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Phoenix Forward magazine

Dean Curley takes education personally

Dean Meredith Curley

Finding a career for life is uncommon these days. More elusive are the people who’ve worked for the same organization for most of their careers. Meredith Curley is one such rarity.

“It’s true: I’m a homegrown ‘Phoenix,’” Curley quips. The dean of the University of Phoenix College of Education for the past three years has worked at the University since 1994.

“My entire career has been focused on impacting educators’ lives, whatever my role,” Curley says. She began as a student, earning her post-baccalaureate in secondary education. But after a year of teaching, she returned to the University as an academic advisor.

Eventually, she became director of education operations at the Phoenix Main Campus, then for the entire college. In 2002, she joined the dean’s office, subsequently moving up to assistant dean, associate dean and finally into her current post.

“I am so fortunate to work with a group of people who take education very personally,” Curley says, noting that her team is as committed as she is to helping educators succeed.

My entire career has been focused on impacting educators’ lives,
whatever my role.

This passion — along with the challenge of leading a college that must ensure its array of degree programs meet requirements of individual states — motivates her daily.

One of Curley’s earliest projects, she recalls, was to help the University’s education programs earn program approval in California. Today, more than a dozen states have issued approvals.

“I enjoy having the opportunity to tell our story and show how we can help people become better educators,” Curley says. “Our practitioner faculty are seen as a tremendous benefit by our students and state regulators because they are immersed in the challenges and opportunities in today’s classrooms.” 

It probably doesn’t hurt that she’s a self-described “research and policy geek,” too. Curley holds MBA and Doctor of Education degrees and is active at the state and national level, addressing issues surrounding educator preparation.   

Education is never far from Curley’s mind as the mother of two teenage sons. “The other day, I watched my eighth-grader [video chat] with classmates for a school project,” she says. That moment became motivation for her next challenge: developing more technology-centric resources in the College of Education.

Curley’s boys and husband know her “teacher perspective” well. Whether she’s organizing an “Amazing Race”-themed party for her sons or making sure family vacations include visits to museums, historical sites and local eateries, Curley knows that everything kids — and adults — do can become a learning opportunity.

A recent vacation to rural Michigan, for instance, showed the family they could live “off the grid” without electronics for a few days. A trip to high-tech Tokyo was the polar opposite.

“It’s important to know that there’s more going on beyond our own lives,” she says.

For someone with such a stable employment record, that might sound out of character. But Curley’s singular career path has always been far from routine.

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