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Dean Underwood to step aside from post in August and return to faculty

November 14, 2014

After nearly a decade leading UW-Madison’s School of Education, Dean Julie Underwood announced today that she is stepping aside from her post in August 2015 to return to the faculty.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as dean of the School of Education for 10 years,” says Underwood. “I intend to remain active in UW life and continue working as a member of the faculty.”

“During my time as dean I have been truly fortunate to work with so many people who are dedicated to improving lives and making the world a better place,” she adds.

Julie Underwood
Julie Underwood
Underwood has been dean since August 2005, with a short break in those duties from January to July 2009, when she served as UW-Madison’s interim provost. During this period she led the university’s reaccreditation and strategic planning efforts, and spearheaded the adoption of the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates.

“Julie has been a thoughtful and passionate force advocating for both the School of Education along with public education in Wisconsin and across the country,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “As one of our longest-serving deans, I thank her for her dedicated service to the university.”

While directing the School of Education, Underwood oversaw a school that was able to build upon its research prowess and highly regarded national standing, while at the same time finding new ways to better connect with, and address the needs of, Wisconsin’s public schools. She also led the $34 million expansion and renovation of the Education Building on Bascom Hill, completed in 2010.

The most recent U.S. News and World Report graduate school rankings place UW-Madison’s School of Education No. 1 among all public schools of education, and fifth overall. Similarly, eight of the school’s graduate-level programs are ranked in the top three nationally.

The Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), which is housed within the School of Education and is one of the nation’s largest and oldest education research centers, saw its annual expenditures over the past decade grow from $25 million to more than $60 million, with WCER’s workforce jumping from about 300 to 500 people.

Underwood helped conceptualize and establish the Wisconsin Center for Educational Products and Services (WCEPS). Launched by friends of UW-Madison in 2011, WCEPS helps license and market innovative products in the field of education created by faculty, staff and students. 

Underwood also has spearheaded efforts to make sure the campus community is more intentionally committed to helping Madison and surrounding communities address issues related to racial inequity. Earlier this year, the school forged a new $1.5 million partnership (Forward Madison) with the Madison Metropolitan School District designed to build on the school’s longstanding relationship with MMSD to help close opportunity and achievement gaps and improve student learning for all.

Underwood, a nationally recognized authority on school law and a staunch proponent of public education, first arrived at UW-Madison in 1986 and worked until 1995 as a faculty member with the Department of Educational Administration, which today is the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. During this period, she served as department chair (1993-94), associate dean of the School of Education (1994-95) and co-director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Policy at the Robert M. La Follette Institute (now School) of Public Affairs (1990-93).

From 1995 to 1998, she served as dean of Miami University’s School of Education and Allied Professions. From 1998 to 2005 she served as associate executive director and general counsel for the National School Boards Association in Washington, D.C., providing advocacy for the nation’s public schools in the U.S. Supreme Court and federal circuit courts of appeals.

Underwood says the time is right for her to return to the faculty as her contract comes to a close. The school recently completed a broad strategic planning exercise and now is starting to identify goals as it prepares to embark on the upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign. She plans to return to a faculty position on campus in August 2015 to further her work related to education law.

“Julie has been a terrific dean for the School of Education over the past decade,” says UW alum David Marsh, a former associate dean at the University of Southern California who chairs the School of Education’s Board of Visitors. “Her combination of strategic vision and enthusiasm has helped the school immensely. She has been a champion for collaboration, fairness and inclusion, while also keeping the school as the top-ranked public school of education in the country.”

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