Gower named new chair of Education and Speech Language Pathology

Headshot of Donna Gower

Gower named new chair of Education and Speech Language Pathology


After decades of service to the University of Science of Arts of Oklahoma, Dr. Vicki Ferguson, director of teacher education, professor and chair of education and speech-language pathology; retired, turning the reigns over to Dr. Donna Gower.

Before coming to USAO in 2008, Gower was the director of federal programs of the Unified School District No. 480 in Liberal, Kan. At the same time, she was an instructor at Kansas Newman University in Wichita and at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan.

With the fall semester underway, we asked Dr. Gower about her goals for USAO’s education department and how we can better prepare the educators of the future.

What are your major goals over the next year as the incoming head of USAO’s education department?

The education department at USAO runs so efficiently and effectively, my goal is to maintain the excellence it has seen in the past. Our graduates are sought after, we are one of a few universities in the state accredited by CAEP, and our faculty are the best in the state.

Currently, what do you think the department’s greatest strengths are?

Our greatest strengths are our faculty and our students. Our faculty are knowledgeable and informed and our students are curious and inquisitive. It makes for a winning combination.

Its greatest weakness?

Our greatest weakness is that the professional teaching field does not have a great pay scale at this point. It is difficult to attract people into the field with such a low salary.

When you first came to USAO, what did you notice that made this university unique?

The smaller size and the family feel. I like that the students and faculty actually interact and get to know each other.

How do you think USAO’s interdisciplinary core curriculum can help our future educators better prepare for their careers?

Interdisciplinary thought is how most children learn. It teaches them that the world is connected. We don’t learn subjects in a vacuum, but how they all relate to each other. It is a way to learn to think more deeply and more critically. Our students take an active role in their learning so they will share that with their own students. They learn to think across boundaries and consider how things connect and affect everything else. They are not limited to what they have always considered.

USAO’s education department already offers many services to the surrounding community, where do you see the most potential for expansion?

I was informed just today that our speech/language pathology students will begin to offer hearing tests to local Headstart students, in addition to other services they offer within the community. We already have an extremely popular preschool program that serves local three and four-year-olds. We offer a summer reading program, a books for tots program, a Read Across America program, the list goes on forever. Our faculty and students are always looking for ways to assist the local community.

What made you decide to dedicate yourself to teaching teachers?

I have been involved with public schools in many capacities for many years and have lots of experiences that I thought would be valuable to share. When I moved back to Oklahoma, I wanted to return to the university level of teaching and USAO seemed to be a good fit for me. Since I had spent so many years teaching everything from preschool to graduate school and been involved in many levels of administration, I felt I had something valuable to contribute to incoming teachers.

What do you think are some of the common misconceptions about the teaching profession?

Mainly that teachers get off work at 3 and have the summers off. I also think some people believe the pay is fair for “what they do.” I would like to see teachers be appreciated for the hours of dedication and hard work they contribute to other people’s children and the love and pedagogical preparation put into becoming a teacher. Teachers motivate, instill knowledge, teach everything from moral values to basic hygiene to critical thinking. I think if the general population understood that teaching makes all other professions/jobs possible, maybe they would pay teachers what they are actually worth. That would increase the enrollment in this division!

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