Graduate Education Newsletter

Spring 2024

Welcome to the newsletter of the Graduate Education program at the University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies (SPCS). We publish twice annually, once each in the Fall and Spring semesters.

Pictured are teaching artist Chris Visions and students in Ms. Patino’s class at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Richmond Public Schools, all shooting “Spidey webs” at a recent Partners in the Arts (PIA) event.

Greetings from the Chair

Tom Shields headshot The weather has turned brighter and warmer and the buds on the trees and flowers on our beautiful campus are in full bloom. Those tell-tale signs mean that that spring semester is wrapping up and the pace has quickened toward commencement and end-of-the-year celebrations and activities. As you will see in this e-newsletter, the faculty and staff in Graduate Education are dedicated to creating future teachers and school leaders that contribute to their schools, but also make an impact in society.

Throughout the e-newsletter you will read about the successes and impact of our faculty — both full-time and adjunct — with their teaching, service, and scholarship to the profession. The alumni in our programs have also set a high bar in teaching and leadership, including winning prestigious national awards, such as the Milken Educator Award. Our current students, some of whom are also student-athletes, are learning about the education profession in on- and off-campus experiences.

We realize that to address the programmatic needs of schools in the Richmond region will require us to always be developing and adapting. As you will read, we learn about the most up-to-date techniques and research about teaching and leading from colleagues in Virginia and across the globe. We also listen to our local school districts and have made changes to be more affordable through discounts to our alumni and local educators. If you or someone you might know have questions about applying to any of our programs or about the discounts, please reach out to Ms. Kris Waikart, Admissions and Recruitment Coordinator for Graduate Education Programs, at

I have said this often and truly believe it — UR Graduate Education is small, but incredibly impactful on a local, state, and global scale.

On behalf of all the faculty and staff of Graduate Education, we hope that warmth and beauty of spring will renew and awaken your spirit.

Tom Shields signature
Tom J. Shields, Ph.D.
Graduate Education Chair

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Updates from Our Centers

Artist Chris Visions shoots Spidey webs with students in Ms. Patino's class at Martin Luther King, Jr Middle School
April 18, 2024
Partners in the Arts update

Brief update on what Partners in the Arts is doing and planning for the Richmond region’s educators, artists, teachers, schools and school divisions.

Announcements & Reminders

Summer 2024 Registration

Summer registration opened on March 19 and the class schedule is available online. Review the summer academic calendar for details.

Advisors are initiating advising appointments. Licensure students should be prepared to discuss progress being made towards passing the required licensure exams and (as needed) course gap completion.

Commencement 2024

2024-2025 SPCS Scholarships

Complete your application for SPCS scholarships in the 2024-2025 academic year (fall and spring). Deadline is June 1.

News & Achievements

Education Briefs

Christina Soontornvat signing a book while seated at a table

Author Christina Soontornvat Visits Campus

The Education Studio was proud to host author children’s and young adult author Christina Soontornvat. A prestigious three-time Newbery Honor winner, Soontornvat writes for all levels, including picture books, chapter books, middle-grade fiction, and young adult nonfiction.

Students in class viewing a virtual instructor on screen

UR Students Learn STEEV Approach

Dr. Kathrin Pirani, Professor of Educational Management and School Development at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland, spoke with Dr. Bob Spires’ Curriculum and Instruction in Secondary and Comprehensive Classrooms class. Dr. Pirani led a virtual discussion on the use of Simultaneous Teaching and Enquiry that is Effective and Visible (STEEV) approach, which uses the model of John Hattie’s visible learning.

Kate Cassada headshot

Kate Cassada, Forbes Contributor

Dr. Kate Cassada, SPCS associate professor of education, chair of educational leadership and policy studies and director of the Center for Leadership in Education, has continued to serve as a regular Forbes contributor in the education section of the popular media outlet. Cassada has contributed essays on topics including FAFSA delays, community engagement, integrated learning, standardized testing and generative AI.


Bob Spires headshot

Bob Spires in World’s Leaders Magazine

Dr. Bob Spires, SPCS associate professor of education, is featured in an article titled Bob Spires, Associate Professor of Education: A Champion of Critical Thinking and Social Justice in Education in World’s Leaders Magazine. The article highlights the wealth of experience that Spires brings to the University of Richmond from his background in both K-12 teaching and higher education.


Molly Morgan headshot

Alum Molly Morgan Wins Teaching Award

Molly Morgan, ’22, GC’23, who earned a B.A. in elementary education in 2022 and a M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction in 2023, was named the Beginning Teacher of the Year at J.B. Watkins Elementary School in Chesterfield County Public Schools. Morgan received the 2023 James W. Lanham Book Award for Excellence in Curriculum and Instruction in SPCS. She was a scholar athlete on the University’s women’s soccer team.


Dante Black headshot

MT’s Dante Black Recognized as Scholar Athlete

Dante Black, a student in the SPCS Master of Teaching (MT) program, was recognized at the Department of Athletics’ annual Scholar Athlete Recognition Breakfast. Black played on the University’s football team. He was among 108 student-athletes recognized at the breakfast.

