Laura Spenceley, dean of SUNY Oswego’s School of Education, was recently named an Impact Academy fellow through national non-profit organization Deans for Impact (DFI). 

Spenceley is among a cohort of 24 leaders chosen for their commitment to improving educator preparation as part of the fellowship’s eighth cohort. 

Educator-preparation programs today face complex challenges as they recruit and prepare teachers who are equipped to engage all pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in rigorous, equitable and affirming learning experiences. DFI aims to fill a pressing need for leaders who can strengthen and diversify the educator workforce through its Impact Academy fellowship. This program has empowered more than 130 dean-level leaders to date with skills, knowledge and strategies to prioritize instructional quality and build more equitable systems of teaching and learning.

Throughout my career, it has been important to me to find a strong group of mentors,” Spenceley said. “This opportunity really was serendipitous as I learned about this fellowship at a conference when a DFI staff member was on a panel. What spoke to me about it is that, as a newer dean, I was looking for a cohort of both novice and more experienced deans who could provide knowledge and support, as well as a sense of community.”

Fellows lead traditional and non-traditional educator-preparation programs reaching 25 states and the District of Columbia. Collectively, these institutions annually serve nearly 15,000 future teachers, 45 percent of whom identify as people of color. 

Fellows will participate in monthly learning sessions through summer 2024, receive one-on-one coaching from seasoned leaders and engage in peer consultancies to address field-facing challenges in real-time. They will hone their ability to engage faculty, staff, communities and pre-kindergarten through grade 12 partners in a shared vision for transformative change, grounded in a deep scientific understanding about how students learn.

“For the eighth year in a row, we welcome a diverse group of outstanding leaders to Impact Academy who are steadfast in their commitment to ensuring all PK-12 students access well-prepared teachers,” said Valerie Sakimura, executive director of DFI. “As communities respond to shortages of skilled educators, there is no more crucial time to ensure that we're building pathways into teaching that are accessible, practice-based and focused on equitable instruction. Leaders in educator preparation play an essential role in charting the future of the teaching profession.”

Benefiting from opportunities

Spenceley said fellows were selected through a competitive application process, which has resulted in a cohort that represents a wide range of institutions, and is pleased to have the opportunity to SUNY Oswego as a public comprehensive university known for its teacher preparation programs.

One key charge for each DFI fellow is to work on an adaptive challenge the participant faces as an education program. 

“I want to look at how the School of Education and our partners can create a climate where we can find more equitable outcomes for all of our candidates,” Spenceley said. “I’m looking to identify how we can come to the table and who needs to come to the table to reduce the differential outcomes for our candidates who might face more challenges, and ultimately to graduate a more inclusive and representative group of teachers.”

Through such an intense study, Spenceley said that students and the School of Education’s daily work can benefit from examining the landscape across teacher preparation programs and identifying the factors that promote and inhibit candidates' success. 

The hope is to find “what experiences are supportive of candidates' success and what we might need to recalibrate to make sure candidates are getting what they need from our programs,” Spenceley said.

“On a personal level, I think this work is going to help me be a more adaptive and effective leader for the School of Education, our students, faculty and staff, our partners, and the field,” Spenceley said. “It allows me to find opportunities and tension points by engaging in deep reflection, data collection, and engagement with stakeholders on and off campus.” 

To learn more about the program and this year’s cohort, visit the Impact Academy website

About Deans for Impact (DFI)

DFI is a national non-profit organization committed to ensuring that every child is taught by a well-prepared teacher. DFI supports educator-preparation programs to bring the science of learning into teaching practice; partners with policymakers to ensure pathways into teaching are accessible, practice-based, and focused on instruction; and equips leaders with the tools to address today’s most pressing challenges in educator preparation. Guided by principles of learning science, DFI aims to help aspiring and early-career teachers create rigorous and inclusive classrooms where all children thrive. For more information, visit