Following a competitive search that drew applicants from around the world, UC Berkeley today announced that Michelle D. Young, dean of the Loyola Marymount University (LMU) School of Education in Los Angeles, is the next dean of the Berkeley School of Education. She will begin her term on June 15.
Prior to becoming dean at LMU in 2020, Young, who is a scholar of educational leadership and policy, was a professor and department chair at the University of Virginia and at the helm of the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) — a leading education research consortium — for nearly two decades.
At Berkeley, she will succeed Interim Dean Christopher F. Edley Jr., who began his tenure at the education school in summer 2021, and Prudence L. Carter, who served a five-year term as dean from 2016.
“Berkeley has a complementary focus to mine: equity for impact. Whether in research, programs, or outreach, Berkeley is making a significant impact,” said Young. “I am attracted to Berkeley’s energy and value system, and I want to be a part of it.”
At a time when schools and teachers are besieged by staffing shortages and burnout, fears of gun violence and restrictions on what they can say and teach, Young sees the deanship as an opportunity to lead responsive and positive change and to serve as a national voice on critical policy issues needed to uplift educators and ultimately benefit all students — particularly those who historically have been underserved by our education systems.
Young said she has long respected BSE’s faculty and was drawn to working with a population of students, faculty and staff who are committed to equity, anti-racism and social justice and dedicated to improving and supporting education and society.
"There is greatness in BSE today, yet there is tremendous potential for more. Michelle Young has the brilliance, creativity, and experience to make the most of it," said Interim Dean Edley. "As important, she has luminous values that align perfectly with BSE’s mission of equity, excellence, and impact. What a gift."
Professor Frank C. Worrell, BSE faculty chair, who served on the search committee, said it is important that the school is bringing aboard a new dean who has experience both inside and beyond the academy.
“It’s a critical time for the state and the country in terms of education as we deal with the endemic of COVID-19, the resurgence of a lot of racial tensions in our country, and the crisis that both of those things have generated,” said Worrell. “A new dean has the potential to bring a new vision to a place that has history to help crystallize our strengths and to take us to new heights in serving marginalized and underserved communities, society and the public good.”
Co-creating equitable systems
Young came to LMU at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in summer 2020, a time of intense racial reckoning related to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It was a really important moment for me, in terms of thinking about how to work with the leadership, faculty, students, and alumni at LMU to substantively engage those issues in ways that would make a difference and ensure a sustained engagement — rather than we’ll do XYZ and move on,” she said.
At LMU, she created new positions devoted to diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism and justice and embedded that work within the school’s strategic plan. While at UCEA, a national consortium of higher education institutions focused on educational leadership, her team built a mentorship program to build, support and guide a network of graduate students of color into higher education research and academic positions. More than 1,000 scholars have engaged with that program since 2006, which ultimately has enhanced and diversified the educational leadership professoriate and the membership and leadership of both UCEA and Division A of the American Educational Research Association.
In a statement submitted to Berkeley’s search committee for the deanship, Young wrote: “My goal is to co-create equitable systems of access to support for powerful learning and doing within an inclusive and equitable environment for all students, faculty and staff and an organizational culture where all members of our community feel valued, respected, and supported. And, as a white woman, I believe it is essential to work within, learn with and from, and engage in co-construction with a diverse community, made up of members whose lived experiences provide them with unique and powerful insights into diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.”
Young said belonging and inclusivity are built through “policies, people, and even the signage and artwork on our walls — basically, through everything that the organization is communicating — whether that’s in word or deed.”
Listening and engaging
Young said she knows it is cliche for her to say she will begin her tenure with a “listening tour,” but that’s exactly what she plans to do. She first will spend time talking to BSE staff, students, faculty, alumni and colleagues to get a feel for the school landscape, to hear what excites and concerns people, and to understand the community’s hopes and dreams. She said this practice will have no end date because she plans to have an open and accessible door as dean.
She comes to campus with enthusiasm about the school’s partnerships and cutting-edge online programming. She stressed the importance of expanding who has access to BSE’s high-quality, research-grade education through multiple modalities, including high-quality, innovative online education.
“Right now, access to high quality programming is a real problem,” Young said. “When we’re thinking about the teacher shortage, the leader shortage, the school psychologist shortage — you name it — school districts are struggling to bring in well-prepared, equity-minded individuals. Educational professionals deserve and require high quality research-informed programming. Their work is complex and challenging, and they require programs that are intentionally designed to prepre them to work effectively within that complexity.”
Young also hopes to advance Interdisciplinary and community-engaged scholarship at Berkeley to make a greater impact in fields like early childhood education. “As an organizational leader, I enjoy fostering and bolstering that kind of work,” she said. “I am looking forward to being a part of it and helping in whatever ways are possible in the time that I am dean.”
With regard to her own scholarship, Young has co-edited or co-authored 11 books and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Her most recent book, Redesigning educational leadership preparation for equity: Strategies for innovation and improvement, was published in September 2021, and her “Handbook of Critical Education Research: Qualitative, Quantitative and Emerging Approaches,” is forthcoming in July 2023.
“When I say I’m from anywhere, it’s usually Texas,” said Young, explaining that because her father was in the U.S. Air Force, her family, including her two younger siblings, moved around a lot before moving to Austin, Texas, during her middle school years.
Young said travel strengthened her resiliency. “When you land yourself in a new spot,” she said, “you have a way of going about getting your bearings and getting to know people. I learned from a young age that home, as they say, ‘is where your hat is.’”
Young completed her undergraduate degree at Southwestern University, a small liberal arts college 30 miles north of Austin. Professor Gwen Kennedy Neville was a key influence there on Young’s future path. “She exuded excitement and love for her area of research and study and made me intrigued about what this life as a faculty member and working with students could be like,” Young said.
After college, Young and her husband, Derek, taught English in Thailand. That’s when her interest in education really sparked, as she was intrigued by how students learn in various ways and at different speeds.
At UT Austin, while studying for her doctorate in education, she worked with a team of faculty and students on the Effective Border Schools Research Initiative, and focused her work on the nexus between leadership, parental engagement and education policy.
Young continued to travel throughout her professional life, taking her first job as an assistant professor at the University of Iowa for three years before moving to the University of Missouri to become executive director of UCEA. She then moved UCEA’s headquarters to UT Austin and later to the University of Virginia, where she taught and chaired the Department of Education Leadership, Foundations and Policy. She landed most recently in Southern California for the LMU deanship.
Young and her husband have two sons, Ethan and Aden. Ethan is currently preparing for a January wedding, and Aden is a college junior who studies computer engineering. The family also has two “funny little” senior rescue dogs named Cookie and Wilbur who will be making the journey to Berkeley.
Young is a runner (actually a jogger, she clarifies with a laugh) and a former high school soccer player whose position was sweeper, the defensive player who fields tough shots in front of the goal. She has also been a coach. She'll bring these skills and muscle memory — from sports, parenting, work and life — to Berkeley as she fields the BSE’s challenges and opportunities and looks to make the team an even greater success.