Welcoming New Education Dean

September 01, 2023

On September 1, 2023, Professor Dan Laitsch begins his term as the new dean in the Faculty of Education. Dan’s work and scholarship have been based in the social foundations of education and the role professional educators play in advancing a just and equitable society.

“The term ‘just society’ has an important place in Canadian history and policy” notes Dan, “and offers guidance for our Faculty and for educators seeking to create a society in which everyone can fully participate, has personal and political freedom, where the rights of minoritized peoples are protected, and where Indigenous peoples have control over their own future.”   

Dan started his career as a teacher of English in Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia, USA) but quickly realized the power of policy on education systems, and the importance of research to inform policy. He began his policy work with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, where he served as Associate Director for State Issues. He moved on to federal education policy work as Senior Policy Analyst with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Throughout this work he advocated for research-based approaches to teacher preparation, classroom practice, and education policy design. 

He has continued to follow this through his leadership service at SFU, where he has served on the Faculty of Education’s executive committee and as Director, Surrey campus Liaison. Dan has been an active member of SFU’s Senate and associated committees and has previously held leadership roles as president of the SFU Faculty Association, president of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC, and the Chair of the board of directors of the Institute for Public Education BC.  

Over his 17 years at Simon Fraser University, Dan has taught over 20 courses at all three campuses, as well as at multiple, off- campus locations (including Whitehorse in the Yukon territory). He has worked closely with the Centre for Education Excellence and Health and Counseling in advancing teaching and assessment practices to support student health, including contributions to Tools for Well-being in the Classroom. To support the application of research in teaching, as well as to improve education policy and practice he established the Centre for the Study of Education Policy and Leadership (CSELP) and founded one of the first open access scholarly journals to be housed at SFU through the Open Journal System.

Dan’s enthusiasm for the role is evident. As he explained, “I’m really excited about the next five years and seeing what we will accomplish. Our Faculty has a proud history of teaching and research excellence, and a deep and abiding commitment to serving the communities where we work, live and play.” 

Dan is particularly appreciative of the results of the Faculty’s innovative leadership experiment. “The co-dean model we used to lead the Faculty through its transition between deans was an innovative and exciting experiment in shared leadership! The work of the Co-Dean team of Kristiina Kumpulainen, Lucy LeMare, Kris Magnusson, Michelle Pidgeon, and Nathalie Sinclair has built us a solid foundation to work from as we address the challenges and opportunities ahead, and we are deeply indebted to them for their service and leadership!”

Dan holds a P.h.D. in Education (with an emphasis on Policy) from American University, an M.Ed. in Social Foundations of Education from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in English from Virginia Tech. In his spare time, he enjoys a secret life as a professional disc golfer, watching his two daughters thrive in their adult lives, and adventuring with his newly retired wife, Donna. 

A warm welcome to our new Dean!