New associate dean announced for CHESS


Anna Malesiewski, Assistant Editor

Leighann Forbes Ed.D., an associate professor in the School of Education, has been named new associate dean of College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences for faculty and development.

Forbes will begin her new position in the fall.

The new associate dean position is focused on faculty mentoring, evaluation and development. According to Lori Lindley Ph.D., dean of CHESS, the role was developed to fill a need within the college.

“Now there are going to be two associate dean roles that have different functions,” Lindley said. “She and I would discuss what direction we want to go within the college and prioritize. Together, she and I will set goals for what she will accomplish in her role over the next year.”

As the new associate dean for faculty and development, Forbes will work closely with Lindley and other members of CHESS.

“I want us to collaborate as a unit so we are all working together to create the best environment and a supportive climate in CHESS for all faculty and students,” Lindley said.  “Ultimately the goal is to create the best learning environment that we can for students in CHESS.”

New initiatives will be developed through this role that have not been as fully developed in the past, such as opportunities and support for adjunct professors and the greater incorporation of aspects of culture and racial justice.

Forbes earned her Ed.D. in instructional technology from Duquesne University in 2007. Since, she has been employed by Slippery Rock University and now Gannon. She accepted an assistant professor position within the School of Education in 2008, earned tenure and moved up to the associate professor position in 2013. She has served as the program coordinator for the Middle Level and Secondary Education certification programs since her hire at Gannon.

Forbes has over 30 years of experience working in education. She has held both teaching and administrative positions at the PK12 and higher education levels. According to Janice Whiteman, director of Gannon’s education program, Forbes’ experience allows her to have a thorough understanding of the students she teaches and advises.

“She understands what college students bring to the university and what is expected that they should know,” Whiteman said. “She has a great understanding of requirements for students at the higher level as well as in the post baccalaureate programs.”

Within the School of Education, Forbes works with and advises potential teachers in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. According to Jill Merritt, Ph.D., an associate professor in the education program, Forbes is student-oriented and is invested in those she advises and teaches.

“She takes the time to get to know her students well and will go out of her way to help them succeed,” Merritt said. “She has a kind heart and truly cares about the students she teaches and works with.”

Forbes has published works on mentoring models and educator development. Her experience working with both of these will be a key asset in her execution of this new position.

She has reviewed conference proposals and manuscripts for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the International Society for Technology in Education and the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education. In addition, her doctoral dissertation looked at the way that teachers and educators develop.

“I think my background in understanding the development of educators is going to come in handy as I support new and existing faculty in their development,” Forbes said. “I would like to host some events to get our faculty members together to start talking about how they could work together in their scholarship and professional development to really innovate teaching here at the university.”

Her work with mentoring models has prepared her well for the associate dean position. Forbes has looked statewide at the models schools in higher education are using.

She also served on the university’s Rank and Tenure Committee, which evaluates faculty applications for tenure or advancement. This gives her a strong understanding of the types of professional and personal development that would be helpful for the faculty of CHESS to be involved in. According to Whiteman, this is a key strength to possess as the associate dean.

“Anyone who serves on the Rank and Tenure Committee really has to have a thorough understanding of the expectations of faculty, not just in CHESS but throughout the university, and be able to evaluate and lead the committee to make some sometimes very difficult decisions,” Whiteman said.

Research is a major strength for Forbes. She will bring her research and observation skills to the new position and will execute it right from the start.

“I plan to spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of my time in the fall just getting the lay of the land and seeing what the possibilities are moving forward,” Forbes said. “I like to know everything about everything.”

Whiteman said that Forbes is an excellent researcher.

“I believe that she has a depth of knowledge of the curriculum in CHESS, and if she doesn’t know it, she will research it and find out,” Whiteman said.

According to Merritt, Forbes often researches just for the sake of bettering herself.

“When we as a department have talked about things that we need to investigate or add to our curriculum, she has researched many of the topics thoroughly and shared what she has learned,” Merritt said. “She has done this without being asked to, just because she wanted to learn more about how to be a better teacher.”

This skillfulness in research reflects Forbes’ deep love of learning, which is evident in all of her work. She always pursues new knowledge and hopes this will rub off on those around her.

“I think my basic enthusiasm for learning will be somewhat contagious to some individuals,” Forbes said. “I am really hoping my personality, love of learning and ability to provide resources will be helpful and ignite excitement among our faculty members.”

