New dean’s goal is to make education available for all

Feb. 23, 2015

April Wefler
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Valerie Martin Conley, the new dean of the College of Education, is committed to diversity.

Colorado’s diversity is one of the things that attracted her to apply for the position, as well as UCCS’ plans to become a recognized research institution. Conley will begin her role on July 1.

“I’ll be looking for identifying the areas of strengths and focusing attention on advocacy, faculty, staff … as well as building and nurturing existing partnerships and advocating for the college and the southern part of the state of Colorado,” she said.

Embracing diversity is one of the core values for Ohio University’s Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education, where Conley is currently employed.

“There are some things I think are similar that I can bring some experience to the table to enhance our ability to serve,” she said.

Her dream is to make educational opportunities available for everyone no matter what the circumstances.

“My mother was a schoolteacher, and so I grew up really exposed to education and the importance of education in transforming people’s lives,” Conley said.

“I have been really committed to enhancing opportunities for access of individuals from different groups, particularly those with different economic status.”

Conley attended the University of Virginia with the help of financial aid.

“I don’t think I would have had that opportunity if it hadn’t been for the financial aid programs. I think it was that opportunity that opened doors for me, so I think about that often – opening doors for as many people as I can.”

Her first professional position was as a government contractor and consultant for the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics. As part of her position, Conley had the opportunity to become acquainted with people from various college institutions.

“I think after awhile I decided I would really enjoy working on a college campus,” she said.

She returned to school for her Ph.D. and got a job at Virginia Tech.

“I realized I was very interested and committed to working with students, particularly for helping students realize their passion for research,” Conley said.

She has been with Ohio University since 2002, originally as a tenure-track assistant professor. She was then promoted to associate professor with tenure and now serves as chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education.

She has been involved in the strategic planning efforts at the university and was also on the faculty senate.

“It’s been a long journey, but one I think I was always meant to travel,” she said.

In addition to her teaching, Conley is a member of the local women’s soccer league and of her local dance academy. She is looking forward to becoming involved in the Colorado Springs community.

“The arts are something that is very important to me and I think it’s important for us to support the arts,” she said.

Conley said Colorado seemed like the perfect fit for her, her husband and their Jack Russell terrier, Lucy.

“I am happiest of all when I’m on a trail with my husband and my dog. We love to hike and we really do love dogs, so that’s another thing that attracted me when I learned that Colorado Springs is really a dog-friendly place.”

“It’s a new adventure and one that my husband and I are really looking forward to.”