Instant Impact

News from Baylor School of Education

Dr. Terrill Saxon Completes Term as SOE’s Longest Serving Interim Dean [06/30/2020]


Terrill Saxon

Tuesday, June 30, marks the final day of Dr. Terrill Saxon’s service as Interim Dean of the Baylor School of Education. He has served for three years and is the longest serving Interim in the School’s history, with a tenure that equals or exceeds two of the School’s permanent deans. On July 1, Baylor SOE will welcome Dr. Shanna Hagan-Burke as its 15th dean (including interims).

Saxon joined the Baylor faculty in 1995 and is also Professor of Educational Psychology and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education. He earned his BA in psychology and MSEd in educational psychology from Baylor and his PhD in educational psychology at the University of Kansas.

He has taught courses in statistical methods, history and systems, research methods, research in education, cultural issues, and psychology of learning in the Department of Educational Psychology. His research interests include cross-cultural studies of youth and a variety of other education-related factors.

For the Spring/Summer issue of the SOE’s Impact newsletter, Saxon penned a farewell message for his term as Interim Dean, a time that included overseeing the School’s Centennial celebration for the entire year of 2019 and has culminated in the challenges of COVID-19 this year.

“Long before we had to address the effects of COVID-19, I learned that leading a School required one to be an adept problem-solver, quick to adapt and surround oneself with motivated colleagues,” he said.

He credited the School’s accomplishments to dedicated staff members and to faculty who are “deeply devoted to student learning and mentoring, conducting meaningful research and service.” Because of this, he said, the School has thrived. And he listed a few of the School’s accomplishments of the last three years:

  • hired more than 20 new faculty and many new staff
  • started a large and successful online Doctor of Education (EdD)
  • created other new programs including a decade-long-discussed Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
  • streamlined teacher education certificate programs to increase flexibility and efficiency
  • improved Professional Development School partnerships in local school districts
  • added to and improved study-abroad programs
  • appointed excellent department chairs
  • developed new programs and missions in our three Centers
  • held a year-long Centennial Celebration
  • and drastically increased fund raising and relationships with donors and alumni.

Dr. Suzanne Nesmith, SOE Associate Dean and Associate Professor, said she is thankful for the opportunity to work alongside and learn from and with Saxon.

“His recognition of the expertise of others alongside his desire and willingness to learn from others made him a strong leader,” Nesmith said. “I especially appreciate that this element of his leadership style allowed him to sincerely recognize and commend others for their work and efforts.”

Nesmith noted Saxon’s eagerness to understand the SOE and its programs thoroughly from the beginning of his service. “Any time he felt the need for clarity about a program, he would request a ‘tutoring’ session and would ask questions until he gained understanding,” she said.

Dr. Brooke Blevins, Chair and Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction, said Saxon has been instrumental in moving the School forward in strategic and innovative ways.

“Despite his ‘interim’ designation, Terrill did not settle to maintain the status quo,” Blevins said. “Rather he pushed us to develop important programs and strategic initiatives that have positioned the School of Education as a leader in online doctoral education, revenue generation, research productivity, and extramural funding. I am grateful for Terrill’s leadership and for his ongoing mentorship — I am a better leader because of Dr. Saxon.

Dr. Jeffrey Petersen, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership, said Saxon’s service has been exemplary. “His willingness to step forward in a time of need and to lead with both a focus forward and a sensitivity to our shared past has guided a path forward for each of our three departments and our school as a whole,” Petersen said. “Terrill’s collaborative and engaging leadership style has aided in the mentorship and development of many new leaders throughout the school, and the impact of his service as Interim Dean will continue to resonate and we continue of journey ahead.”

Dr. Grant Morgan, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Psychology, which is Saxon’s home department, praised Saxon for his authenticity. “Looking back on my experience as a new department chair, I can’t imagine what it would have looked like without Terrill. His ‘open door’ policy was absolutely authentic as were his support, friendship, and encouragement,” Morgan said. “I will always be grateful to Terrill for his accessibility, mentoring, and openness to information throughout his tenure as Interim Dean. His institutional memory along with his willingness to share and receive experiences, ideas, and recommendations were critical components of the success of our School.”

Due to COVID-19, Baylor was unable to hold the scheduled appreciation reception for Dr. Saxon to thank him for his service. Here in written form, the faculty, staff, students, alumni, partners, and friends of the School of Education offer our sincere gratitude to Dr. Saxon for his service.

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For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, leaders in K12 and higher education, psychologists, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice. Visit to learn more.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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