Last semester was the culmination of three years of preparation for Bill Henk, dean of the College of Education. Judgment day was fast approaching. The college had to undergo a rigorous accreditation process, one from a national entity and one from the state.
“The accreditation process can make you a bit nervous at times,” Henk said. “Their approval is essential, since a lot of what we do has to be authorized by the state.”
Preparing for the process was made all the more difficult when, two years ago, Henk’s point person for accreditation left to become the superintendent of a school system. This left a newly appointed Henk in charge of a relatively understaffed college, and without a key team member with experience dealing with accreditation.
The accreditation process involved submitting required reports for every area of certification. There were 28 to do for the college, Henk said.
“You gear up for it more heavily during the year before,” Henk said. “Then six months out it gets really intense. It’s really a team effort, so you’ve got to come prepared. But it’s always in the back of your mind: where are the holes at?”
For Henk and the College of Education, it seems the only “holes” in the college were those punched in the “pass” column for their accreditation test.
“We got glowing marks, especially from the state,” Henk said.
Ashley Fahey, a 2010 alumna from the College of Education, said Henk’s leadership and accessibility is key.
“Dean Henk encouraged the faculty, staff and students of the college to be a true community,” Fahey said. “Even though Dean Henk didn’t teach a class, students were comfortable going into his office and chatting about educational policies or asking questions.”
After getting “uniformly positive reviews” from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and earning a hard-fought accreditation, Henk doesn’t exactly have time to sit back and enjoy the victory.
One of Henk’s main points to improve upon is the college’s presence in the Milwaukee Public Schools system.
“One challenge we have is that we’re relatively small, while MPS is huge,” Henk said. “We’re actively involved with MPS in a number of different programs. But what we want to do is become even more impactful, and bring expertise to their needs.”
Students probably think of the college as producing future teachers, but that’s only the half of it. Henk is also keenly focused on the other aspects of the college — counseling education and counseling psychology.
“We want to put our programs on the national stage,” Henk said. “We already have a distinguished and respected faculty, and we’re already perceived as being in the ‘pretty good’ class. We’re committed to raising our profile.”
And while he’s full of ideas, Henk is still grounded in the reality that, to keep building, you need the resources.
“I have to continue to be out there,” Henk said. “When you’re a private institution, while you have certain advantages, you’ve also got to work to build external support.”
Henk also writes for “The Marquette Educator,” a blog run by the College of Education that features former and current students, as well as the dean himself.
“I can pick a topic and just write about what it can mean for education,” Henk said. “It’s somewhat liberating, and all of the other bloggers are wonderful as well. It allows us to be present in the education community.”
Fahey, who is in her first year as a teacher in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is also one of the featured bloggers.
“Henk keeps in contact with students through monthly e-mails filled with personal anecdotes, and the blog was a great extension of that,” Fahey said. “As an alumna who writes a bi-weekly post (on the Marquette Educator), he took the time to encourage my writing, which was incredibly fulfilling.”