Alverno Dean Patricia Luebke

Lifelong Learning in Action

Dean Patricia Luebke likes to talk about lifelong learning, but she’s not all talk — she was 63 when she earned her doctorate in urban education. “I had always wanted to do it, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made,” she says.

Four years later, Luebke remains committed to continuous improvement. Now at the helm of the School of Professional Studies, which houses Alverno’s Education and Business programs, she has led the charge to revamp the Education curriculum and strengthen Alverno’s partnerships with area schools and educators.

“We’re really poised for the future in education,” Luebke says. “One of the advantages of Alverno is we’re small enough that we can make changes relatively quickly and respond to what’s happening in the education world. We’re interconnected with our community, and we need to take a look at what we’re doing and how that relates to what the community needs.”

Luebke has seen plenty of changes since she began her career 46 years ago, starting as a middle school English teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools before moving into special education. She also worked as a principal and director of student services in urban and suburban districts. After she “retired” from the Wauwatosa School District, she joined Alverno to teach part-time and became dean in 2015.

“My timeline was to retire from Alverno in June 2017,” she says with a laugh. “Then Sister Andrea came, and I’m so energized by the movement and changes that I see at the College. I still feel like I have something to contribute.”

Two years ago, Luebke convened a focus group of 20-plus local school leaders. She asked them: What do you want to see from Education graduates? “We took what they told us and started making some changes.”

That led to a new licensure program for teachers of English language learners, the development of a new program to prepare practicing educational assistants to become classroom teachers, and a redesign of the undergraduate curriculum, including increasing students’ field work experiences.

“Our students are going from about 125 hours of field work before student teaching to close to 450 hours,” she says. “And the capstone is what we’re really excited about. It’s a yearlong internship, three days a week the first semester of senior year, and then full time during the second semester.”

Students get a taste of field work as early as sophomore year, and some Education classes meet at school sites, including the Hmong American Peace Academy and Greenfield Public Schools. Although the School of Education always had community ties, “now it’s more intentional,” Luebke says.

Momentum is building. While teacher education programs nationwide have seen declines in enrollment in recent years, enrollment in Alverno’s Education program was up last year.

Luebke is quick to point out that the credit for any progress belongs to her entire team.

“I work with a lot of really smart, really dedicated people who will do almost anything to serve our students,” she says. “We’re small and powerful.”

This article appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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