UNION, N.J. — Barbara R. Ridener, Ph.D., an educator who began her career in an elementary school classroom and rose to become a top academic leader at Florida Atlantic University, has been named the new dean of the College of Education at Kean University.
Ridener said she looks forward to bringing the College of Education into the future.
“This felt like the right position and a good fit for me,” Ridener said. “I see the opportunity to be creative. Education has long been a field where people feel they should do things as they’ve always done. But what stands a program apart is by filling the needs of the students it serves. As the population and the demand change, we have to make sure we change too.”
Kean, which was New Jersey’s first teacher’s college, offers two dozen education degree options, at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs prepare teachers for every career from Pre-K to high school, plus special education and educational leadership. The College of Education also encompasses the School of Health and Human Performance, which includes majors such as athletic training and therapeutic recreation.
“I would like to create programs that attract new students, provide new opportunities, and partner with local school districts and employers to be sure we’re offering programs that address their needs,” Ridener said.
Kean Vice President for Academic Affairs Suzanne Bousquet, Ph.D., said Ridener was selected for her comprehensive experience and leadership ability.
“Kean has been known as a leader in teacher education across the country for decades and we are thrilled to have Dr. Ridener on board to shepherd the college into the future,” Bousquet said. “We look forward to continuing our legacy of excellence in education.”
Ridener served as chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at the Florida Atlantic University College of Education, working her way up from the position of assistant professor. She began her career as an elementary teacher focusing on mathematics.
“Back in the day, math was one area where there was a need for teachers,” she said. “It has been my interest to study the things that affect the way we learn and think about math. A lot of my research is around elementary math.”
She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Central Florida, and her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from the University of Georgia. She has also done research and published extensively.
Kean has long been a leading producer of teachers in New Jersey -- boasting numerous state “Teachers of the Year” among its alumni. New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet is also a Kean graduate.
Ridener, who has advocated for diversity and equity throughout her career, said she is pleased to have the opportunity to work with Kean’s diverse student body.
“We see students of every background, nationality and ethnicity, and we all come together and learn together,” she said. “That diversity makes for very positive outcomes. In education, it’s critical to identify where students are when they come in and take them to where they need to be.”