John Jacobson

Where were you before you joined Ball State?
I started my career as a middle school teacher. Then I was a principal for 10 years. After that, I was an assistant professor at the University of Texas-Arlington and worked my way up to associate dean. From there, I went to Kansas City and served for two and half years as associate dean of the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I was recruited back to Texas, where I was dean for six years at Stephen F. Austin State University.

What strengths do you bring to your new position of dean?
I love building programs and working with curricula. At each institution I’ve worked, I’ve done a great deal of building and connecting, changing face-to-face instruction to online, developing schools, and working with accreditation. At my previous institution, I did a great deal to promote scholarly work done by faculty.

As part of this, I secured large grants two years in a row to support faculty research by forming a faculty research academy. For one of those years, 14 out of 16 proposed grants were successful and received funding. I think there’s great potential in Teachers College to write and receive grants that will help us rethink and redefine education.

I think the idea of distance education is very appealing, and I have experience putting together online programs. I enjoy working with community colleges to build relationships so we can provide a seamless transition from a two-year institution to a four-year institution.

I’d like to continue to support research in my new role as dean of Teachers College. Right now, the associate dean and I are having brown bag lunches with faculty to get to know them and their research interests. In the future, we will pull together everyone’s voice and articulate what we want to aspire to be as a college. We will form our mission, goals, and core values to get us directed for the future.

What do you identify as particular strengths of Ball State and Teachers College?
Ball State Teachers College has a wonderful reputation nationally. It’s recognized in the state as the leader for teacher education. My former institution was known as one of the best in the state, but it wasn’t known nationally. Also, there are nine doctoral programs in this college as well as various international programs and sites.

Students in Teachers College practice the skills they learn in the classroom by working with children at local schools and community centers.

Immersive learning at Ball State is very exciting to me because interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students create a rich experience that will help our community as well as provide a wonderful experience for students. I like the forward thinking at Ball State—that we’re always looking to be on the cutting edge and do the very best we can. This always puts us out in front.

What resources do you plan to draw on as you move forward with your goals?
We believe in social justice in our college, and that means that all students in our country have equal opportunity. That is, in our schools, no matter what school a student is in, he or she will receive a high-quality education.



We are intent on producing the best teachers who possess the skills they need, and when I say the skills they need, I mean the best pedagogy, the best materials, the best school leaders and counselors to support the school in providing the best learning opportunities. Collaborations involving grant opportunities and foundations can impact our quest to improve education. One area of involvement is to combine our resources with other colleges or community colleges. We can also partner with private companies, such as those who develop textual materials for schools. There are lots of ways we can partner and collaborate on projects.

With that said, I think the way our university is supporting faculty in writing grants is really positive. Incentivized grant writing is really important. As for Teachers College, I’d like for us to organize our goals so we can combine and partner together to acquire funding.

Ball State’s graduate programs in education are
ranked in the top third by U.S. News & World Report, and the educational leadership department has been ranked as one of the nation’s top leadership development programs by Leadership Excellence magazine for four consecutive years.

For example, we just wrote a proposal for the Teacher Quality Enhancement project. We reached out to schools with whom we already had a relationship and invited them to help us with this $7.2 million project. A project like this can’t be created overnight; you have to have already developed the relationships and be continually forward looking in how you prepare educators. When the grant opportunities come along, we will already have built our thinking and partnerships to write a successful grant.

We have joined with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and other universities in Indiana to do a postbaccalaureate initial teacher certificate to train math and science teachers, since those are the most critical shortage areas.

Where other universities patch together programs quickly, we spent a year redoing our curriculum, working with the public schools, using what is most critical. We will select a cohort of 20 who will work in the schools for an entire year, working alongside teachers in an apprentice role. Participants will also work online and get support from mentors. This is a unique way of approaching something that other universities haven’t done.

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation is looking to increase the quality of education in America and the quality of the educators. Ball State’s success with that program is an example of being ready when a foundation has something to provide.

What are your goals for the influence Teachers College can have on teacher education?
I think one of the things we can really look at is not to increase enrollment just for the sake of increasing enrollment, rather, to reach more committed students. As we add numbers to what we do, and there is quality in those numbers that we admit, we can have a greater influence in society.


Teachers College has developed partnership with institutions and organizations in Indiana and around the world, including the Indiana School for the Deaf.

Distance education is one of those areas where students don’t have to come to us, especially in graduate programs. We can go to them. Whether it be here in Muncie, in our state, across the nation, or even internationally, I think we need to work to develop programs with partners such as Department of Defense schools or universities in other countries to offer high-quality programs to people throughout the world.

We have a vibrant faculty who are really open and willing to be on the forefront of research and practice—an extremely important connection. Our influence will be significant and will be felt.