Under the guiding influence of President Amy C. Novak, EdD, St. Ambrose University has embarked on an unprecedented future where innovation and fresh curricular approaches mesh with the long-standing core values of the Catholic Institution.
With the realization that education has changed post-pandemic, St. Ambrose has led strategic initiatives to help emphasize the new generation of learners. Along with the University laying groundwork for the Higgins Center of Innovation and Human Centered Design, there have been in-depth discussions surrounding the development of customized approaches to future teaching practices to help best prepare St. Ambrose students for the workforce that lies ahead.
As vital personnel hires ensue, it was imperative to create the new Dean of Innovation, Adult and Graduate Studies role, to which Katherine J. Van Blair, PhD, Director and Professor for the St. Ambrose School of Social Work and Master of Social Work program, was deemed a natural fit.
"Katie Van Blair's insights into the changing nature of higher education will suit her well as she steps into the role of Dean of Innovation, Adult and Graduate Studies," said Novak. "Her experience with adult learners and her willingness to build community relationships will enable St. Ambrose to be more agile and nimble as it responds to the complexities of today's knowledge economy."
Van Blair's time at St. Ambrose dates back to when she was an undergraduate student double-majoring in Psychology and Sociology. She went on to earn a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa, and a PhD in Child Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue, West Lafayette, Indiana.
Dr. Katie Van Blair
"My education in social work leads me to see innovation as both a process and a product. The process creates an environment and a culture where people feel comfortable taking risks to try something new and getting people excited about the idea of pushing themselves."
Van Blair joined the faculty at St. Ambrose in 2001. She has served a multifaceted teaching and administrative career, holding faculty member and Director positions for the St. Ambrose School of Social Work and Master of Social Work program.
"Dr. Katie Van Blair has a long history with St. Ambrose. She has been a needed, consistent and strong advocate for graduate students and programs based on her evident and empowering leadership skills. I am looking forward to her bringing these skills to bear as the Dean of Innovation, Adult and Graduate Studies," said Paul C. Koch, PhD, Provost & Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.
When asked what her vision and definition of innovation at St. Ambrose means, Van Blair said, "My education in social work leads me to see innovation as both a process and a product. The process creates an environment and a culture where people feel comfortable taking risks to try something new and getting people excited about the idea of pushing themselves.
"Over time, those processes will build a product that serves our students and community. It may be a process that supports staff in increasing continuing education opportunities, a new program that adults in the community can access to further their career, or a joint faculty/student initiative on a cutting-edge topic in their discipline."
Van Blair visualizes this new department to be the one that says, "Cool idea! Let's figure out how we can make that happen together!"