15 Years and Counting

USD SOLES Dean Paula Cordeiro


Paula Cordeiro’s passion for education runs deep. Her determination to preserve education’s integrity and effectiveness is heartfelt. Those core values resonate as she celebrates her 15th year as dean of USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES).

Cordeiro’s mindset about education — that it’s an internationally accessible commodity — is a reflection of her own experiences as a student, teacher and administrator in Venezuela and Spain. She continues to advocate for the importance of preparing current and future educators to meet global challenges.

Case in point: This summer, Cordeiro journeyed to Ghana, where she gave a presentation at the International Council on Education’s World Assembly at the University of Cape Coast with SOLES Professor Joi Spencer and Ghanaian education leaders. There, she discussed ongoing research done by SOLES faculty, staff and students in partnership with an international organization dedicated to helping low-income communities thrive through education.

Closer to home, Cordeiro gave a presentation this summer to participants of USD’s University of the Third Age — life-learners aged 55 and older — titled, “Schools as Global Enterprises: Re-imagining Education for the Age of Globalization.”

In that talk, she provided statistical information, and expressed her thoughts about worldwide trends in education and SOLES’ approach to developing and preparing students.

Her research offers up some statistical food for thought on education: 75 million people are enrolled in schools from pre-K to grade 20. There are 6.5 million teachers, and California alone needs more than 20,000 if the present model remains intact. It’s estimated that 2.2 million teachers will be needed in the next 10 years under the current system. Nearly 10 million school-age children, ages 5 to 17, speak a language other than English at home. By 2019, approximately 50 percent of all high school courses will be taught online.

Cordeiro also provided a simple picture of the educational shift in the U.S. The 1955 education model for children in grades 1-12 was elementary, junior high and high school, and the options then were simple: public or private school. But today’s model has students going from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 and the road is diverse: elementary, middle and high schools through public, charter, private (for-profit, nonprofit) and virtual (public, for-profit and nonprofit) options.

This changing world of education has produced steady student population growth; different types of students seeking education; an increase in combining work and study; more flexible learning arrangements; more life-long learners and an emphasis on “learning to learn;” and the need to provide custom or alternative learning routes to accommodate different learning styles.

Cordeiro’s research has unveiled three worldwide trends in education: Schools as we know them are not efficient, effective and financially sustainable in the age of globalization. There is a blurring of the lines between who provides education and learning opportunities, with exponential growth in partnerships with nonprofit, public and private sectors. Technology — in particular, mobile devices — has radically changed opportunities to learn and to teach.

So how does SOLES approach it all? Cordeiro points to curriculum, pedagogy, faculty research and professional learning opportunities.

“Through these areas, there’s a greater likelihood of having future teachers and school leaders who are globally competent,” she says.

SOLES, which moved into the technologically advanced Mother Rosalie Hill Hall building in Fall 2007, incorporated leadership into its official school name a decade ago. Since then, the degree program has successfully attracted students who apply this trait in various education roles. It also complements SOLES’ active relationship with the military through its Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program.

In Fall 2008, SOLES instituted a requirement that all students must have an international experience prior to graduation. The Ghana project is one example, but study abroad courses in Costa Rica; Kenya; Sri Lanka; Mondragon, Spain; and elsewhere are offered through SOLES’ Global Center.

Centers, institutes and field experiences enhance knowledge and, through student action research projects, it’s shared within the education field. The latest example is the new Mobile Technology Learning Center, aimed at researching, and simultaneously, championing K-12 innovation.

Cordeiro said SOLES is committed to “working with everybody,” whether it’s meeting with San Diego’s many school superintendents, students partnering internationally or combining efforts with other schools on USD’s campus.

“We want to engage with the world,” she says. — Ryan T. Blystone