Alert Alumna Instigates New Educational Opportunities

December 16, 2015

When Kim Dobbs, CECH ’78, retired in 2013 after a 30-year teaching career, her love for UC and devotion to her profession coalesced into a new idea that has begun to benefit future students. Her story illustrates the resounding rewards that can spread from one person’s involvement with her alma mater.

As a member of Dean Larry Johnson’s advisory council for the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, Kim has been plugged into her college as an alumna. After her husband, Bob (Bus ’76, ’88), became a UC Foundation trustee, Kim took a spouses tour of the colleges of Nursing and Engineering & Applied Science to see how UC was approaching this new era of interdisciplinary education. Given her teaching background, that experience made her connect some important dots.

“I knew there was a lot happening here with the STEMM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine] disciplines,” Kim recalls, “and I thought it would be great to demonstrate that to area school district superintendents. If they could see how UC prepares college students for success, their districts might help high school students become more ready to make that transition.”

Fortunately, Kim didn’t have to look far to vet her idea; her brother, Steve (CECH ’76), is the superintendent of Madeira City Schools in suburban Cincinnati. Energized, they worked with their college to organize efforts to bring Steve’s peers to campus for that first-hand look and to collaboratively explore ways to help their students bridge the gap from high school to college.

During their first campus visit, about 20 superintendents — many of whom are UC alumni themselves, engaged with the university to varying degrees — heard about CECH e-learning initiatives, how future teachers are being trained, and how graduates from UC’s education program will enter their districts better prepared for their teaching careers. Two months later, the group took a similar tour to the one Kim had taken earlier, seeing the College of Nursing and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and meeting with UC’s distance-learning faculty.

Their most recent touchpoint was a meeting with the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, which funds pre-K through 12th grade educational initiatives that foster excellent teaching and deep learning in Ohio’s secular schools. A deeper dive into UC’s innovative methods and, ultimately, a $50,000 foundation grant followed. Dean Johnson then put up matching funds for up to 10 additional grants for work undertaken by CECH faculty.

More meetings among the superintendents and UC leaders are in the works, and the residual benefits will track back to one visionary alumna.

“Kim was a catalyst for the whole initiative,” says Marihelen Millar, assistant dean of CECH. “We were so fortunate to have a brother-and-sister tandem with the dedication and reputations to get this off the ground. It really is a model for what committed and engaged alumni, collaborating with the colleges, can accomplish.”



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