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Joseph Berger is the newest dean of UMass Boston's College of Education and Human Development. Image by: Harry Brett
October 11, 2017

New dean of College of Education and Human Development looks to expand UMass Boston’s reach


  • Boston
Joseph Berger comes to Boston after two decades at UMass Amherst

UMass Boston welcomed Joseph Berger, the new dean of its College of Education and Human Development, this month.

Berger, who began his career at the University of New Orleans and spent the past 15 years in academic leadership positions at UMass Amherst, says he is excited to return to an urban public research university and work with students from communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

“There are two types of urban research: those that are islands in the cities and the communities they serve, and those that are fully integrated and enmeshed in the communities they serve,” Berger said. “Being here at UMass Boston, that was one of the attractions, to be at a university and a College of Education and Human Development that are really immersed in their communities.”

He also recognizes the possibilities of developing education in other parts of the world. He has led education development projects in Malawi, China, Russia, Colombia, Palestine, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Berger comes to Boston from UMass Amherst, where he served most recently as senior associate dean of the College of Education and director of the Center for International Education. He has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology from Lawrence University, a master’s in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University, and a PhD in education and human development from Vanderbilt University.

Speaking in the dean’s office after a few weeks on the job, Berger said he planned to gather data and identify strategic priorities and opportunities to move the college forward.

“We’ll look increasingly at what we can do with undergraduate education. I think we’ll be looking at what we can do to expand our repertoire of offerings,” Berger said.

“What I mean by that is, a lot of people think of face-to-face and online learning as two different things. I think of it as all part of one spectrum. And so how can we be more purposeful and intentional about using the full range of tools to reach the communities and individuals that most benefit from our mission?”

Berger has already had a conversation about a potential 4+1 Honors College program for special education, in which students would complete the necessary course requirements to become special education teachers in five years. Berger also sees potential in 2+2+1 programs with community colleges, in which a student could transfer to UMass Boston after two years at a community college and finish the final three years of schooling required to become a teacher.

He has had preliminary conversations with Boston Public Schools about expanding Teach Next Year, a program where students earn a master’s degree in education and Massachusetts initial teacher licensure in about 12 months.

“There are fewer and fewer young people becoming teachers, so we have teacher shortages. The teaching force is not nearly diverse enough, but yet traditional teacher education programs are under quite a bit of scrutiny, I think because there’s a sense they’re too academic, they’re not connected to the reality of what happens in classrooms enough. They’re not nimble enough to meet the changing needs of all the challenges that sort of get hoisted onto schools, and so that’s where I think programs like Teach Next Year are really the wave of the future,” Berger said.