From an early age, Deborah Hill vowed she wouldn’t become a teacher. But after studying music and psychology, she realized that a teacher is exactly what she wanted to be. Now as the official new dean of Southern Utah University’s Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education and Human Development (COEHD), she’s looking to inspire the more than 1,200 majors residing within the college.
After finishing her bachelor’s degree in education at University of Colorado, she stayed on its campus and received her master’s degree in special education. For the next 18 years she spent her time in public schools in eastern U.S., eventually founding a charter school in North Carolina.
After progressing from teacher to administrator and then adjunct professor, Hill went back to obtain her doctorate degree in 2000 at University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It was this same year she decided that she wanted to return to the western states and received an assistant professor position at SUU.
A decade later, advancing from professor to president of the faculty senate, Hill assumed the role as interim dean of the COEHD in January 2011, in what she says began as a service to the University.
“I never thought I would assume a more permanent role as the college’s dean, but after being in this position and seeing the influence and effect one can have, I became addicted and I knew I wanted to stay,” she explained.
Expounding on the reasoning behind selecting Hill as the new dean, Provost Bradley Cook said, “The level of energy and enthusiasm Deb exhibits about her college is infectious. She has a coherent vision for technology and has a record of leading and innovating.”
It is this energy and enthusiasm that has helped Hill implement many new developments within the college since beginning as interim dean, including the founding of the STEAM (Science, Technology, English, Arts & Math) school at North Elementary School. She has also been instrumental in the addition of more technology in classrooms to better prepare students for careers after graduation.
Hill further explained, “Technology is becoming a more integral part of one’s profession and we don’t want to be left behind. I hope to create more technology labs for education and human development students.”
With a college that deals with everything from whiteboards to national parks to athletes, Hill hopes to continue to enhance the partnerships with nearby national and state parks, prove the necessity of graduates with a teaching degree, and secure funding for an exercise science lab.
Hill’s outlook on the coming years is optimistic. She expounds, “There will be budget issues and problems with financial resources, but that doesn’t mean we will be short-changing our students. I have seen how our faculty work and they’re constantly coming up with innovative and creative ways for funds.”
In respect to the students within the college, Hill proclaimed, “Every time I turn around I hear of the amazing things our students are doing, past and present. Receiving research funds, accepting national accolades and participating in excellent internships, I couldn’t be more proud of their amazing work.”
Since beginning at SUU, Hill has also stepped out of the classroom and is the University’s Faculty Athletic Representative for the NCAA. In this role, she is the main liaison between student and athlete. Ensuring all student-athletes at SUU are meeting NCAA academic requirements.
Ken Beazer, director of inter-collegiate athletics, said of Hill in this position, “Deb has a great interest to see the students succeed. She looks past the jersey and shooting statistics and sees the potential an athlete can have in the classroom.”
On top of being the faculty athletic representative, Hill also has a passion for photography. Photographing many of the SUU athletic games, Hill places all photos on a website where pictures can be purchased and all proceeds go towards a scholarship.
Whether Hill is in the classroom or on the court, her proven track record is what made her a competitive applicant. Provost Cook went on to say, “Deb is the right person at the right time for COEHD. She is a brilliant educator who cares deeply about students and faculty. Merging that passion with her administrative acumen makes a powerful combination.”
With her commitment and determination, one thing is certain: the Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education and Human Development isn’t slowing down.