Friday, August 30, 2019

by Jess Hawkins

Although Megan Foley Nicpon recently accepted a new position as the Departmental Executive Officer (DEO) for the Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, she is no stranger to the University of Iowa College of Education. 

Foley Nicpon, a counseling psychology professor, would visit her father, Walter Foley during his prestigious 38-year tenure as a professor at the College of Education

“When I was a little girl, it was a treat to visit my dad’s office in the Lindquist Center. He always had Jelly Bellies in his desk drawer,” Foley Nicpon fondly recalls. 

Little did she know at that time, several decades later Foley Nicpon would follow in her father’s footsteps, becoming a renowned scholar in her own right. 

Foley Nicpon started her new position in July. In this role, she is responsible for providing leadership in managing the day-to-day operational needs of the department, including supervision of support staff, evaluating faculty, fiscal management, and allocating facilities and equipment for teaching, research and service activities. She will also represent the department and maintain positive public relations with on-and off-campus entities. The DEO also provides leadership in facilitating long-term planning for professional involvement and development of the faculty and the department, and mentored faculty in effectively meeting their responsibilities in scholarship, teaching and service. 

“Dr. Foley Nicpon is a highly respected colleague with a reputation for collaboration and supporting others,” says UI College of Education Dean Daniel L. Clay. “I know she will do an excellent job providing leadership to the Department of Quantitative and Psychological Foundations.” 

Foley Nicpon started her career at the University of Iowa in 2004 after receiving her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Arizona State University. She began as a postdoctoral scholar at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development in the UI College of Education, where she quickly became interested in twice-exceptional students. 

Twice-exceptionality is a term used to describe “a gifted student with a co-occurring disability,” according to the National Association for Gifted Children. Foley Nicpon is one of the leading researchers in this field, and her findings with colleague Belin-Blank Center Director and Professor Susan Assouline have changed educators’ perspectives on high ability students. 

“I think that we have a stereotype that a high-ability child does not have educational or personal difficulties,” says Foley Nicpon. “But our research and clinical work demonstrate some high ability youth struggle with social skills, attention and focus, and/or depression and anxiety, which may require unique identification and intervention approaches.” 

In 2005, she worked alongside Assouline on a U.S. Department of Education Javits Grant where she was the psychologist who evaluated twice-exceptional students. 

“Providing these evaluations elevated our research to a national level where we were among the first psychologists to talk about twice-exceptionality from a research perspective,” says Foley Nicpon. 

She went on to join the counseling psychology faculty at the UI College of Education in 2008 where she continued her work with twice-exceptional students. 

“Now my interests are broadly in fostering talent development among underserved populations, whether that be students of color, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, students living in rural communities, or students with disabilities,” says Foley Nicpon. 

With her new position, Foley Nicpon is still able to continue her research with twice-exceptional students thanks to her role being split between administration, teaching, and research. 

She is currently working on several projects involving twice-exceptional students. Along with her colleagues Assouline and Counseling Psychology Professor Saba Ali, Foley Nicpon is a leader on a second Javits grant with the aim of pairing talent development with career education for underserved students in gifted and talented programs. 

Assouline and Foley Nicpon are also working with colleagues from the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute to further examine twice-exceptional students’ assessment profiles. 

Identifying success is a goal that Foley Nicpon wants to carry from her research into her role as DEO. 

Her primary goal is to celebrate and support the faculty in the Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations. 

“We have really fantastic faculty who do remarkable work that impacts youth and adults worldwide,” she says. “I hope to share this work with other members of the college and university to facilitate partnerships and create new relationships. Working among such talented people is both humbling and an honor.” 

She is most proud of the faculty in her department. 

“I'm proud of the faculty relationships, their research and teaching accomplishments, their commitment to diversity and equity in education, and the unique contribution each scholar brings to the college,” she says. 

Foley Nicpon’s goals to celebrate the faculty speak to her legacy in the college. 

“My brother pointed out there has been a Foley in the College of Education for over 53 years. It’s kind of unbelievable,” she says. “When I first came to Iowa, my dad told me over and over that I should be a professor. I remember the day I decided he was right, and I never looked back.” 

She adds, “I think watching his career path made me want to be a professor, too. You're always learning. Every day is different. I interact with brilliant students and faculty from all over the world, I’m never bored, and I love being challenged.” 

Foley Nicpon’s new position honors both her father’s legacy, and the legacy that she is carving for herself as one of the leading researchers in her field. 

“I feel honored and privileged to have been given this opportunity, and I am excited to see where this path takes me,” Foley Nicpon says.

Read more from the 2018-2019 Annual Report.