Thursday, October 19, 2017

By Lois J. Gray

Conducting robust and rigorous research is central to the University of Iowa College of Education’s mission.

Saba Rasheed Ali was appointed as the Associate Dean for Research beginning July 1st to support this goal.

Ali, a counseling psychology professor, says she is honored to take on this new leadership role to support the success of all faculty in their research endeavors.

“I really see this role as supporting faculty to do good research and scholarship and to get supports for them and to help facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration,” says Ali, “just to be in service of the faculty is such an honor.”

The position is 50 percent time. Ali, who is an expert in vocational psychology, employment issues, and career development of underserved youth, is continuing in her role as director of Project HOPE (Healthcare Occupations Preparation and Exploration), a STEM-based curricular intervention, to connect middle school students from small, economically-challenged towns to health science professions, professions they could practice in their hometowns. 

Ali joined the College of Education as a post-doctoral fellow in 2001 and has worked here for the last 16 years.

UI College of Education Dean Dan Clay says that Ali brings a great deal of expertise and experience to this position.

“Saba came highly recommended by faculty and staff due to her collaborative nature and success as a researcher,” Clay says. “She is an excellent role model for early career faculty. I have full confidence that she will continue to build on our history of rising success in scholarship and grant funding.”

Ali says she likes the balance of supporting the success of other faculty while continuing to pursue her own teaching, research, and community engagement.

 “This is a new role that is carving out this very specific niche in terms of just research,” says Ali. Christopher Morphew, who became the new dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Education August 1, most recently served as the College of Education Executive Associate Dean for Research and Innovation.

The College of Education has many research strengths to keep building upon, and Ali says it never ceases to amaze her to see the impact of this work.

 “I think that we do really good, publicly-engaged work,” says Ali. “And that doesn’t mean it isn’t rigorous. It means that it has a direct impact on schools, people’s lives, hospitals, clinics, higher education, just to name a few of the many areas.”

In fiscal year 2016-17, College of Education faculty submitted 97 grants and garnered $8.6 million in research grant funding.

Ali says she is very proud of her colleagues for the work they do to enrich communities and improve people’s lives in many different areas.

“Our faculty are working on real-world problems, in the service of Iowa and beyond, so that’s a huge strength,” Ali says. “There’s also a lot of really interesting interdisciplinary work going on, both intra-college and inter-college. I give all the credit to our faculty. They are very talented.”

Indeed, Ali leads by example. Her own successful research track record includes a recent grant she received that is a perfect example of this interdisciplinary work.

Ali is a co-principal investigator of a recently garnered $1.3 million grant entitled “Integrating Behavioral Health into Rural Medicine.” This grant will fund, train and place more counseling psychology practicum Ph.D. students in rural communities, especially to help veterans and those in the Latino community. 

Ali has made it a priority to meet with many faculty members, especially junior faculty, to understand their research goals and what they need to fulfill them – as well as working with tenured faculty and long-time colleagues.

“We have some amazing people doing some really amazing work,” Ali says. She adds that she is helping to identify common barriers to conducting research and ways she can help remove them.

“I like problem solving and helping people find solutions,” Ali says.

She adds that in addition to continuing a popular research luncheon series, she is working with faculty to find new ways to help build a research community where faculty can learn about and better understand the work being done by their colleagues.

“I’d like to explore how we can even better showcase the work being done by our colleagues and learn from one another’s research,” Ali says. “I’d like to find ways for us to even better communicate to each other about the important scholarly work that’s going on, whether that’s a brown bag lunch discussion or creating a space in the college for sharing research.”

Such opportunities, Ali says, will help faculty by providing a physical and intellectual space where they can discuss their work publically and/or prepare for an upcoming conference, for example.

Several centers also report to Ali in her new role, including the Grants and Research Services Center, the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC), the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education (CRUE), the Center for Advanced Studies in Measurement and Assessment (CASMA), and the Center for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA).

“I think the main goal is to really better understand needs,” Ali says, “and to think about how this role can evolve to meet those needs.”