By Megan Shearin

Old Dominion University's Office of Academic Affairs announced that Jane S. Bray, dean of the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, will retire at the end of May after seven years of leading ODU's nationally recognized education school.

Bray took the helm in July 2013 with an expectation to serve as interim dean for six months. She quickly emerged as a collaborative leader and was the successful candidate following a nationwide search.

During her tenure, Bray led the college through many successful initiatives, including moving faculty, staff, students and programs into a new, state-of-the-art Education Building and leading the efforts to rename the College to better reflect the many well-established and new academic programs, including:

  • Master's degrees in park, recreation and tourism studies, and library and information studies.
  • A doctoral degree in educational psychology.
  • A stand-alone undergraduate sport management degree.
  • Six graduate certificates to meet the needs of students interested in furthering their education.

To address statewide teacher shortages, four new undergraduate degree programs in early childhood education, elementary education, special education and career and technical education with concentrations in technology education and marketing education became a part of the college in 2019.

She also established and expanded the Teacher in Residence (TIR) program, which prepares teachers of color to serve in critical shortage areas in the local community and includes partnerships with Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach public schools. Bray also introduced the Mursion and Virtual Reality labs - technologies that provide rich simulations that deepen the preparation of students.

She oversaw the completion of the Children's Learning and Research Center (CLRC), which opened in August 2018. The CLRC is a first-class teacher training and research facility that provides child care and preschool to children ranging in age from 8 weeks to 5 years old. In 2016, she also established the Career and Advising Resource Center to help ensure undergraduate and graduate student success.

Recently, Bray received the 2019 Edward C. Pomeroy Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teacher Education. This prestigious national award is presented by The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the national organization on educator preparation. Bray joined the AACTE board of directors in 2013 - the same year she arrived at ODU - and became chair of the AACTE board in March 2016.

The Darden College of Education and Professional Studies is nationally recognized for excellence in many areas, including the online education master's program being ranked among the top 100 online programs in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's2020 Best Online Programs. In 2018, the college was named a top minority degree producer by Diverse Issues in Higher Education and ranked No. 1 in the nation for producing African Americans bachelor's graduates in human services.

The counseling program won both the best master's program and the best doctoral program in counseling in the country honors from the Association of Counselor Education and Supervision.

During Bray's tenure, two undergraduate programs - industrial technology and human services - achieved national accreditation for the first time, and multiple other academic disciplines were successful with reaccreditation of programs. During the 2019-2020 academic year, Bray led the college through its Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation accreditation. The institutional accreditation is a state requirement for teacher education programs at ODU and is also an indicator of quality, ensuring the university's teacher educator programs meet national standards.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Agho said the Darden College's achievements are a testament to Bray's advocacy, leadership and service.

"Dean Bray's accomplishments were many and she is admired for her incredible work and her commitment to excellence. Her legacy will be the continued success of the college as faculty, staff and students move forward with their exemplary work," Agho said. "We will miss Dean Bray and wish her the best as she and her husband enjoy retirement together."

Bray's work at ODU expanded beyond new programs and buildings, rankings and accreditations. Under her leadership, the Darden College gained strength in diversity efforts and the professional development of faculty.

Narketta Sparkman-Key, director of faculty diversity and retention for academic affairs and associate professor of human services, said she would miss Bray's leadership and the way she inspired the faculty.

"Dean Bray promotes an environment where women have the chance to thrive, and she has provided opportunities for women to seek leadership training if they are interested now or potentially in the future," Sparkman-Key said. "She has provided me with mentorship and advice that has helped me navigate my journey into leadership. She is empathetic and uses her experiences as a guide for other women to follow."

As part of the university's commitment to equity and inclusion, Bray made it a priority for the College to bring in top scholars, including Jill Bolte Taylor and Pedro Noguera, to provide free public lectures and expand the conversation on campus. Furthermore, she initiated the diversity faculty hire program in the college and sought to provide an equitable environment through the college-wide read of "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism."

"It has truly been an honor to serve as dean," Bray said. "The success and accomplishments of the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies during this time is because of the outstanding work and dedication from our faculty, staff, administrators and students. I am grateful to the many people throughout the University, state and nation for their support over the past seven years. As I enter into retirement, I will continue to cherish the valued professional and personal friendships that I have made while at ODU."

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