Transforming Lives: Meet Dean Kandi Hill-Clarke

By: Jennifer Sicking, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
July 25, 2013

As a young child, Kandi Hill-Clarke watched as her mother graded homework each night. She helped decorate bulletin boards and walls in her mother's Memphis classroom.

By 6 years old, Hill-Clarke knew she wanted to be a teacher.

"I wanted to make a difference with teaching," she said. "So everything I did in school, I thought about that."

In high school, others suggested she pursue careers of nursing or engineering, but Hill-Clarke remained steadfast in her decision. She earned her bachelor's degree at LeMoyne-Owen College and entered a third grade classroom in suburban Memphis. She and her mother prepared lessons for their classes and then compared how students did at the two different school systems. While she found their work together exciting and valued her mother's advice, Hill-Clarke also felt fortunate to have other outstanding mentors to walk beside her through the teaching field.

"It's important that we ensure our novice teachers have mentors throughout their careers to help them," she said. "It's a challenging job, a hard job. You don't always get the respect you deserve as a classroom teacher. You have to look beyond that. You have the opportunity to make a positive impact on children's lives from the time they enter the classroom to the end of the day when they leave."

She sees teaching as a way to serve the students, their families and their communities.

"You not only impact that child that day, that year, you also impact the family, which in turn impacts the community," she said.

Now, Hill-Clarke has brought that servant attitude to her new role as dean of the Bayh College of Education. Hill-Clarke earned her master's and educational doctorate degrees from the University of Memphis. She worked as a professor at the University of Memphis and the University of Mississippi before joining the Tennessee Board of Regents in 2008. There she oversaw and monitored teacher education and school leader preparation.

"I do think my experience in serving as an elementary teacher, working as a professor in higher education and implementing policy are all experiences that will serve me well in this role," she said about becoming dean on July 1. "I bring a unique perspective, but in all that I do I reflect on my most important work that I've done - being an elementary teacher."

Biff Williams, Indiana State's provost and vice president for academic affairs, said Hill-Clarke stood out as the next dean of the Bayh College of Education for several reasons, including her presence and experience.

"When she walks into a room, you know she is there. She is charismatic, articulate and enthusiastic," he said. "She has a depth and breadth of experience in education that will greatly benefit the Bayh College of Education. Colleges of education are being challenged all across our country. Dean Hill-Clarke has the experience to know how to respond to these challenges and, more importantly, when to respond. I cannot describe the excitement I have for the Bayh College of Education and what they will be able to accomplish in the next five years."

Indiana State's national reputation in education as well as its commitment to community service and engagement, diversity and experiential learning enticed Hill-Clarke to the position.

"Indiana State University has a strong, good reputation as an institution. The Bayh College of Education has a strong, solid reputation that goes beyond this city and this state," she said.

Then when she arrived on campus for the interview, she felt the kindness and warmth of the people.

"I get the feeling that we are a family," she said. "That was attractive to me as an institution."

Now as dean, Hill-Clarke knows the college prepares students for beyond their classrooms.

"We aren't just preparing graduates, we're preparing graduates who are leaders who in turn will transform lives and transform communities," she said.

Those leaders need to contribute to the world, embrace diversity and social justice and use creativity in the classroom and schools, whether as teachers, principals, counselors or media technology.

"They lead change and are at the forefront at whatever their discipline is," she said.

After busy days in academic life, Hill-Clarke and her husband Everald Clarke, who works in organizational leadership and employee relations for Vanderbilt University's Medical Center, come home to their "fur person," Journee, a Boston terrier, filled with abundant energy.

"Journee's previous owner named her, but we think it's a perfect name," Hill-Clarke said. "Journee takes us on a journey every day."

Besides spending time with her mother and brother, a Memphis firefighter, Hill-Clarke and Clarke enjoy quiet evenings at home. After dinner, they like to curl up on the sofa to watch and critique romantic comedies and action movies, even pausing the movies to discuss a scene or dialogue.

"Maybe in another life we were Hollywood movie critics," Hill-Clarke said with a laugh. "But after the hustle and bustle of the day, it's nice to have a quiet evening."

And she still stays plugged into the life of an elementary classroom.

"I'm proud to say my mother is still teaching. She still has the passion and drive. She enjoys the challenges and issues," Hill-Clarke said. "It's the greatest profession in my book. You have the opportunity to transform lives."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-zDVcPS3/0/L/i-zDVcPS3-L.jpg Kandi Hill-Clarke

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or jennifer.sicking@indstate.edu