In the past, there were popular ad campaigns telling people to “stay in school.” Whether he saw these or not, Dr. Antony “Tony” Norman seemed to take that to heart.
“For me personally, I was drawn to education because I was a ‘good student,’” he said. “I often joke that I kept going to school ’til I was told I had accumulated all the degrees available — and then found out I could actually stay and work at the University.”
Norman currently serves as a professor of education and dean of Morehead State University’s Ernst & Sara Lane Volgenau College of Education. Before that, he spent 24 years as an administrator and faculty member at Western Kentucky University (WKU). From his upbringing to his role of leading the Volgenau College of Education, Norman’s faith, family and focus have moved his career forward and fueled his mission to use education to create positive change.
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, but raised in Lynchburg, Virginia, Norman was the second of six children. His father worked in church administration and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. His second sister, April, was born with what Norman describes as “profound mental retardation,” resulting in Norman’s mother and his other siblings growing up fast and putting others’ needs before themselves.
“As you might expect, my Christian faith was central to my family, and it still is for me. I think my faith, April, and being a first-generation college student all aligned to direct me toward the field of education – a place where you can make a difference,” Norman said.
Norman went on to earn both a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (1984) and a Master of Arts in Counseling (1986) from Liberty University before earning a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Philosophy from the University of Virginia.
“I have always had a strong interest in people, which is why my first focus was on psychology. But as I moved into counseling, I began to recognize the foundational role parents, caregivers and teachers play in healthy development of children,” he said. “This led to my eventual focus on educational and developmental psychology.”
Early on as a college professor, Norman enjoyed teaching foundational courses for future teachers ranging from educational psychology and concepts of learning to child and adolescent psychology. However, despite being an admitted introvert and reluctant leader, his services on college committees and task forces revealed a knack for working with others and organizing and improving processes. These skills were solidified when he “took the plunge” by volunteering to serve as assessment coordinator in the U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality grant, leading to the development of the Teacher Work Sample process adopted by many educator preparation programs across the country.
Norman’s assessment coordinator role was the self-described “baby step” that changed his career trajectory. He supported National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation efforts initially at Longwood University as the assistant dean for assessment and accountability and later at WKU as the associate dean for accountability and research at the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences (CEBS). His efforts at WKU led to being fully prepared one year ahead of the scheduled accreditation visit and WKU earning the 2009 Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education due to the university developing a web-based electronic assessment system.
At WKU, Norman was tasked with greater administrative responsibilities before taking on his longest-standing and most significant role as director of the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program. His duty to launch this program and move it from “paper to concept” in 2011 was not without its set of challenges, or as Norman referred to them, “messy problems.” The program lacked concrete processes and procedures to guide students, faculty teaching courses on a predictably scheduled basis, or a strategic plan to demonstrate what students should know and be able to do by the program’s completion. Norman collaborated with faculty, staff and WKU’s Graduate School to overcome these issues.
“This program was important because it was the first terminal degree the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) allowed regional universities to offer,” he said. “We needed more terminally degreed leaders in our state. Without these programs, many Kentuckians wanting terminal degrees in educational leadership were having to look outside the state for such programs. We provided leaders the ability to stay closer to home as they further their studies.”
Norman said one of the aspects of MSU that led him to apply for his current role was its long-standing dedication to serving the region of Eastern Kentucky. He said while he is still formulating his ideas for the Volgenau College of Education’s goals and vision, he has already fostered fruitful partnerships. The college is partnering with the National Rural Education Association and the Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC). Through this collaboration, MSU will serve as an RSC Appalachian Hub (for the region of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina) to assist rural schools and teachers. The newly formed Appalachian Rural Education – MSU Hub Council in the Volgenau College of Education will also help emphasize advocacy, education, connection and awareness related to rural education issues.
Norman said the importance of his role isn’t lost on him. He said the Volgenau College of Education will always promote MSU’s core mission by preparing its graduates to succeed and do their part to help students and schools in Eastern Kentucky and beyond flourish.
“We must challenge them to embrace perspectives and viewpoints that prepare them to not only be successful ‘back home’ but successful anywhere life might take them. It is my goal, and I believe that of all Volgenau and Morehead State faculty, to prepare our students to be able to choose to live, work and thrive anywhere, so serving in our region is their choice rather than their only option,” he said. “It is my hope that Morehead State will continue to stay true to and protect our core mission as ’a light to the mountains.’ After all, if we don’t improve the lives and support the dreams of those in Eastern Kentucky, who will?”
For more information about MSU’s Volgenau College of Education and its programs, call 606-783-2162 or visit www.moreheadstate.edu/education.
MSU will be discounting graduate tuition on all 600-level courses within the Volgenau College of Education. The rate for the next five years will be the same as our undergraduate tuition rate, which is currently $374 per credit hour.
For more details on the reduced tuition, as well as information on graduate and certification programs offered by the Volgenau College of Education, visit www.moreheadstate.edu/kyeducators.