Longtime associate dean Ralph Fessler has been appointed dean of the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, the school with the largest enrollment in the university.
Fessler, a member of the school's faculty since 1983, has served as interim dean since September. After a national search, President William R. Brody recommended Fessler to the executive committee of the university's board of trustees, which approved the appointment Friday. Fessler will take office May 1, succeeding Stanley Gabor, who retired last summer after 17 years as dean.
"It's always gratifying when someone who is already a valued member of the Hopkins family emerges in so strong a position from a national search," Brody said. "Ralph has a keen appreciation not only of the distinctive needs of each of the school's divisions but also of the many ways in which they complement each other. And in his role as interim dean, his wisdom and patience have already won him the admiration of his colleagues across the university."
Fessler is a nationally known expert on teacher education and a leader in teacher education reform in Maryland and nationwide. He joined Johns Hopkins in 1983 as professor of education and director of what is now the Graduate Division of Education. Since 1985, he also has been assistant and then associate dean of academic affairs at SPSBE, which was known until last year as the School of Continuing Studies.
The school is the university's largest in enrollment, with nearly 5,000 students in degree programs and credit courses and another 3,000 in noncredit courses. The school focuses on graduate business education --including an MBA program--for working professionals and on graduate programs for teachers, special education teachers, counselors and school administrators. It also offers selected undergraduate programs, primarily in business, for part-time students. Noncredit personal enrichment courses offered by the school through the Odyssey and Evergreen programs cover the arts, humanities, sciences, language instruction and other areas.
"I am honored to assume the position of dean during this exciting period of our school's history," Fessler said. "I look forward to working with our faculty, staff, students, alumni and the broader Hopkins community to build upon our many successful partnerships that address emerging needs in our business and educational communities. As we move into our school's 10th decade, our focus will be on developing quality academic programs to foster and expand these partnerships."
Fessler said his first priority will be to fill two other key leadership positions in the school, the head of the business division and his own replacement as head of the education division. Long-term objectives include reinforcing SPSBE's relationships with other schools of the university, he said.
"I want to continue to work closely with other members of the Hopkins community to link both the business and education programs with the rest of the university in fruitful ways," Fessler said. Citing the Business of Medicine and Business of Nursing programs that Gabor established in collaboration with the schools of Medicine and Nursing, Fessler said conversations are under way with other Johns Hopkins divisions on possible cooperation on academic programs.
"And while we continue to develop the school's business and education graduate degree programs in the Washington-Baltimore region, we also want to take a look at the potential synergy between the business and education divisions," Fessler said. Among the possibilities, he said, are a school leadership track within the Johns Hopkins MBA program and involvement of SPSBE's Allan L. Berman Real Estate Institute in a program to train leaders in school design and construction.
Fessler is a 1964 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he also earned a master's degree and, in 1968, a doctorate in educational administration and supervision. He is a former public school classroom teacher. For 15 years before coming to Johns Hopkins, he was a faculty member and administrator at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls.
As a Hopkins faculty member, he has specialized in teacher development and alternative approaches to teacher education and development of school leadership. He led the 199394 redesign of teacher education in Maryland and remains involved in its implementation. He also has been involved with professional and leadership development programs in school systems throughout the Baltimore area.
Fessler was instrumental in the creation of the new Center for Reading Excellence, a partnership among the Graduate Division of Education, the Hopkins-affiliated Kennedy-Krieger Institute and the Maryland State Department of Education. The CRE will help teachers apply the latest developments in brain research and technology to teaching reading in the classroom.
Fessler and his wife, Marjorie, live in Ellicott City, Md. They have two children.