Several people holding awards posing for a photography

Education Faculty Recognized at Awards Ceremony

During the spring SPCS faculty meeting, several members of the SPCS Education faculty were recognized for promotions and service. Lyle Evans and Karen Richardson both earned promotions from adjunct assistant to adjunct associate professor. Additionally, Debbie Arco, Ryan Conway, Lisa Donavan, Dana Jackson, Deborah Napoli and Bob Spires all received five-year service awards.

New & Ongoing Initiatives

Provisional Licensure Support (PLuS) Update

The Teacher Licensure Completion (TLC) program is moving into year 3 of supporting provisionally licensed teachers in Title I and hard to staff schools in the Richmond area. We have successfully assisted almost 35 teachers towards full licensure and have provided 70+ testing vouchers to cover VDOE-required VCLA and Praxis assessments. We have assisted these provisionally licensed teachers with almost 100 discounted courses that fulfill their professional study requirements from VDOE. We have also put 20 individuals through our coaching course to provide our TLC participants with high quality coaching services and support the counties we collaborate with.

We will continue to recruit, advise, and support provisionally licensed teachers through the TLC program moving into the summer 2024 semester.

The School-based Teacher Education Partnership (STEP) residency is in full swing as our two Master of Teaching residents, Abigail Hearn and Morgan Harrison, complete their year at Harvie Elementary School in Henrico County Public Schools. Both have accepted full-time contracts in Title I hard-to-staff schools in Henrico County for the 2024-2025 school year. Since 2019 the STEP Residency has trained and placed 14 highly qualified UR graduate students in schools that serve students who live in high poverty areas throughout the greater Richmond area.

For more information on PLuS, please contact Deborah Napoli at

Spider Spirit Alumni Discount

University of Richmond alumni who have earned an academic certificate, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, post-bachelor’s certificate, graduate certificate, master’s degree or juris doctorate are eligible for the Spider Spirit alumni discount. 

The Spider Spirit alumni discount offers UR alumni a 25% savings on tuition over the lifetime of a degree program or individual courses when a member of the alumni enrolls in a degree or certificate program through the School of Professional & Continuing Studies. This 25% tuition discount is also applicable to individual courses taken for credit as a non-degree seeking student in SPCS.

VAIS Partnership

The University of Richmond is an academic partner with the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS). The partnership enables SPCS to share thought leadership with VAIS member schools and their staff, to attend and sponsor VAIS events and to receive VAIS members pricing discounts.

The partnership also enables employees in VAIS member schools to receive discounts on professional development course fees across a number of SPCS academic programs. For VAIS discount details and eligible programs, visit the UR Education Consortium with VAIS page.

Regional Consortium

We’re pleased to lead the UR Regional Education Consortium for PK-12 teacher education coursework at the University of Richmond. We offer part-time graduate programs for local school professionals in Central Virginia through the School of Professional & Continuing Studies.

We’ve collaborated with local public school divisions and the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) to provide their employees with discounted tuition on graduate level coursework. The discounted programs vary by organization, but the consortium discount is 20% off the current tuition rate. Employees seeking to take advantage of the consortium discount must be accepted and enrolled in an eligible degree program.

If interested, please contact Kris Waikart, Admissions and Recruitment Coordinator for Graduate Education, at

Faculty Updates

Tom J. Shields
Shields Joins Comparative Higher Ed Dialogue

In May, Tom Shields of SPCS and Pierre Tulowitzki of the University of Applied Sciences & Arts, Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) led a public conversation titled “Public or Private Good: Comparisons of Higher Education in Switzerland and the U.S.” The talk was part of an official visit by Tulowitzki and Miriam Ronsdorf from FHNW to the University of Richmond.

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Ma'asehyahu Isra-Ul
Isra-Ul Leads Black Judaic Heritage Center Event

Ma’asehyahu Isra-Ul, SPCS adjunct assistant professor of education and founder of the Black Judaic Heritage Center, gives a talk titled Through The Spectacles of Ethiopia: Garveyism, Black Judaism and the Virginia Commonwealth at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

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Tom J. Shields
Shields Co-Authors A&S Next Case Study

Tom Shields, associate dean and chair of graduate education, with Emmy Ready, visiting lecturer of Latin American, Latino & Iberian studies, co-authored an A&S Next case study titled “Multilingual Student Success in Public Schools” examining issues of Latinx students’ graduation and retention rates in Richmond Public Schools. Alums Lyons Sanchezconcha, GC’23, Victoria Case Gochez, GC’22, and Jonathan Zur, ’03, collaborated on the project.

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Bob Spires
Spires Named Co-Editor of Urban Review

Bob Spires, associate professor of education, has been named co-editor-in-chief of The Urban Review: Issues and Ideas in Education, with James Martínez, professor of education from Valdosta State University. The Urban Review provides a forum for the presentation of original investigations, reviews, and essays which examine the issues basic to the improvement of urban schooling and education.

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