OGDEN — As an undergraduate at Utah State, Kristin Hadley studied early childhood and planned to have a nice preschool in her basement after graduation, while she had a family.
“When I was an undergraduate, I never thought ‘I’m going to go out and spend 20 years in public schools’ — I did not think that would be my life trajectory,” Hadley said.
Not only has Hadley spent 21 years teaching in public schools, from elementary through junior high (she’s licensed at all levels, including in administration), she also has taught for 14 years in Weber State’s department of teacher education.
“You just never know the trajectory your life is going to take,” Hadley said.
After a national search, the Weber State Board of Trustees approved Hadley’s selection as the new dean of the Moyes College of Education Feb. 14. She officially starts in the role July 1.
Hadley’s unexpected path started out of necessity.
She finished her bachelor’s degree before her husband was done with school, and she needed to work. She discovered that elementary teaching jobs paid significantly more than jobs in daycare and early childhood.
“I started in public schools and found out ‘this is something I really enjoy, and I feel like I’m good at and I can make a difference,’” Hadley said.
Hadley started teaching elementary, then moved to junior high to teach math for 10 years, and returned to elementary again.
Well into her teaching career, Hadley was meeting with a group of young women — juniors and seniors in high school — and the group was talking about setting goals for their lives.
“We were talking about setting audacious goals for your life — big, meaty goals,” Hadley said. “And I said ‘I would really like to get my PhD.’ It was really probably the first time I voiced it. From that time, I started looking at programs.”
She settled on the curriculum and instruction program at Utah State, where she specialized in instructional leadership and math education.
Hadley took on her PhD one course at a time while continuing to teach full time. In the summers, she took 2–3 courses.
While getting her PhD, she also had five to six children at home.
“I had a good husband who did the laundry,” Hadley said.
Toward the end of her PhD program, she was an administrative intern (the final step in training to become an assistant principal or a principal).
As she wrapped up the requirements for her degree, she was nearing the point where she needed to decide if she would put her name in the “principal pool” to be considered for an administrative position in K–12 public schools.
At about the same time, a position at Weber State opened for a general teacher educator, who would teach a variety of different courses.
“And I thought, this would fit me perfectly,” Hadley said. “I’ve got all these different experiences, and I’m kind of the definition of a generalist.
“I really had decided that I wasn’t passionate about being a principal,” Hadley continued, “but I was really passionate about trying to help people be a better teacher.”
Becoming the dean of the Moyes College of Education is yet another twist in Hadley’s path.
When the current dean of the college, Jack Rasmussen, suggested that she think about moving into the role down the road, she said she made a face she described as a “dramatic grimace.”
“Oh, why would I ever would I ever want to do that?” she remembers saying.
Hadley thought long and hard about whether she could be passionate about the role and leading the organization. It took her about a year of soul searching to decide that she’d want to pursue the position when it became available.
“I could make a difference,” Hadley said. “I could also be a leader that other emerging leaders could look to and say ‘I don’t always have to have this really clear path,’ but different paths can get you to the same end result.”
She says she wouldn’t have thought about pursuing the position had the current dean not nudged her in that direction.
“I think that’s kind of an important thing for leaders to be looking and giving those ‘taps on the shoulder’ to people who you feel like could use that push to move into leadership roles,” Hadley said.
As far as the direction she wants to take the college, she knows that she wants the college to develop a mission statement that is supported by a strategic plan.
“I want (the mission statement) to be the core of what we do,” Hadley said.
But she doesn’t know exactly what that will look like yet. She wants the collaboration across the college to drive the process — and developing a collaborative culture is something she considers one of her strengths.
College-wide strategic planning will begin in the fall, and departments will move into their planning in the spring, so that department plans mesh with those at the college level.
In addition to continuing to build a collaborative culture across the college, one of Hadley’s top priorities is “making sure that all of the college’s programs are relevant for today’s learners and today’s jobs,” she said.
Specifically, she wants the college to become more flexible — through online, hybrid, or non-place-specific coursework or through exploring other means of reaching students.
“Not everyone can come and sit in the classroom at the time that we offer the courses,” Hadley said.
She also wants to continue to build the college’s strong network of community partnerships with school districts and other community organizations.
In addition, Hadley wants to focus on students who are having difficulty accessing or finishing college, especially those in the communities surrounding Weber State.
“We have a lot of diversity in the county and in the city of Ogden, and our student population needs to reflect that more,” Hadley said. “In order to do that, we need to have mentors and faculty members who are more diverse.”