Whiteman has seen this enthusiasm for learning since Forbes was in a graduate class Whiteman was teaching.

“At that point in time I recognized her depth of understanding about curriculum and education,” Whiteman said. “I have seen Dr. Forbes’ love of learning in her advising of future teachers and the commitment she has to her students. I think that shows that she is very engaged in education.”

Technology is also an area of expertise for Forbes. According to Merritt, Forbes is a valuable resource because of her knowledge of technology.

“She also has always tried to stay ahead of technology,” Merritt said. “She is our go-to staff member when it comes to questions related to ways to enhance technology in the classes that we teach.”

When it comes to technology, Forbes’ plans include turning more to automation and less to paper-based items. According to Forbes, this will enable more thorough and convenient data collection and assessment.

“I’d like to take some of those things that exist right now and make them so that they are accessible, easy to use and can generate data to be examined,” she said.

Forbes will use her assessment skills in executing this.

“She has a thorough understanding of not just how to assess, but how to read an assessment and interpret that data and put it into a form that is understandable by the consumer,” Whiteman said.

Forbes plans to focus on helping her colleagues further their content knowledge through the context of individual pedagogy (art and skill in teaching). The combination of pedagogy, content knowledge and fluency in technology will manifest in Forbes’ work within the CHESS program. “That is an expertise I think I bring to the position in how to blend those three types of knowledge into a professional development program,” Forbes said. “I’m really excited that my background lends itself well to supporting our faculty in a variety of ways. I hope my colleagues will find me supportive, I truly want to be of service to them.”

Another one of Forbes’ tasks as new associate dean is to serve as a resource to faculty in CHESS. Whiteman believes that not only because of her knowledge, but also because of her excellent listening skills, she will be a valuable resource.

“She will be able to listen to department chairs and to the faculty with whom she will have to work,” Whiteman said. “Individuals, faculty and staff in CHESS have gotten to know her and they value her opinion. It’s always good to begin a new position with individuals who have a positive regard.”

Lindley agreed that listening is a strength of Forbes’.

“She listens to everyone’s point of view and wants to make sure she’s really representing the perspectives of all the different faculty,” Lindley said.

Forbes is invested in promoting social justice and equity within institutions and the classrooms within them. This is a hot topic among educators right now, but Forbes has been following this thread her entire career. According to Lindley, Forbes has already been involved in this in her work within CHESS thus far.

“Dr. Forbes has been really active in the CHESS Racial Justice Task Force, and has been working to bring some experts to offer workshops to faculty and staff on the culturally responsive education framework,” Lindley said.

According to Whiteman, equity has been a research interest of Forbes’ for a long time. She also has experience teaching in schools with diverse populations.

“She believes that all children can learn, and she believes in Free and Appropriate Public Education (F.A.P.E.),” Whiteman said. “She is looking to make sure that all individuals are treated with respect and have the ability to receive the same high quality education.”

Forbes is interested in bringing speakers in to help faculty think about their personal views and learn about implicit bias in presenting and utilizing materials and resources.

“My contacts, my past research, and my experience working in urban settings with at-risk youth certainly lends itself to helping others find ways to increase engagement and inclusivity in CHESS,” Forbes said.

The many leadership qualities Forbes possesses, make her perfectly suited for this position, according to Lindley. Some of these qualities include a strong work ethic, collaboration skills and results-oriented personality.

“We might talk through an idea, come up with some possible courses of action to achieve those goals, and she will go out and get it done,” Lindley said. “She has collaborated with other faculty on the task force and they’ve really gotten a lot done through that collaboration.”

Merritt agrees that Forbes is a natural leader, and brings her leadership qualities to her work and collaboration.

“It has been my experience that Dr. Forbes is always willing to take on a leadership role when working with faculty,” Merritt said. “When we discuss a job that needs to be taken on, she takes the initiative to contribute in ways that she can.  She doesn’t need to be asked, she has just stepped up to help out.”

Above all, Forbes was surprised and humbled to receive this position. She is looking forward to serving, and is excited to see the potential that exists through collaboration.

“This is a new adventure for me,” Forbes said. “I see this as an opportunity to start something that is new and different, and spread my wings. I am super excited about the possibilities that exist when you connect with others and work towards a common goal.”


[email protected]