KEARNEY – Mark Reid was halfway across the country – in Frostburg, Maryland – when his cellphone rang.
Less than an hour later, there was a new front-runner in his job search.
An associate professor of secondary education and associate dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Texas A&M University-Commerce at the time, Reid was looking for a dean position at a regional, public institution with a strong reputation for teacher education.
He thought he was headed to Frostburg State University.
A 40-minute conversation with an employee from the search firm representing the University of Nebraska at Kearney changed that.
“What she described was very appealing to me,” Reid said. “She talked about a College of Education where the teacher education program is highly lauded within the state.”
That was enough to get the 56-year-old to Kearney, even though he had just learned how to properly pronounce the city’s name. The rest of the pieces fell into place when the longtime Texan visited the UNK campus.
“When I came for the interview, everybody talked about the quality people in the College of Education,” he said. “That was very apparent to me.”
Reid was also impressed by the close-knit community – “where people care about people” – as well as the campus facilities.
“This is the nicest College of Education building I’ve ever walked into, and I’ve walked into quite a few,” he said. “Everything I could see was a real plus.”
UNK “checked all the boxes” for Reid, who was hired in March as the next College of Education dean and officially joined the university at the beginning of July.
For Reid, who graduated from high school in Brookings, South Dakota, returning to the Midwest is a homecoming of sorts.
He’s also happy to be at a university with roots as a normal school that specialized in teacher preparation and training. That history becomes part of an institution’s DNA, he said, and teacher education remains an integral part of UNK’s mission.
“To me, education is the most important enterprise we engage in as a country because it’s preparing those future generations,” Reid said. “If we don’t do that well, we are literally risking the future.”
Reid, who comes from a family of educators, is a “big supporter” of public education and what it adds to society. He spent nearly a decade teaching at high schools in Texas and served as coordinator of a one-year graduate program that allowed students to gain their teaching certification and a master’s degree during a four-year stint at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma.
In 2006, Reid joined the faculty at Texas A&M-Commerce, where he served as associate dean of the College of Education and Human Services for five years. He oversaw eight different departments – curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, higher education and learning technology, health and human performance, counseling, psychology and special education, social work and nursing – within that college.
UNK’s College of Education is equally diverse. In addition to teacher education, the college includes communication disorders, counseling and school psychology, educational administration and kinesiology and sport sciences.
“The synergy that comes from having those other disciplines was important to me,” Reid said. “All of these areas work to support the schoolchildren of Nebraska and the country.”
One of his goals as dean is to promote collaboration within the College of Education and encourage faculty from different departments to work together on instructional activities and research.
“This is a strong college with strong individuals doing amazing things,” he said. “I can go through every department and point to programs that are excelling at what they do.”
However, Reid noted, there’s always room for improvement.
“We have to constantly be looking at different ways to reach students and pique their interests,” he said.
Reid plans to launch weekly sessions with a TED Talk format where people from various departments can connect, brainstorm and think creatively. He’s also meeting with every full-time faculty and staff member to discuss challenges, opportunities and ways to improve the college.
“I think that’s important, because everybody has their own perspective,” he said.