to enhance the profession of teaching, but I also want to bring an innovative perspective to do that,” said Watson. “We need to show what makes us unique.”
When not working towards improving the CoE, the new dean hopes to become better acquainted with the student body.
“The students can expect to have access to me and see me around. I want to pop in on classes to say hi and answer questions,” said Watson.
Seeing the new secretary of education and imminent changes to public schooling, Watson holds that she and her peers will rise to the upcoming adversity.
“There will not be a time when the United States stops having children, and someone is going to have to train the most exceptional teachers to meet the needs of today and the future,” stated Watson. “Why not have that someone be the USFSP College of Education?”
While the new dean of the CoE was announced, the current dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Frank Biafora, declared that this year would be his last.
“After a number of long walks and deep reflection I have made the personal decision to not request another five-year contract,” Biafora stated in his email to the CAS faculty and staff.
Biafora earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of Miami and his master’s in the same subject from the University of Florida. Before coming to USF St. Petersburg, Biafora was an associate dean at St. John’s University.
After serving as dean for a decade, Biafora is uncertain of the next step in his career but mentions that he hopes to return to teaching or assume administrative positions.
In an email to the CAS, Tadlock highlighted Biafora’s achievements after his announcement.
“Dean Biafora has championed the college and individuals within the college in the community and region,” wrote Tadlock “He has navigated the complicated political landscape to keep the priorities of the college and university front and center.”
The same email announced the formation of a search committee in April. Biafora estimates that his successor will begin July 1, 2018, after a nationwide search.
“I support Frank in his decision and will provide whatever assistance I can to help him reach his goals,” stated Tadlock in his email. “I hope you will do the same.”