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Keynote Speakers

Unmasking Faculty Potential: Panel Discussion

This session explores how institutions align institutional processes to assure advocacy for strength-based approaches to developing faculty and faculty leaders. From just-in-time learning and coaching techniques to differentiated workloads and revised tenure and promotion processes, this session unpacks how leaders may grow faculty into their roles and into leaders.

Panel Leader: Grant Hayes, Ph.D.

Dr. Grant Hayes earned his Ph.D. in Counselor Education at the University of South Carolina. He is currently a distinguished professor and dean of the College of Education at East Carolina University. Dr. Hayes has spent the last 30 years as an innovative leader, teacher, professor, and administrator who is noted for empowering faculty and students to seek creative solutions to some of the most pressing educational issues. Before coming to ECU, Dr. Hayes was a professor of counselor education and served as interim dean of the College of Education and Human Performance at the University of Central Florida. While there he also held numerous leadership positions over the span of more than a decade. Dr. Hayes began his career in academia in the Department of Psychology at James Madison University in Virginia. Dr. Hayes has published extensively, conducting research in a variety of areas including technological applications in counselor education, counseling children and adolescents, and character education/moral development in schools and youth settings. He is a fellow of the American Counseling Association and is a past member of the board of directors of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. He has served on the board of examiners for NCATE/CAEP, the executive advisory board of directors of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED), and the board of directors for the Association of Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling, where he received the Meritorious Service Award. He is a past president of the Counseling Association for Humanistic Education and Development and recipient of the association’s Humanistic Processes Award.

Jerry Liss, Ph.D.

Dr. Jerry Liss earned his Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Kansas.  He is currently an Associate Department Chair and an Associate Professor of Special Education at Emporia State University.   Dr. Liss began working at Emporia State University in the fall of 2007.  He is the Associate Chair of the Department of Elementary Education/Early Childhood/Special Education.  He has been the Associate Chair since the fall of 2014.   While working on his doctoral degree, he was the President of the University of Kansas Professionals for Disability (KUPD). This is the student organization for the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas.  While working as a professor, he has been the President of Phi Delta Kappa—the University of Kansas Chapter.  Within the Teacher Education Division (TED), he has been an active member of the Small Special Education Programs Caucus (SSEPC) since 2008.  He served as the Associate Chair and then as the Chair of SSEPC for the past two years, and he is currently the Past Chair of SSEPC.  He is an active member in the Teacher Education Division within the Council for Exceptional Children.  His professional interests include the areas of teacher preparation, transition, and globalization.

Patricia Alvarez McHatton, Ph.D.

Dr. Alvarez McHatton earned a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in special education and urban education. Since joining UTRGV, she has served as founding Dean of the College of Education and P-16 Integration (CEP), Interim Provost & VP for Academic Affairs, and currently as Executive VP for Academic Affairs, Student Success, and P-16 Integration.  Prior leadership positions include department chair and associate dean for teacher preparation. Dr. Alvarez McHatton has co-facilitated the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Leadership Academy. She was a member of the Texas Teacher Preparation Collaborative and was part of the Select Committee of HSI-Serving Deans and Educators convened by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to explore developing quality teacher preparation programs that serve the needs of Hispanic students.  Her research interests focus on teacher preparation, diverse learners and families, and collaboration.  Currently, Dr. Alvarez McHatton, in collaboration with faculty from within and beyond the CEP, is focused on exploring what it means to be a Hispanic Serving Institution and what we do as a Hispanic Serving Institution to ensure the success of Latino/a learners.

Virginia L. McLaughlin

Dr. Virginia (Ginnie) McLaughlin is currently Chancellor Professor in the School of Education at William & Mary (W&M) where she teaches courses in special education, inclusive practices, and collaborative partnerships.  Her scholarship focuses on educational policy and teacher quality issues.  From 1995-2013, she served as Dean of the School of Education.  Appointed by then Governor Tim Kaine, Dr. McLaughlin was a member of the Virginia Board of Education from 2009-2013. She has served on numerous boards for professional organizations including AACTE and NCATE, and she was President of the Council of Academic Deans from Research Education Institutions (CADREI) from 2011-2013.  Dr. McLaughlin currently co-chairs CEC’s workgroup to develop new practice-based standards for initial preparation programs. Prior to her appointment as Dean, Dr. McLaughlin was Chief of Staff for W&M President Tim Sullivan, Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the School of Education, and a faculty member at W&M, Old Dominion, and Clemson Universities.

Chriss Walther-Thomas, Ph.D.

Dr. Chriss Walther-Thomas is Professor of Special Education and Disability Policy in the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Education.  She is the School’s former dean and served as Special Assistant to the VCU Provost.  Previously Dr. Walther-Thomas chaired the University of Kansas (KU) Department of Special Education, one of the top-ranked graduate programs in the field. Earlier in her career, Dr. Walther-Thomas was a professor at the College of William & Mary with an appointment in the SOE Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership Program.  She began her career in higher education as a clinical instructor at the University of Utah in the Department of Special Education.  She has served three national professional associations as president: The Council for Exceptional Children Teacher Education Division, the Council for Learning Disabilities, and the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE). Her teaching, research, and advocacy efforts focus on issues related to low-resource school communities, school leadership and teacher development, higher education faculty development, and disability policy. Dr. Walther-Thomas has written and presented widely on these topics and has served on a number of  related local, state, and national boards and advisory committees.


Policy and Advocacy

Dr. Jane West

Click here to view Jane West’s November 7, 2019 keynote presentation.

A former teacher and education administrator, Dr. Jane West is visiting professor at the University of Maryland and policy advisor to several national education organizations, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education(, the National Network of State Teacher of the Year(, the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education ( and the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children( For 8 years she led AACTE’s advocacy and policy work as Senior Vice President. In the mid 1980’s she worked as senior education advisor on the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions where she led the national effort to craft multiple federal education statutes.

Focusing on bringing the voice of expert education practitioners into the national policy dialogue, West supports professionals – teacher educators, expert teachers, researchers, principals, doctoral students and others — in engaging in the policy making process by honing their message, supporting it with evidence, engaging at the right time during the process and building effective political alliances.

With a focus on teaching quality, West has led the effort to build an influential100 organization coalition – the Coalition for Teaching Quality ( – to advocate for a professional continuum for teaching and education leadership with a focus on a diverse workforce and bringing the most accomplished educators to the students with greatest need.She has organized multiple briefings for policy makers and routinely consults with elected officials to develop education policy which will serve the highest need students.

West contributed to multiple legislative provisions in the new federal education law — the Every Student Succeeds Act — which promote teacher leadership and comprehensive educator preparation as strategies to address critical teacher shortages, teacher recruitment and teacher retention challenges, particularly for diverse student populations and high need schools.

Her scholarship focuses on analyzing education policy and effective strategies for professionals to ensure that their expert practice and scholarship influence national education policy.As co-editor of a recent special issue of Teacher Education for Special Education, she has articulated a powerful analysis of effective advocacy for educators (

Her extensive publications and national keynote lectures bring education policy to life for teachers and researchers alike.

West has served on the faculties of the University of San Francisco, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been a special education teacher and administrator and edited two books about the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law she participated in crafting.

West holds a BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Maryland.



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