Dr. Marvin Lynn wants to put the GSE on the map. The national map, that is. He feels the GSE’s strong reputation for equity in the classroom is worthy of a larger audience. As a nationally recognized scholar on race in education, Lynn is well-suited to do just that. Portland State and the GSE have everything in place to provide leadership for diversity in Oregon and beyond, he says.
Lynn most recently served as the dean of the School of Education at Indiana University South Bend. He was also associate dean at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland, College Park. He began his education career as an elementary and middle school teacher in Chicago and New York.
In 2008, he founded the successful South Shore Chicago Opera Company, which brings classical opera to underserved communities in Chicago. During that time, he also co-founded the Critical Race Studies in Education Association, a scholarly organization focused on advancing discussion about race and education in the US and beyond.
Dean Marvin Lynn is the 15th dean and only the second African American to lead the GSE.
He began his tenure at PSU on July 1, 2017. Lynn, his wife and three sons are excited to make Portland a permanent home.
Q&A with Dean Marvin Lynn
What was it that attracted you to Portland State?
PSU has a very clear strategic plan that is focused on equity issues. My work as a scholar is dedicated to equity as well. I saw alignment in the mission of PSU and my skill set.
What is the first thing you want people to know about you?
That I am a person of great integrity. I really care about the world we live in. I believe that the GSE can shape that world. That’s why I’m in this business, to impact positive change in society. And I also believe that education is the most important profession in the world. Having an opportunity to shape education is pretty important. There is a great deal of work to do on understanding how issues of race impact schools. I’ve worked with international organizations around these issues. I’m excited to bring my knowledge base here to PSU. Our equity lens should inform how we understand and systematically begin to address the education disparities we see between differently situated groups in our community. In many ways, these issues are being tackled on a global scale. I’m excited about what we can do here at PSU to not only advance this conversation but to bring some resolution to a long-standing and seemingly intractable problem.
What are your short- and long-term goals for this job?
I want to work with the faculty, staff, and students to develop comprehensive short- and long-term goals. I want to ensure that the GSE has the national recognition that it deserves. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about promoting the GSE as one of the top schools of education in the country for equity.
You’ve written a lot about race and ethnic studies in education. What would you say is the biggest diversity issue in Oregon classrooms, and who should address that? What is the GSE’s role?
I recently read an article in the Washington Post that details Oregon’s racial history. The article suggested that the recent hate crimes perpetrated by white supremacists are borne out of this history. As a Graduate School of Education, we must think seriously about how we prepare higher education leaders, principals, counselors and teachers to grapple honestly with this history while developing a set of tools aimed at helping young people to see themselves as change agents. We need to continue to think about whether our current policies and practices work to advance equity. If we decide that there is more work to be done, then we must think deeply about how we can begin to map out that work in partnership with those we want to serve. The big question then becomes, how we do continue to do equity work in a way that is equitable, fair, transparent, and inclusive? What are the ways we are advancing equity today?
The PSU Graduate School of Education is one of 10 institutions producing teachers in the Portland Metro Area. How can we differentiate our brand from the competition?
PSU is the only public university in the city. We have an institute that has a very clear agenda and a commitment to diversity. When you walk around campus, you see diversity. It’s a safe place for diversity in Oregon. In the GSE, we have a number of faculty who are recognized nationally and internationally who do that work.
In addition, the Community Counseling Clinic here provides an excellent service to the community.
Our EdD program is one of a kind. The Carnegie Project on the education doctorate is uniquely connected to the community in a way that many doctoral programs are not. It’s on the cusp. They use the schools and districts as a laboratory of practice. It’s really exciting.
The GSE is really leading the way in many areas. The Bilingual Teacher Pathway program is nationally recognized. They are leading diversity initiatives.
The relationship with Portland Public Schools is strong. Enrollment in our programs is strong. The GSE is a recognized leader in the region, and PSU is unique in that regard.
Oregon has an ambitious 40-40-20 goal, set by the Oregon legislature in 2011. That means 40% achieving a bachelor’s degree or more and an additional 40% getting some college or credential by 2025. What is the most important factor in helping Oregon’s students advance, and what can the GSE do to help?
The Portland Teachers Program (PTP) is an important partnership and will be a key factor in that effort. Finding funding and supporting partnerships with the community colleges should continue. Grant activity among the faculty so they can continue their research is important. The faculty and students are advancing the work in the K–12 schools. The faculty have a strong commitment to use resources to advance teaching and learning.
There is a serious but predictable shortfall in funding for education if the state cannot find new revenue, e.g., the corporate tax. How would you prioritize budget adjustments in order for the GSE to continue serving its mission?
With the growth that we’ve had in student numbers and credit hours, we have to be careful about cuts in instruction. We will need to hire more faculty for taking care of growth across the board. I’ve been talking to folks about finding more efficiencies.
When you retire from the GSE many years from now, you will get several bullet points under your picture on the Deans Wall. What would you like those bullets to say?
- Worked with University partners to build a new GSE building
- Acquired national recognition for equity and social justice programs
- Moved the GSE ranking in US News and World Report to the top 50 of education schools
- Guided the GSE to be a national leader in the recruitment and retention of diverse teachers and counselors